Angry Verbs: Phrasal Verbs for Expressing Frustration

frustrationAnger is one of our strongest emotions, so it makes sense that we have lots of phrasal verbs that we use to talk about it. Have a look!

Take … out on/ – to direct anger at an innocent third-party

  • It’s not my fault that your girlfriend cheated on you, so don’t take it out on me!

Note: This phrasal verb is exclusively separated. Sometimes, however, the object can come between “out” and “on,” especially when the object is a phrase, like in the following example:

  • They took out their frustration about the failed test on me and made me stay late.


  • They took out on me their frustration about the failed test and made me stay late.

Flip out on/ – To suddenly direct strong anger/frustration at someone

  • If I forget my anniversary my girlfriend is going to flip out on I forgot last year and we almost broke up!

Note: We can substitute the preposition “about” in place of “on” in order to indicate the cause, rather than the recipient, of the anger or frustration. For example:

  • The board of directors is flipping outabout the tax audit. Apparently there have been some dishonest accounting practices.

Hold … against/ – To maintain anger/distrust towards someone because of their past actions

  • My brother was really mean to me when we were kids, but I don’t hold it against We were just kids, and now he’s one of my best friends.

Note: This is yet another phrasal verb that we use in exclusively separated form (meaning, it needs to have an object). The following example is therefore incorrect:

  • It’s not healthy to hold against people for things they did a long time ago.

Set … off/ – To cause someone to release anger they had kept contained

  • If you start talking about his family you’re going to set him off. The last time he discussed his relatives he was upset for days.

Note: This phrasal verb can be used in a different context where it means “to trigger an alarm.” For example:

  • The smoke from the toaster set off the smoke alarm and the building was evacuated.

Don’t be upset! There are plenty more practice materials waiting for you at our main phrasal verbs page!