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Monday, December 13, 2010

Top 20 Most Common English Phrasal Verbs

Top 20 Most Common English Phrasal Verbs

You can radically improve your English fluency in a short time if you learn the most commonly used English phrasal verbs and start using them in your English conversations. And of course, the same applies on written communication! If you’re able to use phrasal verbs in your e-mails, for example, they’ll be much easier to read and understand!

So without a further ado, let’s get down to the business!

Bring up – means to mention something. You can tell your colleague, for example: “They didn’t bring up any of our suggestions in the meeting”.

Carry on – this phrasal verb is very similar to “go on”. Just like “go on” it means “to continue” but it’s usually used in phrases like “Let’s carry on” or “You can carry on without me”.

Chase up – a very handy way of saying “to find, to seek out”. For instance, you’ve been assigned a particular task, but some necessary files are missing. You can say “I’ll chase up those files” meaning you’ll go and see where those files are. You can also chase up a person – “I’ll chase up Frank because I need his help with homework and no-one else has an idea how to do it!”

Come across – to find something by chance or to encounter something unexpectedly. If you found an interesting article online and you’re telling your friend about it, you can say: “You know, I came across this article online where they’ve done research on…”

Come up with – this is a very useful phrasal verb if you usually find it hard to describe the fact when someone has told you about a new plan or a good idea. You might be struggling with phrases like – “He created a good plan” or “She produced a brand new solution” or even – “I devised a new idea on how to…” Native English speakers would simply say “She came up with a brand new solution” so you can start using this phrasal verb!

Fall apart – describes when something falls into pieces. Let’s say you’re wrapping an awkward package and you’re struggling with it. You can say “The whole thing just keeps falling apart, I can’t wrap it; can you help me?” This is another phrasal verb foreigners don’t normally use and if you start using it on similar occasions you’ll find it much easier to describe the situation!

Get along – means to have a good relationship with someone. You can say “Do you get along with Mary from the accounting?” if you want to ask that person if he/she is in good terms with Mary. Another sample sentence - “I don’t get along with Mark, I didn’t like him from the very first day I met him!”

Get away with – means to avoid being punished for not having done something or for breaching rules. A typical phrase you can start using right away is “Did you think you can get away with this?” if you’ve caught someone having done something you’re very unhappy about.

Get over – if you can’t accept something that’s happened in your life and you can’t stop thinking about it, you can say - “It’s very hard for me to get over it.” And if you want to lift someone’s spirits and say that it’s not such a big deal after all, you can say: “Common, get over it, it’s not as bad as it looks!”

Give up – use this phrasal verb when speaking about resolution you’ve stopped pursuing or expectations that are most likely to remain unfulfilled. “I gave up my New Year’s diet; I just couldn’t stick to it.” “I’ve given up hope of getting a better job.”

Go on! – This is a typical way of telling someone to begin a particular action or resume doing something. If you can’t wait on someone to start telling an interesting story, you’d exclaim in excitement – “Go on, go on!” You can also use “go on” if you, for instance, are writing down figures your co-worker is calling out for you. Every time you’re ready to put the next figure down you can use the phrasal verb “go on” to let your partner know that he can call out the next figure.

Hold on! – Literally “hold on” means to hold on to something. Most common use of this phrasal verb, however, is when you want to tell someone to stop doing something or to wait until you’re ready to proceed with the initial action. Foreigners usually use “Stop!” and “Wait!” instead; “hold on” is more natural in spoken English.

Look after – means “to take care of” and is used a lot in communications between supervisors and employees at work. Typically your boss would ask you “Can you look after this order for me?” So if you want to sound more natural and friendly, don’t say things like “I’m responsible for this customer”. “I’m looking after this customer” is the best way of putting it.

Look up – to find something in a phone book, on the Internet or any other reference media. This is a very handy phrasal verb to use in sentences like “Can you look up their address on the Net?”

Make out – to recognize, to distinguish details of something. “I just couldn’t make out what she was saying!” – you can say a phrase like this if the person in question spoke too fast, or with a distinct accent, or too quiet. Another sample sentence – “I can’t make out these details; can you help me with this, please?”

Pull over – if you drive a car, you can use this phrasal verb to describe an action of driving to the side of the road in order to stop. Typical application of this phrasal verb – “Can you pull over at the next petrol station?” Foreigners would most likely say “to stop at…” so if you start using “pull over” you’ll sound more natural when speaking English!

Put down – simply means “to write down.” “Hold on, I’ll put it down, let me just find a piece of paper!”

Put off – this is an informal way of saying “to postpone”, “to do later”. “I don’t want to clean my house today, I’ll put it off till tomorrow” would be a perfect example of this phrasal verb in use.

Turn up – means to arrive. You can inquire about your friend by asking “Has Michael turned up today?” if you haven’t seen him and you’re wondering if he’s come to work or school today at all.

Watch out! – you can use this phrasal verb if something endangers someone else’s safety and you want to bring that person’s attention to that object or activity. Foreigners usually use unarticulated sounds instead – like “Ahh!” or “Ohh!” simply because on occasions when a super-fast reaction is needed they can’t think of a fitting word or phrase to say.

Guest post from English learning enthusiast Robby Kukurs. Robby writes about improving spoken English on his blog EnglishHarmony.com. He also regularly posts videos about improving English fluency on his YouTube channel.

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10 comments:

Ekaterina said...

Hi, thank you for this summary! It was mentioned at http://twitter.com/4qlearning

vocabexperts said...

I would like to contribute that this post is really helpful in providing the top most commonly practiced English Verbs.

John said...

chase up? Is this British? As an American, I don't remember hearing this phrasal verb, so it isn't common for me. Where did you get the data to put these as the top 20?

Robby Kukurs said...

Hi John,

I live on the other side of the Atlantic and the phrasal verb "to chase up" is used quite often here in Ireland.

Where I got data from?

From my personal experience living in an English speaking country for nearly 10 years.

Regards,

Robby

Anonymous said...

Yeah, "chase up" isn't American.... We say "hunt down".

Mike Simpson said...

It's a worthy if slightly sophisticated list that must be missing a good number of simple everyday expressions - We often say "Hurry up" or "Come on" for example. And what about routine expressions like "Turn on/off" or "Pick up"? I agree also that "chase up" is unusual - it's definitely a very specific regional English.

Robby Kukurs said...

Hi Mike,

I left out such phrasal verbs as turn on/off and similar. If I started including the likes of those in the list, no English learner would learn anything from it.

Ben Hales said...

It's important to remember that most phrasal verbs have more than one meaning, for example, 'put down' can also mean to disparage and to euthanise, as well as to write. Make out means to pretend, to see and also of course, to kiss.

Anonymous said...

"Chase up" as one of the 20 most common phrasal verbs? I doubt it's in the top 200!

Very weird choice!

Anonymous said...

Such helpful phrasal verbs and rather for those ones who aren't native speakers

 

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