This week we’re looking at the many phrasal verbs in English that refer to ways of speaking and the sort of things that people do in conversation.
The adverb ‘on’ has a sense which is ‘continuing or not stopping’. Accordingly, there are a few informal phrasal verbs containing ‘on’ that are used for speaking a lot and not stopping. For example, if someone goes on, they annoy you by talking about one subject for too long:
I know she did well in her exams – I just wish she’d stop going on about it!
He went on and on about his new job.
The phrasal verb keep on is used in a similar way: Please don’t keep on about it.
She’s always banging on about the benefits of walking.
Whatever was your sister rabbiting on about?
Even more emphatically, UK and US speakers use the phrase drone on: I had to listen to Michael droning on about the law.
Meanwhile, the three-part phrasal verb ‘go on at someone’, used in UK English, means to annoy someone by often criticizing them or by often asking them to do something:
I wish she’d stop going on at me about my diet.
He’s always going on at me to get my hair cut.
Of course, not all phrasal verbs refer to speaking too much. If you bring up a subject, you start talking about that subject for the first time: It was Joe, not me, who brought up the subject of animal rights.
If someone pipes up, they surprise people by suddenly entering a conversation after being silent: Alfie suddenly piped up, ‘I’d like one of those!’
To chip in (UK) is to add a comment to a conversation that other people are having: She chipped in with a couple of useful suggestions.
Meanwhile, (informal) to butt in, is to do the same thing, but in a conversation where your comments are not welcome:
He kept butting in with silly remarks.
Sorry to butt in, but did I hear you mention Rosie?
If you reel off a list of things, you say a lot of things quickly and without stopping: He can reel off the names of all the US presidents in order.
Finally, the phrasal verb speak up has two senses. It means ‘to speak in a louder voice’: Could you speak up, please? We can’t hear you at the back.
Speak up also means ‘to give your opinion about something in public’: If anyone disagrees, now is the time to speak up!