Phrasal Verbs

Phrasal verbs using ‘up’

beat up

meaning: to beat somebody until they are badly hurt

1. Last week Dave got beaten up outside his house.

2. Only wear that football shirt if you want people to beat you up.
look up

meaning: to look in a book or on a computer for a single piece of information

1. He didn’t know the word, so he looked it up in the dictionary.

2. He also didn’t know where his hotel was, so he looked it up on the map.
book up

meaning: to reserve every place, so no places are left

1. The hotel was booked up, so they had to sleep on the street outside.

2. Every new year the trains book up very quickly, so you’ll need to get your ticket as early as you can.
make up

meaning: to repair a broken relationship; to invent a story

1. Dave wanted to get back with his girlfriend, but when he tried to make up with her, she told him to go away.

2. They always have big fights, but a few days later they always make up.

3. Jimmy is a good storyteller: he makes up amazing adventures.

4. Jimmy is also a liar: he makes up excuses for why he didn’t do his homework.
break up

meaning: for a couple to separate; to break a larger object into smaller pieces; to disband a group of people

1. She broke up with him by text message.

2. They still like each other, but had to break up because their work meant they never saw each other.

3. The rocket broke up as it came back down to earth.

4. A smaller boat was sent first to break up the ice, allowing the bigger boat to sail through later.

5. After five years and ten number 1 songs, the group decided to break up.

6. The management decided to break up the project team.
meet up

meaning: to meet a person or group, usually after a plan

1. The plan was to meet up with his wife in Jakarta, but his train got delayed. Now he will have to wait another week to see her.
brush up

meaning: to review knowledge you have not studied or used for a while

1. “I should brush up on my French before I go on holiday: I’ve forgotten most of it.”

2. Dave decided to spend the holiday brushing up on his cooking skills.
mess up

meaning: make a mess, changing something neat to messy

1. It took her 30 minutes to comb her hair. And it took the wind 5 minutes to mess it up.

2. “Don’t touch anything! I don’t want you to mess up my system.”
build up

meaning: to build a larger and larger number over time; to develop

1. The government is getting worried by the troops building up on the border.

2. This part of the city is being built up quite quickly: over the last 5 years a lot of money has come in.
mop up

meaning: to use a mop to remove liquid

1. The washing machine had leaked while they were out. It would take all afternoon to mop up the mess.

2. “Somebody has spilt Coke all over aisle 4. Could you mop it up please?”
buy up

meaning: to buy all the stock of something (usually business)

1. He got rich by using loans to buy up small companies, firing the staff, making them profitable, and then selling them on.

2. The stockbroker said she should buy up as many shares as she can while the price is low.
offer up

meaning: to give something to someone as a way of saying thanks, or of showing devotion

1. It made Dave angry to see people offering up their thanks, and gifts, to the boss.
call up

meaning: to give someone a telephone call); to bring a new player into the team from the reserves (sports)

1. “Can you call Dave up and ask him to bring some ice tonight?”
She didn’t know the number, so she called up Directory Enquiries.

2. She got called up to the team after another player suffered an injury.
open up

meaning: to open a shop or place of business; to open a container that is almost never opened; for a person who doesn’t like to talk about emotions to finally talk about how they feel

1. Dave opened up his first small shop in 1992; by 2001 he had 25 of them.

2. “Have you seen they have opened up a new Starbucks on the corner. This neighbourhood is getting worse.”

3. My computer wasn’t working, so I took it to the shop. After they opened it up we saw the problem: mice had eaten some of the wires.

4. The doctors opened up his leg and took out the metal pins.

5. We didn’t know what was annoying Anne, but after a few glasses of wine she opened up: it seems her marriage is having some problems.

6. Dave is a shy guy usually, but since he got his new girlfriend he has opened up a bit.
clean up

meaning: to clean a mess

1. After the party on Friday night they spent the rest of the weekend cleaning up.

2. “Clean up this mess right now!”
pass up

meaning: to decline an opportunity; to let an opportunity go to waste

1. Later Dave kicked himself for passing up the opportunity to manage the team.

2. When you get a chance to do something great in life, you shouldn’t pass it up.
close up

meaning: to close a shop; to stop talking about feelings or emotions; to close an open container

1. The recession hit Dave hard, and in 2005 he closed up his last store.

2. Their neighbourhood isn’t very good: walking along the street one sees closed up shop after closed up shop.

3. After his girlfriend dumped him, Dave closed up. Now he hardly speaks to anyone.

4. The problem with my computer solved, the technicians closed it up. Unfortunately they left a screwdriver inside.

5. The doctors finished the operation, closed up his leg, then went for a sandwich before he woke up.
put up

meaning: to hang or display something; to make furniture using pieces and instructions; to let someone stay in your house for a short time; to increase prices, rents or taxes

1. He has put the pictures from his holiday up on the website.

2. There was a hole in the wall, but we just put up a poster and the landlord never saw it.

3. This weekend he spent his time putting up his son’s bed.

4. Dave wanted to do some DIY, so he bought some shelves from the shop. However, when it came to putting them up he didn’t know what to do.

