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For Students: 10 Phrasal verbs to use...

Updated: Nov 10, 2020

After the popularity of the idioms post I posted I thought I'd do another one, but this time on phrasal verbs. Whenever someone asks me what makes someone sound natural, one of the things I say is the use of phrasal verbs. Remember, phrasal verbs are just replacements for other words, but they are more common and that's why they help us sound more natural and really help us when trying to understand what someone is saying.

The most annoying thing for students about phrasal verbs is that one can have many different meanings. If we take pick up for example, how many usages of this word do you know? I'm sure you know it means to lift something and to collect someone from somewhere, but did you know it means to improve. Business has really picked up lately. To learn without trying too hard, I picked up some Polish when I was in Poland. With all these meanings naturally they can be a nightmare for students. But they are important, not just for sounding more natural, but for understanding too.

I've thought about the ones I use on a daily basis – excluding the easy ones like get up, put on - and I've chosen to look at 10 of the most common ones I use which then you can then start using too, and hopefully they'll help you understand what I'm saying ;)

Note: phrasal verbs are just like verbs, they change their form for the right tense

Get on/off – to enter public transport. Anything you can buy a ticket for, you get on and off, so that's a tram, bus, plane, underground, ferry.... so remember you don't get in the bus, you get on it.

A: I entered the bus and saw my old friend James

N: I got on the bus and say my friend James - *N = natural

Go out – to go somewhere to eat, drink, or party. When people ask you ' did you go out last night? ' they are asking if you went somewhere, not if you just left the house.... Fridays and Saturday nights are the most popular nights when we go out. If you didn't go out, you can just reply with 'No. I stayed in and... '

A: Are you going to a restaurant tonight?

N: Are you going out tonight?

Watch out – be aware, be careful. Imagine you're walking up some stairs and one of them is a little wobbly, what would you say to your friend? Well, you could say a natural ' watch out, one of the steps is wobbly '

Y: Be careful, the door is quite stiff, so you have to pull it quite hard.

N:Watch out, the door is quite stiff, so you have to pull it quite hard.

Chill out – to relax. Let's face it, after a long day at work we all need to chill out, and we all chill out in different ways. I prefer to chill out by watching films and episodes of the current TV series I'm watching..... right now Peaky Blinders.

A: I'm going to relax for about an hour before I go to the shop

N: I'm going to chill out for about an hour before I go to the shop

Find out – to find (more) information about something. I use this very often, if someone tells me something that's quite interest, I'll probably say 'Really, I'll try and find out more when I get home' Also, whenever we see a new word we find out what it means. We also try to find out about events and things in the local area

A: I will find more information about this on my phone

N: I will find out about this on my phone

Get back – to return home. Try to get out of that habit of saying 'I arrived home at 11pm' and get in the habit of saying ' I got back at 11pm ' It sounds much more natural and it means exactly the same thing.

A: I arrived home at around 11pm, so that's why I didn't call

N: I got back around 11pm, so that's why I didn't call

Come across / bump into – when you find something or meet someone without planning to. We often come across information, books, things when we aren't looking for them. We also usually bump into people in the centre of the city of events our friends are at that we didn't know they were going. 'I bumped into James at Forum Lviv'

A: I found this book about Italy when I was in the shop.

N: I came across this book about Italy when I was in the shop.

Go on / Carry on – to continue. I find myself saying this a lot when speaking to people. I often stop someone to clarify something and then say 'go on' for them to finish.

A: OK, I understand now, continue...

N: OK, I understand now, carry on...

Work out – to exercise and to understand how to do something. I don't do this because I'm a lazy bastard, but I know you're not as lazy as me and try to work out at least 3 times a week.

A: I want to go to Ivano-Frankivsk but I don't know how I will get there

N: I want to go to Ivano-Frankivsk but I need to work out how to get there.

Rip off(s/o)– to cheat someone into paying more money. I am now accustomed to Ukrainian prices, so I know when someone is trying to rip me off. Luckily it happens very very rarely here in Lviv, but every time I go to Kiev and get to the train station, there are millions of taxi drivers waiting to rip you off. Hello Uber.

A: The restaurant tried to make me pay too much for my cake because I'm a foreigner

N: The restaurant tried to rip me off because I'm a foreigner.

Now let's try and use some of the above phrasal verbs and find the right one for the right gap as before


I don't feel so good today I _______ last night. I'm a bit hungover

Really, you paid £20!? It only costs £3 He ___ you ____!

I'm not sure how much it costs I'll __________

I can't believe I _______ the wrong tram and only realised after 5 stops. I had to ______ and walk home because I didn't have any money

Don't stop here, _______ and turn left and you will see the shop there

I'm so tired today, I _______ at about midnight and didn't get much sleep

It's been a hard day, so I'm going to stay in and ______

I was looking for an English teacher when I _______ this guy called Luke from England.

_______ the chair's leg is a little weak

At the moment I ______ 5 times a day because I am training for a marathon


We out / ripped off / find out / got on, got off / carry/go on / got back / chill out / came across / watch out / work out /


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