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


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”

Phrasal verbs for the holiday season

by Liz Walter

Hero Images/Getty
Hero Images/Getty

August is a month for holidays in many countries, so I thought it would be nice to look at some phrasal verbs and other multi-word verbs connected with going on holiday. (By the way, holiday is a British English word – Americans take vacations.)

One very simple phrasal verb connected with holidays is go away. If we ask someone ‘Are you going away this summer?’, we are asking about their holiday plans; it is not a general enquiry about them going somewhere. We use get away in a similar way:

I hope to get away for a few days soon. Continue reading “Phrasal verbs for the holiday season”

How much did that set you back? (Money phrasal verbs)

by Kate Woodford

Persley Photographics (c)/Moment/Getty
Persley Photographics (c)/Moment/Getty

This week we’re looking at the wealth of phrasal verbs in English that relate to money, including those used for having and not having money, those for saving money and those for spending it. Starting with a very common phrasal verb, if you pay off a sum that you owe to a bank or person, you give them all of it: I’m hoping to pay off the debt within two years. Continue reading “How much did that set you back? (Money phrasal verbs)”

5 Phrasal verbs to impress your teachers

KUO CHUN HUNG/iStock/Getty
KUO CHUN HUNG/iStock/Getty

Many of my students worry about phrasal verbs, and I have written several posts about them, including a basic introduction to the what they are and how they are used and a more recent post on phrasal verbs for everyday actions.

One of the most common complaints is that there are simply so many of them, and that they are difficult to remember, especially when the main verb is a very common one such as take or set. In this post, therefore, I have selected just 5 phrasal verbs. All of them are extremely common, and all of them can be used in a wide variety of contexts. If you learn just these 5, you will be able to use them in your writing and impress your teachers. Continue reading “5 Phrasal verbs to impress your teachers”

Phrasal verbs for everyday actions

by Liz Walter

Credit: Getty

I have written several posts about phrasal verbs, including an introduction to what they are and how to use them. However, I realised today that I have never written about some of the most common phrasal verbs there are – ones that we use to talk about actions that take place every day.

You will almost certainly find that you know some of them already, and it is worth learning any that are new to you because they are all extremely common, and most of them have no one-word equivalent.

The first thing that happens every morning is that we wake up. We can also say that we wake someone up:

I woke up at 7.30. (In US punctuation, write the time as 7:30.)

My Dad wakes me up at 6 a.m. every day. Continue reading “Phrasal verbs for everyday actions”

Keep up with new phrasal verbs in English

by Colin McIntosh

mike_upPhrasal verbs are the stuff of many students’ nightmares. Most native speakers of English are blissfully unaware of their existence (they’re those short verbal phrases that include a little word like up or out: catch up, for example), but for those learning English, they have a reputation for being difficult to learn and impossible to use correctly. (Not exactly true – it’s more about the way they’re taught.)

Unfortunately for these learners, their number is growing all the time. The Cambridge dictionary is always on the lookout for them, and they’re added to the dictionary in the same way as other new words. Continue reading “Keep up with new phrasal verbs in English”

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. Continue reading “Look out! Hurry up! Phrasal verbs for giving instructions”

I’m just easing myself back into work (Phrasal verbs for describing how hard we are working or studying)

by Kate Woodford

beaverOne morning in early January, I met a friend in a café and told her that I was easing myself back into work after the holidays. By using this phrase ‘to ease myself (back) into work’, I meant that I was slowly starting to work again after a period without work (I planned to answer a few emails and get in touch with a couple of colleagues – not exactly hard work!). I added that I fully intended to knuckle down the following week, meaning that I planned to start working hard that week. Funnily enough, I could also have used the rhyming phrasal verb buckle down here, which means the same thing. After using these two phrases I started to think about all the other phrasal verbs that we use to describe how much or how little we are working or studying and decided to use this post to share them with you. Continue reading “I’m just easing myself back into work (Phrasal verbs for describing how hard we are working or studying)”

They carried out an experiment: phrasal verbs in formal writing

by Liz Walter
I have written previously about using phrasal verbs to avoid over-formal language, but what happens when you need to write in a formal style, for instance in an academic essay, a report, or a formal letter? Although we often think of phrasal verbs and other multi-word verbs as being rather informal, the majority are in fact neutral and there are a good many that are positively formal. This blog post looks at a small selection of the many multi-word verbs which would be completely appropriate in formal or academic writing.

If you only learn one phrasal verb to use in formal writing, my recommendation would be carry out. This is extremely common and sounds much more impressive than ‘do’:

Scientists have carried out experiments/tests/research on …

We have carried out  a thorough review of … Continue reading “They carried out an experiment: phrasal verbs in formal writing”