The Ultimate Phrasal Verb Book

The Ultimate Phrasal Verb Book


The inspiration for The Ultimate Phrasal Verb Book came about when a student asked me for a textbook to help her learn the meanings of common phrasal verbs. I had nothing to offer. The only textbook focusing on common verbs that I could give her contains not one phrasal verb — it teaches arise but not get up, awake but not wake up, seek but not look for.

Phrasal verbs are verbs, not idiomatic curiosities. There is no logic to classifying take over with take the bull by the horns. Phrasal verbs are an essential part of spoken and written English at all levels, and no student who hopes to master the language can afford to overlook them.

Although this textbook is intended primarily for high-intermediate to advanced students, ambitious students at lower levels will benefit from it as well. Only some FOCUS sections may prove to be a little beyond them; otherwise, there is nothing to prevent any student from studying the definitions and examples and attempting the exercises.

A vocabulary textbook should provide mechanics as well as meaning. Students want to know more than what a word means — they want to know how to use it correctly.

The importance of mechanics is the reason for the emphasis on the prepositions required when some phrasal verbs are used transitively and for the inclusion of reviews of points of grammar not specific to phrasal verbs. Prepositions are the glue that holds English together, but many students falter when using newly learned verbs because they do not know that a preposition is also required, or if they do, which one. This aspect of English is not given the attention it deserves because it is difficult to teach — there are no rules that govern when a preposition, or which preposition, is required, and no teacher likes to say “You just have to remember.”

The hope of the latter feature, the discussion of points of grammar not specific to phrasal verbs, is that combining practice with phrasal verbs and practice with a variety of grammatical structures will increase not only the student’s confidence in the knowledge of phrasal verbs but also his or her willingness and ability to use them in a wider range of situations.

There is inevitably a degree of oversimplification. That phrasal verb particles are sometimes prepositions and sometimes adverbs is mentioned only once. No purpose is served by differentiating between them, and the overlap between the two is confusing to the student. Phrasal verbs are not identified as transitive or intransitive because this is dictated by logic. Less common meanings of some phrasal verbs have not been included. Adverb placement is presented and illustrated in simplified form without discussion of the different types of adverbs — doing so would have gone beyond the scope of this textbook.



And no differentiation is made between recognized adjectives derived from past participles and past participles with adjectival meaning. The adjectival use of past participles (both phrasal and nonphrasal) is an extremely important aspect of spoken English — something every student of English should be familiar with — yet the dividing line between true adjectives derived from past participles and passive sentences employing past participles with adjectival meanings is ill-defined and problematic. Native speakers of English regularly use past participles in superficially passive sentences with purely adjectival meaning. Whether the past participles are verbs or actually adjectives is of no concern to the native speaker and is entirely irrelevant to the student of English. Rather than distract the student with an unnecessary element of confusion, both are referred to as participle adjectives throughout this textbook.

The exercises in this textbook are intended to reinforce meaning and mechanics. A cloze exercise always comes first, followed by exercises focusing on sentence structure and the FOCUS discussion. Last are exercises that ask the student to answer questions or write original sentences.

There is a good deal of review built into this textbook. Every section contains two or more exercises requiring the student to refer back to a previous section in order to review a phrasal verb, participle adjective, or noun. When a phrasal verb has two or more meanings, it is intentional that no help is provided to the student in determining which meaning applies; students have to review them all and figure it out for themselves.

I have tried in this textbook to imitate the form and content of everyday English. If occasionally the register and subject matter of some examples and exercises seem not quite right for formal discourse, that is deliberate. Students need to learn formal English, of course, but since most people speak informally most of the time, students need to gain familiarity with the syntax, usage, and content of the informal English they read and hear every day at work, at school, at home, and on television.


Phrasal verbs are combinations of ordinary verbs like put, take, come, and go and particles like in, out, on, and off. They are a very important part of everyday English. Every student of English needs a basic understanding of the most common phrasal verbs and also of common nouns and adjectives made from phrasal verbs.

Most phrasal verbs are nor informal, slang, or improper for educated speech or formal writing. Exactly the opposite is true — most phrasal verbs are acceptable at all levels of spoken or written English. In fact, for many of the phrasal verbs in this textbook, there is no alternative to the phrasal verb — there is no other way to say it.


However, a few phrasal verbs in this textbook are identified as informal, and it is better not to use them in serious, formal speech or writing. But these informal phrasal verbs are important because they are very common in everyday informal speech and writing.

Some phrasal verbs are very easy to understand. For example, it is not difficult to understand sit down or come in because their meanings are obvious. But many phrasal verbs are very idiomatic. Idiomatic means that there is no way to know what the verb and particle mean together by knowing what the verb and particle mean separately. For example, every beginning-level student learns what the words call, run, off, and out mean, but that does not help the student to know that call off means cancel or that run out means use all of something.

