Decimate the Competition with These Phrasal Verbs

bulldozeIn today’s installment of our phrasal verbs blog series, you’ll find phrasal verbs related to destruction.  Sit back, grab some popcorn, and watch the sparks fly!

Tear … down/ – to destroy a structure (like a building)

  • It’s been 5 years since they tore down the old abandoned factory building and they still haven’t built the park that they promised us.
  • The damage from the hurricane is so severe that the building can’t be repaired. We have to tear it down.

Note: The spelling of the verb “tear” (rip, violently separate) is exactly the same as the spelling of the noun “tear” (the water produced by our eyes when we cry or chop onions), but they have different pronunciations. The first one rhymes with “bear,” “scare,” and “wear.” The second (the noun) rhymes with “clear,” “near,” and “ear.” Continue reading “Decimate the Competition with These Phrasal Verbs”


Give (H) and Take – Phrasal Verbs for Changing Possession

watchThings are constantly changing hands these days, and it can be hard to remember who has what and how they got it. Today’s blog will give you some useful expressions to talk about how possession changes. Enjoy!

Give … Away/ – to surrender possession of something without compensation

  • The band was giving away free tickets to the show tonight to the first 10 people that liked the Facebook post. I was number 11, so I didn’t get one.
  • I gave all of my video games away when I started trying to exercise and lose weight.

Note: We can substitute “out” for “away” and have a very similar meaning. However, “out” is used when the thing being given is not a unique, personal possession. Continue reading “Give (H) and Take – Phrasal Verbs for Changing Possession”


Phrasal Verbs You Just Can’t Make Up!

hugIt’s often incredible how many meanings you can get from the same two words when you use them in different contexts. Take “make,” the subject of today’s installment, as an example!

Make up/ – to reconcile differences with someone (e.g., after an argument)

  • After my first big argument with my boyfriend, it took a few days before we were both calm enough to talk about it and make up.

Note: “Make up” with this meaning can be used both with and without an object. In cases where we use an object, it comes after the preposition “with.”

  •  Why haven’t you made up with Mary yet? She’s your best friend!

Make up for/ – To compensate

  • I know from experience that it’s extremely hard to make up for a forgotten anniversary. Flowers, chocolate, and a massage are all good ideas, but they may not be enough!

Continue reading “Phrasal Verbs You Just Can’t Make Up!”


Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water! (Phrasal Verbs with throw)

throw garbageLearning a new language can be extremely frustrating, and English is no exception. Sometimes, we all feel the urge to simply give up and say “Enough! I quit!” and throw the computer across the room. But we have to resist this urge and continue the struggle, because the benefits of our labor will be plentiful and sweet (plus, computers are very expensive!). We understand your frustration, though, and this set of phrasal verbs explains a few common constructions with “throw.”

Throw … Out/ – to dispose of something (as with garbage)

  • The chicken went bad before I could cook it, so I threw it out.

Note: This expression can be used as a synonym for “eject” when someone is forced to leave a place (e.g., a stadium or courtroom). This usage is normally seen in passive voice constructions in its unseparated form.

  • Martin was thrown out of the game after he pushed the referee.

Continue reading “Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water! (Phrasal Verbs with throw)”


It’s your call… – Phrasal Verbs for the Phone

phoneFar from going the way of the telegraph, the telephone – thanks to the iPhone and other smartphones – has become our constant digital companion. Even though some of its functions are duplicated by online messaging and on social networks, the telephone remains vital – and so, too, does the vocabulary related to it. Here to help are some common phone-related phrasal verbs:

Call … Up / – to call someone (by surprise/who is not expecting the call)

  • I’m planning to call my high school friend up while I’m in town for the holiday weekend.

Call … Back/ – to return a call

  • Ms. Saunders isn’t available right now. Can she call you back when she gets out of the meeting?

Note: This phrasal verb has an alternate meaning with the same structure. Continue reading “It’s your call… – Phrasal Verbs for the Phone”


Phrasal Verb Series: We’ve Got Your Back!

back up carAs the English idiom says, sometimes when it rains it pours. Though this expression comes from weather, its meaning – that you can never predict how much of something you will receive – is equally applicable to the language itself. Take the subject of our second installment on phrasal verbs: back. From this one verb more than half a dozen phrasal verbs can be derived. Here are a few of the most popular: Continue reading “Phrasal Verb Series: We’ve Got Your Back!”


“B” More Confident With These Phrasal Verbs

Alphabet.B 476907785Although the most recent entries in our Phrasal Verbs Blog Series have focused on examples that share a common root verb (be it break, bring, or burn), not all verbs have so many phrasal variants. Here, for example, are a few verbs that stand alone:

Bawl … Out – to criticize or scold

  • The strict teacher was always bawling students out for not doing their homework assignments.

Note: Though uncommon in everyday English, the root verb (bawl) can stand alone. By itself it means “to cry loudly” – a definition which lends itself nicely to the meaning of its phrasal partner. Continue reading ““B” More Confident With These Phrasal Verbs”


Red Hot English: Phrasal Verbs with “Burn”

Candle In Holder 450636315Phrasal verbs are simultaneously one of the most common and confusing aspects of the English language. Though few native speakers can imagine a conversation without them, it can sometimes be difficult to understand the differences between seemingly identical expressions. For example, though “burn down” and “burn up” seem fairly straightforward they have no less than five distinct meanings between them! Fortunately we are here to help you understand when to use which:

Burn … Down  – to destroy using fire

  • You should always make sure you blow out* any lit candles before you leave the house; if not they might burn the house down while you are away!

Burn Down / – to be completely consumed by fire

  • One day, suddenly and without warning, the abandoned mansion burned down. Nothing was left on the site except the vague outline of what had once been a gorgeous building.

Note: Though seemingly identical, the first use of “burn down” is separable and active while the second is inseparable and passive (meaning, for example, “he burned the mansion down” but “the mansion burned down.”) Continue reading “Red Hot English: Phrasal Verbs with “Burn””


Bring Out Your Best With Phrasal Verbs

Waitress bringing coffee and cookies 187009307As we have mentioned before, phrasal verbs allow English speakers – native and non-native alike – to do more with less. Because phrasal verbs are created by making only small changes to common verbs we are able to stretch our existing vocabulary instead of learning completely new words for every action. While other languages might have five or six completely different words for the actions below, as the following examples prove English (and English speakers) can express the same ideas by using the same root verb: bring.

Bring … Out – to emphasize or stress

  • The color of Monica’s new dress really brings out her eyes; although they were just as pretty before the complementary color really makes them stand out.

Continue reading “Bring Out Your Best With Phrasal Verbs”


Make a Break For Greatness! – Phrasal Verbs

Thief 470517045As any student of English – or regular reader of our phrasal verbs blog series – can tell you, one of the most interesting things about phrasal verbs is their sheer abundance. As the following examples with break prove, although a set of almost identical phrasal verbs can seem overwhelming at first, practice – and context – can help!

Break For – to move quickly toward

  • In an effort to free himself from his captors the hero made a break for the exit when they weren’t looking.

Note: As in the above example, this phrasal verb is often combined with “make a” to create the larger expression “make a break for”.

Break Through / – to pass through a barrier or obstacle by force

  • The crowd at the concert was so thick that Tammy had to break through a big line of people to make her way to the bathrooms.

Continue reading “Make a Break For Greatness! – Phrasal Verbs”