List of English Phrasal Verbs A-M

Use this list of English phrasal verbs to check your knowledge of these common-- but often not obvious-- expressions. They're important to understand if you want or need talk with native English speakers in informal-- or business-- situations.

(For an explanation of phrasal verbs and how to use them, see Phrasal Verb Use.)

English Phrasal Verbs: B-C

To back out (of) means to withdraw from a commitment or promise. (“Ken said he’d set up the chairs for the conference, but he backed out. Can you help me set them up?”)

To back up can mean to move backwards, or to support someone. ("When my boss started complaining about my overtime, his secretary backed me up. She reminded him he had pushed me to get that work done immediately.") It can also mean to make an extra copy of data: "Be sure and back up those files. We can't afford to lose them if the computer goes down." Back-up can even be a noun or adjective: "The baseball coach asked Jeremy to be ready if he needed a back-up pitcher."

To blow up can mean to inflate. (“I blew up 50 balloons for the party.”) It can also mean to explode (“the bomb blew up in his hand”) or to ‘explode’ with anger. (“Watch out what you say to Sharon. She blew up at Norma for no reason.”) Sometimes "blow your top" is used instead. "He blew his top when his son "borrowed" the car and dented the bumper."

To break into means to enter by breaking a lock, window, or door. (“Thieves broke into the store and stole $2,000.”)

To break up often means to end a relationship.

To bring up means to raise an issue or start a conversation about a subject. (“We’re talking about vacations. Don’t bring up your work problems now!”)

To bring someone up means to care for and guide a child to adulthood. (“My parents brought me up to respect authority.”)

To call off an event or meeting means to cancel it. (Friday’s game was called off due to rain.”)

To call on means to ask someone to participate in class. (“The teacher kept calling on Sue.”) It can also mean make a visit to someone’s home.

• To catch on means to begin to understand something. (“Hal finally caught on to Mark’s plan to cheat him.”)To catch up means to reach the same level or place (in a race, or to be able to travel together) as someone else. (“You’ll have to study hard to catch up after missing class for three days.” “Slow down! I can’t catch up when you walk so fast!”)

To come back means to return.

To come in means to enter.

To come over means to come to someone’s home. (“Why don’t you come over on Saturday?”)

To come up with means to think of a plan or solution. ("Sally is always coming up with crazy ideas to get rich. She should try working harder instead,")

To cover for means to do someone’s work or take their responsibility for a short time. (A secretary might ask a co-worker, “Can you cover the phone for me during my lunch hour?”)

To cut back on (or cut down on) means to reduce the amount. (“My doctor said I had to cut back on sugar.)

To cut out means to eliminate entirely. (“My doctor says I need to cut out smoking if I want to live past 60.”) 

To cut it out means to stop doing something. (“You’re annoying me! Cut it out!”)

English Phrasal Verbs: D-F

To do over means to do a job again.

To do without (or get along without) means to live or work without something that would be very useful. (“You forgot your notebook again? You’ll just have to do without it for this class!”)

To drop off means to deliver something or someone where needed. (“Please drop the kids off at school before dropping off my suit at the dry cleaners.”)

To figure out means to understand a message or solve a problem.

To fill out (or fill in the blanks) means to write the requested information on a form.

To find out means to learn something by investigation, not by being taught. “I just found out there’s a big test this Friday. Why didn’t the teacher tell us earlier?”

To follow through is to complete what one has started or promised to do.

Phrasal Verbs: G-H

List of English Phrasal Verbs A-M, with a picture of a sick woman thinking "I wish I could just get over this cold!"

To get along with means to have a good relationship with someone. “Sally gets along well with Beth.”

To get away with means to do something wrong or against the rules without getting punished. “My boss likes Mike so well he can get away with spending hours on Facebook and still get a great evaluation. If I take a quick look at it, I’m in big trouble.” 

To get back can be to return (come back). It can also be a command to move away from danger: “Get back! That car’s about to blow up!”

To get back at means to get revenge. "Tony took Joe's girlfriend, but Joe got back at him by preventing him from getting a big role in the school play."

To get in(to) (or out of) cars or boats or on (or off) a bus, train, or plane means to enter or to exit those vehicles. (“Get on the train right away. It leaves in five minutes.”)

To get over means to recover from an illness, depression, or a bad situation or relationship. (“He left you six weeks ago. Get over it!”)

To get rid of something is to dispose of it (throw it away.)

To get up is to get out of bed in the morning, or to stand up.

For more expressions with ‘get’ (get ahead, get a hold of, get in touch, get it, get on someone’s nerves, and get side-tracked) see Common Idioms

To give up is to surrender or to stop doing or using something. (“He gave up eating candy for Lent.”)

To go down is to decrease. (“The price of computers has gone down over the years.”)

To go on (or to keep on) is to continue an action.

To go over means to review or discuss plans, work, homework, or a document.

To go up is to increase. (“The cost of living is going up again.”)

To hang up a phone is to end the call by setting the receiver in its cradle (or turning off a cell phone.) To hang up a picture or curtains is to fasten them in place.

To hook up electronic equipment is to connect it. (Hook up can also be slang for making a romantic or sexual connection.)

English Phrasal Verbs: L-M

To look down on someone is to despise him -- to consider him (or her) as inferior to you. 

To look for someone or something is to try to find him/her/it.

To look up can mean to search for information in a dictionary or other reference book. (It can also mean just to look in an upward direction. That's not an idiom.)

To look up to someone means to admire them.

To make up can be to compensate for a loss or for missed work. (“You have until Friday to make up any work you missed due to illness.") It can also mean to invent a story or give an excuse (Did you really see Nancy or are you making that up?”), or to reconcile with someone after a quarrel. (Make-up is also a noun meaning cosmetics.)

See also List of Phrasal Verbs 2, P-W.

Home > Common Idioms > List of English Phrasal Verbs, A-M.

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