Each section of this textbook starts with a FOCUS, an explanation of something important about phrasal verbs. Then eight phrasal verbs and an explanation of each important meaning of each one are presented along with one or more example sentences for each meaning. Following that are several exercises to help you understand and remember what the phrasal verbs mean and how to use them in a sentence. And like real conversation, questions asked with I or we are answered with you, and questions asked with you are answered with / or we.

And because there is a lot to learn in this textbook, there is a lot of review to help you learn it. Every phrasal verb is reviewed at least twice later in the book. The more idiomatic phrasal verbs are reviewed more often, and the more important meanings of phrasal verbs with several meanings are reviewed more often.

Terms, Abbreviations, and Symbols Used in this Textbook

verb Verb refers to the verb part of a phrasal verb. In other words, the phrasal verb minus the particle. In the phrasal verb pull over, pull is the verb and over is the particle.

particle The adverbs and prepositions in phrasal verbs are both called particles in this book. Many particles are adverbs and prepositions, and it can be very difficult and confusing to figure out if a particle in a particular phrasal verb is one or the other. Fortunately, this is almost never important to the student, so it is a lot easier to simply call them both particles.

p.v. phrasal verb n. a noun made from a

phrasal verb

part.adj. participle adjective — a past participle of a phrasal verb used as an adjective put on it. When words or sentences have a line through them, it means that they are incorrect.

Three dots between the verb and the particle mean that the object of the phrasal verb can be placed between the verb and the particle.


  1. FOCUS ON: separable and nonseparable phrasal verbs

Phrasal verbs are either separable or nonseparable. Unfortunately, there is no rule that will help you to look at a phrasal verb and always know whether it is separable or nonseparable.

Separable phrasal verbs

Separable phrasal verbs can be separated by their object. When the object is a noun, it is usually entirely optional whether the object is placed between the verb and the particle or placed after the particle. Both sentences below are correct:

I took my shoes


I took off my


However, when a pronoun is used instead of a noun, the pronoun must be placed between the verb and the particle:

I took them off.

I took off them.

But in one type of sentence, separable phrasal verbs must be separated — when the phrasal verb has two objects:

She put a blanket


She put on a


She put a blanket on the bed.

She put on a blanket the bed.

Nonseparable phrasal verbs

Nonseparable phrasal verbs cannot be separated by their object:

He ran into a


He ran a tree


Throughout this book, phrasal verbs that can be separated have three dots (…) between the verb and the particle.


present tense                     -ing form              past tense past participle

come from

come from & comes from                  coming from came from

come from

  1. come from v. When you come from a place, you were born there or lived there previously. When you come from a family or a social situation, your past experience helps to explain your present attitudes and behavior.

Mike comes from Alaska, so he’s used to cold weather.

Jane had a difficult childhood. She came from a broken


  1. come from p.v. When something comes from a source, that is where it originated.

The word “admiral” comes from an Arabic word.

The mechanic heard a strange sound coming from the engine.


present tense -ing form past tense past participle

figure out & figures out

figuring out figured out figured out


  1. figure … out v. [the object can be a noun or a noun clause] When you figure out something, such as the answer to a question, the solution to a problem, or why a person is a certain way or acts a certain way, you think about and succeed in under­standing it.

Joe’s so hostile all the time. I can’t figure him out.

I looked everywhere for my keys, but I couldn’t figure out where I put them.

give back

give back & gives giving back gave back given

  1. give … back (to) p.v. When you return something to someone, you give it back. Can I use your pen? I’ll give it back after the test. Timmy, give that toy back to your sister right now!

look for

look for & looks looking for                             looked for looked for

  1. look for v. When you look for things or people, you try to find them.

/ looked for you at the party, but I didn’t see you.

Excuse me, can you help me? I’m looking for 303 Main St.

put on

put on & puts on putting on                             put on                    put on

  1. .. on p.v. When you place something on or apply something to your body, you put it on.

I put on my new dress before going to the party.

Eric forgot to put suntan lotion on, and now he’s as red as a lobster.

  1. .. on p.v. When you place something on or apply something to another surface, you put it on.

I put the book on the table.

Jerry put too much fertilizer on his lawn, and now he has to cut it twice a week.

  1. .. on p.v. When you attach or affix something to another thing, you put it on.

The Wilson’s put a new roof on their house last year.

I told the tailor to put red buttons on the dress he’s making for me.

  1. .. on p.v. When you put on weight, you gain weight.


Did you see Mike? He’s put on so much weight that I didn’t recognize him.

I need to go on a diet. I’ve been putting on a lot of weight lately.

  1. put …on v. When you organize or perform something for other people’s entertainment, such as a play or a concert, you put it on.

The club put on a show to raise money for the party.

That opera hasn’t been put on in more than 200 years.

  1. . .on p.v. [informal] When you put people on, you kid or tease them.

You won the lottery? You’re putting me on!

Don’t put me on — tell me the truth.

put-on n. Something done with the intention of fooling or deceiving people is a put-on.

