Look out! Hurry up! Phrasal verbs for giving instructions

by Liz Walter

look outOne of the difficult things about phrasal verbs is knowing where to put the object. The great thing about the phrasal verbs in this post is that you don’t have to think about that because they are all used as simple, two-word phrases for giving instructions or orders. In other words, a single phrasal verb can make a whole sentence!

Several of these phrasal verbs are used for encouraging someone to improve their mood. If a person is very miserable, we could tell them to Cheer up! or if we think they are taking something too seriously or becoming too anxious, we could tell them to Lighten up! or Chill out! You might tell someone who is very angry or anxious to Calm down!, although this one can be dangerous because it often sounds like a criticism and is likely to have the opposite effect! David Cameron, the British Prime Minister, faced a storm of protest when he advised a woman MP to ‘Calm down, dear’ – the ‘dear’ at the end making the phrase even more patronising.

There are many phrasal verbs used to tell people to move in some way, for example Stand up! Sit down! Get off! Gather round! If you want someone to leave, you can tell them to Go away! This is rather direct, and not very polite. Get out! is a very angry way of telling someone to leave a room. Shove off! and Push off! (UK), are informal ways of telling someone to go away. They are not polite either, but they may be used humorously between friends. Of course there are lots of other phrasal verbs ending in off for telling people to go away, but none of them are suitable for a blog post like this!

If we want someone to stop talking or making a noise, we might tell them to Pipe down! The phrasal verb Shut up! is quite common. People often use it in a jokey way, but it sounds very rude and aggressive if you use it in a serious context. Brits sometimes say Belt up! which is also quite forceful.

If we have guests, we will probably greet them by asking them to Come in! To encourage them to eat food we have given them, we can say (rather informally) Dig in!

Other very useful phrasal verbs for giving instructions are Hurry up! to tell someone to go faster, Hold on! or Hang on! to tell someone to wait, and Look out! or Watch out! if someone is in danger.

13 thoughts on “Look out! Hurry up! Phrasal verbs for giving instructions

  1. Sam Deb

    Thank you for this article; it was well-explained. However, in addition to phrasial verbs, I have some difficulties to use English collocations, especially in an informal way. We have for example the expression: “a lot of information”, but how to express it in a more informal way?
    An article about this topic would be so interesting! Thank you.

  2. Pingback: Phrasal verbs | ELT Infodump

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