Phrasal Verbs – Ordered List by Verbs


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    Phrasal Verbs – Ordered List by Verbs


    act like (inseparable)

    behave in a way that’s like _____ Note: This phrasal verb is very informal.

    What’s wrong with Bob? He’s acting like an idiot.


    act up (no object)

    misbehave (for people); not work properly (for machines)

    The baby sitter had a difficult time. The children acted up all evening. “I guess I’d better take my car to the garage. It’s been acting up lately.”


    Add up

    (make sense)

    His evidence just doesn ‘t add up.


    add up (1. no object)

    logically fit together Note: This phrasal verb is often negative

    His theory is hard to believe, but his research adds up. “His theory seems, at first, to be plausible, but the facts in his research don’t add up.”


    add up (2. separable)

    find the total.

    What’s the total of those bills? Could you add them up and see?


    add up to (inseparable)

    to total.

    The bills add up to $734.96. That’s more than I expected!


    Ask after

    (inquire about)

    Jim was asking after you.


    ask out (separable)

    ask for a date.

    Nancy has a new boy friend. Joe asked her out last night.


    back down (no object)

    not follow a threat; yield In an argument

    Tom was going to call the police when I told him I’d wrecked his car, but he backed down when I said I’d pay for the damages. Shella was right, so Paul had to back down.


    back off (no object)

    not follow a threat

    Tom was ready to call the police when I told him I’d wrecked his car, but he backed off when I said I’d pay for the damages.


    back up (1. no object)

    move backward; move in reverse

    You missed the lines in the parking space. You’ll have to back up and try again. “The people waiting in line are too close to the door. We won’t be able to open it unless they back up.”


    back up (2. separable)

    drive a vehicle backwards (in reverse)

    You’re too close! Back your car up so I can open the garage door.


    back up (3. separable)

    confirm a story, facts, or information

    If you don’t believe me, talk to Dave. He’ll back me up.


    back up (4. separable)

    make a “protection” copy to use if there are problems with the original

    When my computer crashed, I lost many of my files. It’s a good thing I backed them up.


    Bargain for

    (take into acount)

    We hadn’t bargained for there being so much traffic, and we missed the plane.


    be off (1) usually used in the present tense (of an event / an arrangement etc.)

    to be cancelled

    The lead singer of ‘The Rolling Beatles’ pop group is ill, so tonight’s concert is off. The concert is off.


    be off (2) (of food)

    to have gone bad

    Nick decided to have a fried egg for breakfast, but there was a terrible smell when he cracked the egg. ‘This egg is off,’ he thought. I can’t eat it.’ The egg is off.


    be over

    to be finished

    The storm is over; it has stopped raining and the sun is shining. The storm is over.


    be taken aback used in the passive

    to be surprised and confused

    Jeff was taken aback when he opened the door and discovered an elephant. Jeff was taken aback by the discovery of an elephant. Jeff was taken aback.


    Bear out

    (confirm the truth)

    Helen’s alibi was borne out by her sister.


    beat up

    to hurt someone badly by hitting and punching

    Two men beat Fred up and left him lying unconscious on the pavement. They beat up Fred. They beat Fred up. They beat him up.


    beg off (no object)

    decline an invitation; ask to be excused from doing something

    At first Lily said she would be at the party. Later she begged off.


    blow up (1)

    to destroy (something or someone) by explosion; to explode

    Mr Trent hated his house, so he blew it up with dynamite and built a new one instead. Mr Trent blew up his house. Mr Trent blew his house up. Mr Trent blew it up. The house blew up.


    blow up (1. separable)


    We needs lots of balloons for the party. Will you blow them up?


    blow up (2)

    a balloon/a tyre /a football etc. to fill with air; to inflate

    Uncle Joe blew up the balloons for the Christmas party. Uncle Joe blew up the balloons. Uncle Joe blew the balloons up. Uncle Joe blew them up.


    blow up (2. separable)

    explode; destroy by exploding

    A: “That old building really came down quickly!” B: “That’s because the construction company used dynamite to blow it up.”


    blow up (3. no object)

    suddenly become very angry

    Whe I told Jerry that I’d had an accident with his car, he blew up.


    bone up on (inseparable)

    review / study thoroughly for a short time

    If you’re going to travel to Peru, you’d better bone up on your Spanish.


    break down (1) (of machinery)

    to stop working.

    Tom’s car broke down on the way to the airport, and he had to get a taxi. I His car broke down.


    break down (1. separable)

    separate something into component parts

    We spent a lot of money at the supermarket. When we broke the total cost down, we spent more on cleaning supplies than food.


    break down (2)

    to lose control emotionally or mentally.

    Alec broke down and cried when his mother died. I Alec broke down. David broke down and wept when he heard the news.



    figure out (1. separable)

    logically find the answer to a problem; solve a problem by thinking about it carefully

    For a long time I couldn’t understand the last problem, but I finally figured it out.


    figure out (2. separable)

    understand why someone behaves the way she/he does

    I can’t figure Margie out. Sometimes she’s very warm and friendly and sometimes she acts as if she doesn’t know me.


    fill in (1. separable) a form / a questionnaire etc.

    add information to a form; to complete (a form)

    The office needs to know your home address and phone number. Could you fill them in on this form? It took me an hour to fill in the application form. It took me an hour to fill in the form. It took me an hour to fill the form in, It took me an hour to fill.

    Full list is here. 

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