He didn’t really win the lottery. It was all a big put-on to impress his girlfriend.


present tense              -ing form                 past tense past

run run into & runs running into ran into run into

  1. run into v. When you are driving and hit another vehicle or something near the road, such as a tree or a telephone pole, you run into it.

Ali was driving too fast, and he ran into a telephone pole.

I was run into by a drunk driver.

  1. run into v. When you meet people unexpectedly or unintentionally, you run into them. Bump into is the same as run into.

We ran into Karen and her new boyfriend at the supermarket yesterday.

I owe Frank $300, so I hope I don’t run into him.

  1. run into v. When you unexpectedly encounter difficulties or problems, you run into them.

/ thought it would be easy to fix my car, but I’ve been running into problems.

Janice ran into one problem after another at work today.

  1. run into v. When the total of something grows to a large amount or number, it runs into that amount or number.

If you fixed everything on that old car that needs fixing, it would run into thousands of dollars.

The number of starving people in the country ran into millions.


show up & shows showing up                     showed up shown

  1. show up v. When you appear somewhere, you show up. Turn up is similar to show up.

/ was supposed to meet my sister for lunch, but she hasn’t shown up yet.

Over a hundred people showed up for the news conference.

  1. show up v. When something appears or becomes visible, it shows up.

It’s hard to photograph polar bears because they

don’t show up well against the snow. The spots won’t show up until the last stages of the disease.


present tense              -ing form                past tense past

take take off & takes taking off                                        took off                taken off


  1. take …off v. When you remove something from your body, you take it off.

/ was so tired when I got home that I took my clothes off and went straight to bed. Take off your shoes. You’re getting mud on the carpet.

  1. take …off v. When you remove something from a surface, you take it off.

I took the book off the table. You need to take the old wax off the floor before you wax it again.

  1. take …off v. When you remove something from something it is attached or affixed to, you take it off.

Alfonso always takes the skin off chicken before he cooks

  1. After Jane took the flat tire off her bicycle, she put on the new one.
  2. take … off v. When you take time off from work or study, you do something different, in stead of working or studying.

I can’t work tomorrow. I have to take the day off for some tests at the hospital. Our company always lets us take the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day off.

  1. take off v. When an airplane leaves the ground and flies up into the air, it takes off.

Our plane took off an hour late because of the


Put on your seat belt; we’re taking off now.

takeoff n. Takeoff is when an airplane leaves the ground and flies up into

the air. The takeoff was delayed because of the snow.

  1. take off v. When a business or other organized activity becomes very successful, it takes off.

The new restaurant’s business is taking off because it got a good review in the newspaper.

If this business takes off, we could make a lot of money.

  1. take off v. [informal] When you leave suddenly or quickly, you take off.

After he found out the FBI was looking for him, he took off in a hurry.

This party’s boring — let’s take off.

  1. take … off v. When you reduce the price of something that is for sale by a certain amount, you take that amount off the price.

The sign in the store window said, “Every Monday take 10 percent off all marked prices.”

The car dealer took $2,000 off the list price.

EXERCISE 1 a — Complete the sentences with phrasal verbs from this section. Be sure the phrasal verbs are in the correct tense.

Example: Sergeant Jones is very strict with his children. He COMES

FROM a military family.

  1. After the police arrived, we________________
  2. Sales of air conditioners really________________ when the temperature got over 100 degrees

last summer.

  1. Megan_______ a lot of weight _________ when she was pregnant.
  2. I’m going to install a new program tonight, and I hope I don’t ______________ any problems.
  3. The invisible ink ________________ only under ultraviolet light.
  4. I was expecting 100 people at the party, but only around 50 _________________ .
  5. Jane was lucky; she _________________ a good family.
  6. Be sure you_______ a coat of primer_________ before you paint the fender.
  7. My cousin is so weird that even his mother can’t________ him _____________ .
  8. I don’t feel well; I think I’ll ________ tomorrow_________ and stay home.
  9. We were scared to death when we heard voices______ the attic.
  10. My son always forgets to________________ his coat before he goes outside.
  11. I was surprised when our plane ________________ on time.
  12. We ________________ our dog all night, but we couldn’t find him.
  13. Paul finally_________________ my CDs after I asked him for them about a million times.
  14. I’m not going to the party because I don’t want to _______________________


  1. The real estate agent said that our asking price was too high and that we should_________ at least

$10,000____________ it if we want to sell our house.

  1. ________________ those muddy shoes before you come inside.
  2. Sending my son to Stanford and my daughter to Yale is going to________________ some

serious money.

  1. ________ the ornaments_________ the Christmas tree isn’t as much fun as putting them on.
    1. You can’t be serious — you’re_______ me________________ !
    2. Don’t forget to _______ a stamp ____________ that letter before you mail it.
    3. A special performance of The Nutcracker was_________________ at the children’s hospital.
    4. The maid _______ the dirty sheets __________ the bed.
    5. Be careful! You almost____________________ that truck back there.

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