We just got the go-ahead! (Nouns formed from phrasal verbs)

ismagilov/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty

by Kate Woodford

Here on About Words, we frequently publish posts on phrasal verbs. This week, just for a change, we’re looking instead at a group of nouns that are formed from phrasal verbs. Some of these nouns are usually written with a hyphen between the verb and particle and some are written as one word.

Let’s start on a positive note, with the noun in the title. From the phrasal verb go ahead, the phrase the go-ahead refers to an occasion when you are given official permission to start a project. You get or are given the go-ahead: The council has given the go-ahead for a housing development in the area. Continue reading “We just got the go-ahead! (Nouns formed from phrasal verbs)”

It’s kicking off! (Phrasal verbs for starting things)

Fuse/Corbis/Getty

by Kate Woodford

This week we’re looking at the many phrasal verbs that are used to refer to things starting.

Let’s begin with the verb ‘start’ itself as it has a number of phrasal verbs. If you start off a meeting, you begin it by doing something: I’d like to start off the meeting with a brief summary of our aims. You can also use ‘start off’ intransitively: I’m going to start off with a few introductions. Continue reading “It’s kicking off! (Phrasal verbs for starting things)”

Deal with it! (Phrasal verbs for managing problems)

raffaelemontillo/iStock/Getty Images Plus

by Kate Woodford

Earlier this month we focused on phrasal verbs that are used to describe problems and difficult situations. This week, we’re turning our attention to phrasal verbs that describe what we do in difficult situations. Deal with is one of the most common phrasal verbs in this area. If you deal with a problem, you take action that will solve it: When problems arise, it’s best to deal with them immediately. Get round (US get around) is another. If you get round a problem, you succeed in solving it, often by avoiding it: I’m sure we can find a way to get round the problem.  / We can always get around the problem of space by building an extension. The phrasal verbs sort out and work out are also used with the meaning of ‘take action that solves a problem’: It was a useful meeting – we sorted out quite a few problems. / It’s a tricky situation, but I’m sure we’ll work it out in the end. Continue reading “Deal with it! (Phrasal verbs for managing problems)”

I messed up! (Phrasal verbs for problems)

by Kate Woodford

Bjorn Vinter/UpperCut Images/Getty

Last month we focused on words and phrases that are used to describe problems and difficult situations. This week we’re looking specifically at phrasal verbs in this area. In a week or so, we’ll look at a group of phrasal verbs that describe how we deal with these situations. (Did you see what I did there?)

The machines that we use in daily life can cause problems for us and when they do, we often describe the problem with a phrasal verb. If a machine or vehicle breaks down, it stops working: Her car broke down on the way to work. If a machine or engine cuts out, it suddenly stops working: Without any warning, the engine just cut out. Meanwhile, if a piece of equipment plays up, it doesn’t work as it should: Ah, my laptop’s playing up again! You can also describe a part of the body as ‘playing up’, meaning that it is hurting or not functioning as it should. (In this sense, ‘play up’ can be transitive as well as intransitive in British English.): His knee’s been playing (him) up again. Lastly, a computer system that goes down stops working for a period: The computers went down and we were unable to work for three hours. Continue reading “I messed up! (Phrasal verbs for problems)”

Phrasal verbs for reading

by Kate Woodford

Rekha Garton/DigitalVision/Getty

Sometimes we read to find out information and at other times, we read simply for pleasure. We may read the whole of a text or only parts of it. To describe the different ways in which we read, we often use phrasal verbs. This week, then, we take a look at those ‘reading’ phrasal verbs, focusing on the slight differences in meaning between them.

Starting with phrases for reading only parts of a book or magazine, etc., there are a number of phrasal verbs with the particle ‘through’ that describe the action of quickly turning several pages of a book or magazine, looking briefly at the text or pictures:

I was flicking through a glossy magazine.

I flipped through their catalogue while I was waiting. Continue reading “Phrasal verbs for reading”

Phrasal verbs with more than one meaning

by Liz Walter

Michael Sutton/EyeEm/Getty

Phrasal verbs are often difficult to learn because they tend to be formed from fairly common verbs and particles. To make matters worse, many of them have more than one meaning, and some have many, many meanings – pick up has 24 senses in the Cambridge Phrasal Verbs Dictionary!

Look at these sentences with go out, for example:

Did you go out last night? (leave your home for a social activity)

The fire’s gone out. (stopped burning)

The tide will go out at around 6 today. (go away from the shore) Continue reading “Phrasal verbs with more than one meaning”

Sorry to butt in! (Phrasal verbs that describe ways of speaking)

by Kate Woodford

Jenni Holma/Moment/Getty
Jenni Holma/Moment/Getty

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.  Continue reading “Sorry to butt in! (Phrasal verbs that describe ways of speaking)”

I keep putting it off. (Phrasal verbs with ‘put’)

by Kate Woodford

Hero Images/Getty
Hero Images/Getty

As part of an occasional series on phrasal verbs formed with common verbs, this post looks at phrasal verbs that contain the verb ‘put’. As ever, the phrasal verbs that we include in this post are all common in everyday English.

Let’s start with an action that most of you have already done today – put on a piece of clothing or a pair of shoes:

Put your coat on, Jamie – it’s cold outside. Continue reading “I keep putting it off. (Phrasal verbs with ‘put’)”

Common mistakes with phrasal verbs

by Liz Walter

Dave and Les Jacobs/Blend Images/Getty
Dave and Les Jacobs/Blend Images/Getty

Phrasal verbs are never easy, but this post will explain some very common mistakes and show you how to avoid making them.

One thing that often causes problems is using another verb after a phrasal verb. Just as with one-word verbs, you need to know the pattern of the verb that follows. Probably the most common mistakes are with phrasal verbs that need an -ing verb after them:

I’m looking forward to seeing you soon.

I’m looking forward to see you soon. Continue reading “Common mistakes with phrasal verbs”

Idioms and phrases related to eating

by Kate Woodford

Moretti/Viant/Caiaimage/Getty
Moretti/Viant/Caiaimage/Getty

It is sometimes said that the next best thing to eating food is talking about food. If this is true, we need the vocabulary with which to do it! In this post, we focus on idioms, phrasal verbs and other phrases that we use to talk about eating.

As you might imagine, many of the more colourful phrases in English relate to eating a lot. Someone who has eaten too much may say informally that they have made a pig of themselves: I made a real pig of myself at lunch. Continue reading “Idioms and phrases related to eating”