5. Anne was very thankful to her friends for putting her up when she came to visit.

6. “I’m looking for someone who is willing to put me up while I am in town for two days.”

7. The shop recently put up its prices.

8. The government is always putting up the interest rates.
come up

meaning: to go up stairs; to think of an answer or idea; to approach

1. After the party Phillip told everyone to come up to his apartment for drinks.

2. “Come up and see me” she told him on the phone. Dave began to sweat: did she ike him?

3. Anne always forgets to do her homework. Luckily, she is very good at coming up with good excuses, so she never gets in trouble.

4. The boss told them that if they didn’t come up with a new marketing plan he would replace them.
read up

meaning: to read information on a whole subject in order to know all about it

1. Before she goes to Qingdao she is going to read up on its history.

2. The students were asked to read up on the presidents before the quiz on Friday.

connect up

meaning: to connect two or more things together (usually electronics)

1. Last night he connected up his television to his computer, so now he can watch all his illegal downloads on a bigger screen

2. When he tried to connect the washing machine up to the tap, something went very wrong and now the room is flooded.
run up

meaning: to make a debt get bigger and bigger

1. Dave ran up quite a bar bill last night. I think by the end it was over $100.

2. The company has been running up debts in the millions this year, and will go bust if nobody comes in to save it.
dial up

meaning: to call someone or a service on the telephone (uncommon)

1. They didn’t know the address, so they dialed up Directory Enquiries.

2. She dialed up this company about a job, but the number was wrong.
screw up

meaning: to make a big mess of things; to make such a mess that it is ruined; to crunch into a ball in disgust (usually paper or your face)

1. He completely screwed up his driving test: he drove the wrong way down the street, and parked in somebody’s garden.

2. “If you screw up my chances of hooking up with Vicky, I’ll kill you” Dave told Paul.

3. He looked at his poem. It was rubbish. Angry, he screwed up the paper and started again.

4. Whenever his mum serves dinner, he screws up his face like a baby. It’s very rude.
divide up

meaning: to split a whole into pieces

1. At the end of the year the company divided up the profits amongst the staff (unfortunately, the didn’t choose to divide it equally).

2. “Well, the boss gave us a big bag of sweets. I say we divide them up now.”
sell up

meaning: to sell ownership of something (usually property or business)

1. Times were hard, so the family decided to sell up and move to Mexico.

2. After losing so much money last year, the director had no option but to sell up his last assets.
dream up

meaning: to imagine or invent a new idea

1. Dave dreams up all sorts of amazing plans, but he never does any of them. He is, very simply, a lazy person.

2. At first I didn’t think anyone could dream up something as weird as this, but you did, and now you have made it.
set up

meaning: to start a business; to put something together from its pieces; to frame a person for a crime they did not commit

1. I decided to set this company up after becoming tired of working for stupid bosses.

2. The tent took an hour to set up.

3. He set up his own brother – who is now serving 20 years in jail – for the robbery.
drink up

meaning: finish drinking quickly

1. It was already late. Dave drank up and left the bar, crying.

2. “Come on, drink up or we’ll be late.”
speak up

meaning: “please speak louder”; to speak against injustice

1. “Can you speak up please? I’m a little deaf.”

2. A poor government is a government that does not allow its people to speak up against injustice, because then injustice will continue.

3. The teacher told the students that if they never spoke up against the things they thought were wrong in this world, nothing would ever change.

drive up

meaning: to force a number to go higher (usually prices or rents)

1. The war in the Middle East is driving up the price of oil.
speed up

meaning: to go faster

1. If you don’t speed up, we’re going to be late.

2. “Speed up! He’s getting away!”
eat up

meaning: finish eating quickly

1. She didn’t like the beef until she put ketchup all over it; then she ate it right up.

2. “Come on, eat up or we’ll be late.”
stand up

meaning: to stand, after sitting

1. The teacher told Dave to stand up when he answers.

2. When the judge walks in, everyone should stand up.
finish up

meaning: to finish a task that has started

1. After three hours, Anne finally finished up her homework, at which point her mum told her it was time to go to bed. Anne can’t wait until she leaves school.

2. “After you finish up the dishes, I need you to mow the lawn.”
start up

meaning: to begin a business or organisation; to start a machine; to begin a conversation

1. Yahoo started up as a small company based on two computers. Within ten years, however, it was a global name.

2. “I’m thinking of starting up my own company; I’m tired of working for other people.”

3. The first thing he does each morning is start up his computer. It is a bad habit.

4. Last week they went to the F1. The moment the drivers started up their engines was deafening and exciting. Unfortunately, the race was boring as hell.

5. On the football terraces a chant started up: ‘He gets the ball, he scores a goal, Andy, Andy Andy Cole.”

6. Dave struggles to meet women. One of his biggest problems is he doesn’t know how to start up a conversation.
give up

meaning: to stop doing an activity; to have to give away something even though you don’t want to

1. Every time things get difficult, he gives up. It is very annoying.

2. He had to give up football after he broke his leg.

3. When she left the company she had to give up the apartment.

4. Finally, Dave gave up the secret after Paul pointed a gun at his head.
straighten up

meaning: to put things in order

1. In the mirror he straightened up his tie, combed his hair, and brushed his teeth. Finally he was ready to go.

2. “You need to straighten this room up before your mother gets home: you know she doesn’t like to see a mess.”
go up

meaning: to increase; to approach a person or thing; a building being built

1. The house price continues to go up. It is very difficult for first-time buyers now.

2. The world’s population has gone up by 6 billion in the last 150 years. That is a lot.

3. From a distance he thought there was something wrong with his car. When he went up closer he saw that somebody had smashed his window.

4. “Why are you scared? Just go up to her and ask her if she wants a drink.”

6. The speed that skyscrapers have gone up in this city is frightening: now you can hardly see the sun.

7. Another ten buildings will go up over the next year.
take up

meaning: to start doing an activity you didn’t do before

1. She has decided to take up painting now that she has more free time.

2. He took up basketball when he was 5.
grow up

meaning: to go through childhood and become an adult; to stop acting childishly

1. Although I was born in London, I grew up in Scotland.

2. Her parents were very strict with her when she was growing up, but now that she is an adult they let her do whatever she wants.

3. Dave’s co-workers wish he would grow up: they’re getting tired of his un-amusing jokes.

4. “Oh, grow up, for Heaven’s sake.”
throw up

meaning: to vomit

1. He isn’t very well today: he was awake all last night throwing up.

2. Urgh. This food makes me want to throw up.
hang up

meaning: put a phone down, often without saying goodbye; to hang something on something; to retire (synecdoche)

1. The man wouldn’t stop talking, so eventually Dave decided to simply hang up.

2. “How dare you hang up on me!”

3. They decided to hang up Paul’s painting, although he won’t be happy it is next to the toilet.

4. The cleaner was busy. “I’m just going to hang up your shirts, then I’ll go cook dinner” she said.

5. After 10 years playing football, Dave decided to hang up his boots.

6. “I’m sorry to hear that you have hung up your spatula: you were the best chef in town.”
tidy up

meaning: to tidy a mess

1. The house rule was that every weekend the children had to tidy up their rooms.

2. The boss told Dave to tidy up his desk: it looked like a pig worked there.
heat up

meaning: to make something hotter; for a situation to become more active or competitive

1. The morning was cold, but it heated up in the afternoon.

2. “We’ve already finished dinner, but there is some left over if you want to heat that up.”

3. The debate was quiet at first, but heated up once one of the candidates said the other was an idiot.

4. The game is heating up: some of the players are beginning to lose their tempers.
type up

meeaning: to put information into a typed document

1. His notes were quite messy, so he decided to type them up so he could read them more easily.

2. “Can you type up this letter for me and send it to the lawyers?”
hook up

meaning: to connect a machine to another machine or network; for two people to get together romantically or sexually

1. He called the technician to help him hook up his PC to the internet.

2. “If you hook up your computer to your TV, you can watch all your illegal downloads on a big screen” he said.

3. She’s hoping she can hook up with her friend when she’s in town next week on business.

4. In the morning Dave heard that, after he had left the party last night, his girlfriend hooked up with another guy.
wake up

meaning: to stop sleeping

1. I have to wake up early tomorrow in order to catch a plane.

2. “Wake up! Wake up! You’re going to miss the school bus!”
light up

meaning: to illuminate; to make a place more bright or cheerful; to light a cigarette

1. Each night the skyscrapers light up the city.

2. It was a clear night, and as the moon rose it lit up the garden. Moving to the countryside was, they thought, an excellent idea.

3. “I think you need a woman’s touch. A few flowers and cushions will lighten this place up.”

4. Painting the walls white really lightened up the room. The old colour – dark purple – was quite depressing.

5. Jess’s goal lit up an otherwise dull game of football.

6. Dave lit up a cigarette and watched the rain.

7. After lunch his mum likes to light up and turn on the TV. He told her she needs more exercise, but she doesn’t listen.
wash up

meaning: to wash the dishes; to wash one’s hands and face

1. It is Paul’s turn to wash up tonight.

2. “After you wash up the dishes, you have to do your homework.”

3. “She is just washing up right now, but then she will be downstairs.”

4. Before bed Dave had a routine. First, he would check the locks on the windows. Then he would turn off all the lights. After that he would wash up, and then look under his bed for monsters. Finally he climbed into bed.
listen up

meaning: an order telling others to listen carefully

1. The teacher told the students to listen up for five minutes, because this was important.

2. “Listen up, you fools: that was terrible. I want you play much better in the second half.”
write up

meaning: to put information into a single written piece

1. After his trip to the library, Dave had lots of information. He is going to write it up this weekend, and let the teacher read it on Monday.

2. The boss asked the team to write up their findings and present it at the next meeting.
lock up

meaning: to lock a property at closing time (usually shop or business)

1. When they arrived at the restaurant they found it was all locked up. It looks like the manager wants to sell it.

2. The manager trusts Philip the most: only he is allowed to open up (the shop) in the morning and lock up at night.

Phrasal verbs using ‘down’

break down

meaning: for a machine to stop working; for a person to mentally ‘fall to pieces’

1. The car was a nightmare: it broke down every month, and ate gas. That said, it did look nice.

2. The air conditioning in this building breaks down every summer. It’s useless.

3. For a few weeks Dave seemed OK after he split with Anna, but then, suddenly, one afternoon he broke down at work. It was very sad.
sit down

meaning: to sit, having been standing

1. “If you don’t sit down, I’ll call your mother!” the teacher shouted.

2. After walking for five hours, Dave decided to sit down on a rock and eat his sandwiches.
pass down

meaning: to pass from an older generation to a younger generation (usually in the same family)

1. “This is an old watch my grandfather passed down to me, and one day I will pass it on to you.”
take down

meaning: to take a hanging object off the wall; to lower an object that was up; to tackle someone, knocking them to the floor, in sport

1. “Oh, could you take that picture of me down from your website? I look terrible.”

2. It took three weeks to put the stage up, but only two days to take it down.
put down

meaning: to place an object on the floor or a table; to euthanise an animal

1. “Put down the gun and come out with your hands up” the police shouted.

2. Anne said this book is very difficult to put down because it is so interesting.

3. The vert said that sadly the dog was too sick and had to be put down.
write down
to write information on a paper, making a recorded note of it
– examples
He boss told the secretary to write down what he was saying because he didn’t want to forget.
“Write this down, would you Sophie: “Dear Dave. You’re fired.” Thanks.
settle down

meaning: to stop wandering and make one place ‘home’, often with a family; calm down; “stop being angry, crazy, or badly behaved”

1. After years of drinking, smoking and meeting lots of different young women, Dave decided it was time to settle down.

2. The teacher told the class that if they didn’t settle down they would all be getting punishment exercises.

3. For a while things were a bit out of control, but they seemed to have settled down now.

Phrasal verbs using ‘in’

break in

meaning: to enter a building illegally; to use a new, uncomfortable product a few times in order to get comfortable with it

1. Three burglars broke into the chip shop last night.

2. It has been two weeks since their house was broken into, but he is still frightened.

3. Dave is breaking in his new shoes this week before the wedding this weekend.

4. The staff had a laugh breaking the intern in, giving her lots of stupid jobs to do.

5. I’m breaking my new computer in at the moment: trying a few things, seeing what it can do.
plug in

meaning: to plug an electronic item into a wall, socket, or other place

1. In Dave’s kitchen there are 5 devices all plugged into the same extension cord: a toaster, a microwave, a fridge, a toasted sandwich maker, and a blender. I think it is a fire risk.

2. “I’ve plugged my computer into the socket by your desk, if that is OK.”

Phrasal verbs using ‘out’

ask out

meaning: to ask someone on a date

1. Dave asked Anne out, but she said no.

2. “If you never ask her out, then you’ll never have a date. You need to be brave.”
“That’s easy for you to say…”
take out

meaning: take an object out of a box or cupboard; to eliminate an enemy from a game or war

1. Ok, class, take out your books and open them to page 21.

2. Slowly, he took out the gun from his belt and aimed.

3. A bomb took out 20 of their soldiers.

4. After City took out United, they became the favourites to win the cup.
read out

meaning: to read aloud

1. The soldier read out a list of names. These names were the lucky ones.

2. “Anna, could you read out the third paragraph please?”

Phrasal verbs using ‘away’

put away

meaning: tidy an object inside a box or cupboard when it is no longer needed

1. The first thing he did when he got home was put away the groceries.

2. “OK class, you can put away your books now. I think it is time to play a game.”
take away

meaning: remove

1. The mother took away the child’s toys because it was making too much noise.

2. “Could you take this away before it gets broken?”