Lesson Summary 

Study & practise over 50 of the most common English phrasal verbs with me in this lesson! We’ll review the most popular and useful phrasal verbs so that you can use them confidently and fluently!
📝 Download your FREE worksheet here: http://learn.mmmenglish.com/popular-phrasal-verbs

I’m teaching you through the BEST phrasal verb lessons that you can find on the mmmEnglish YouTube channel, including, look down on, come up with, turn down, butt in, talk over, come across, fight off, come down with, get by, wrap up, grow up, come on, and many more phrasal verbs!

Are there other phrasal verbs you want me to teach you? Let me know in the comments!

CLICK HERE to read the full lesson transcript.

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Video Transcript
Section 1
Hey there I'm Emma from mmmEnglish. There are so many English phrasal verbs right? Hundreds and hundreds.

Today I'm going to take you through the fifty most common phrasal verbs so that you can make sure you recognise them, you understand them and you can use them confidently in English conversations.

We're going to take the very best of all of my phrasal verb lessons and bring them together right here in this one lesson for you.

There's a fair bit to cover so to help you I've made you a free workbook that you can use to practise and to remember what you learned during this lesson.

Head down to the description, follow the link and the instructions to get the download and let's get into the lesson!

 

1. (to) bring up

Now we use this phrasal verb in multiple ways but when we want to start discussing something, we use it.

  • There's something I want to bring up.

So it's a really great way to introduce a new topic and it's usually about something that's serious or important you know, you need some time or some space to talk about it.

It's usually used when you're in a professional context or you want to talk about something seriously.

  • Let's bring this up at our next team meeting.

 

2. (to) get across 

Now this phrasal verb is often used with the verb try to show that you're attempting to communicate a message when you want someone to understand something.

Do you sometimes have trouble getting your meaning across in English? Here's a cool tip. There are several nouns that are often used with get across and so learning them together is going to help you to sound more natural and more accurate as you use this phrasal verb.

So we use get across with facts, feelings, ideas, a message, meaning, a point or a point of view. All of these things are used with get across.

  • Am I getting the message across clearly?
  • I'm trying to get my point across but Paul keeps butting in.

I'm gonna get to that phrasal verb soon!

 

3. (to) jump in 

Have you ever jumped in on a conversation? This is a great phrasal verb for interrupting. It's very informal.

  • Do you mind if I jump in here?

I've got something to share. I want to say it.

We don't literally mean jump in. Jump in is just an informal synonym of interrupt.

  • Do you mind if I interrupt?
  • Do you mind if I jump in?

They're the same thing. The phrasal verb is just more casual, more informal.

 

4. (to) butt in

Now butt in is also used for interrupting but very informal and perhaps a little rude when you're using that to describe what someone else did. It suggests that that person who's doing the action, they didn't really care about the other people in the conversation or what they've been talking about.

They just interrupted and it was quite rude. They butted in. And it's often-

  • Hey did you do the thing I told you to do the other day because I need you to do it?

Anyway to butt in means to join a conversation or an activity without being asked to or invited to.

  • I was speaking with Sue after she lost her job and then Jim butts in and starts talking about his new promotion.

So it's quite a selfish action, right? Butt in.

 

5. (to) blurt out

This is quite a fun one, to blurt something out. To blurt out something means to say something without thinking about the effect it will have and it's usually because you're nervous or you're excited.

Imagine that a friend told you that she was pregnant but she specifically said: Don't mention it to anyone yet because I haven't told anyone else.

But then later in the day, you saw another friend, someone you hadn't seen in quite a while and you were giving them all the updates about life and work and then you say: Guess what! Melanie's pregnant!

It just slipped out of your mouth before you even thought about it. That is blurting it out.

Then you'd have to call her up and you'd have to say:

  • I'm so sorry! I'm so sorry I just blurted it out! I didn't think.

 

6. (to) get through to

So this phrasal verb can be used in multiple ways. It's sometimes used when you're trying to call someone and they don't answer.

  • I'm trying to get through but there's no answer.

But it's also used when you're trying to make someone understand what you're trying to say.

  • It's difficult to get the message through to my team because we all work remotely.
  • I'm trying to get the message through to Paul but he's not listening.

 

7. (to) talk (something) over

This phrasal verb is used to discuss a problem or a plan and usually, it's when you're trying to find a solution or resolve it in some way.

It's when you're a little stuck and you know you've got to talk about it some more so that you can come to a resolution or to make it clear. And when you use it, you'll always need to use an object as well, all right? You'll need to talk over an issue, a plan, something, it or this, whatever okay. It's something that has to be talked over.

  • I know you're upset. Let's talk it over tonight when you get home.
  • We need to talk over what happened this morning.

Sometimes you might even hear people using talk over in the context of speaking over the top of someone else. Usually, as a way to interrupt, they might say:

  • I don't mean to talk over you but we've already decided what to do.

So in this context, it's always followed by a person followed by the person who's being interrupted.

 

8. (to) talk (someone) around 

So when you want to talk someone around you want to convince them or you want to persuade them to agree with you right so it kind of suggests that the person didn't agree with you to start with and you're trying to convince them that your idea is the right one, is the best one.

  • I didn't want to go but he succeeded in talking me around.

 

9. (to) shut (someone) down 

You might know this phrasal verb already because it has a common meaning to close something usually permanently like it might be a restaurant that gets shut down but we also use it you know to talk about a computer when it stops working.

  • We shut down the computer.

But it is also informally used during conversations when you get rejected, especially if your hopes are up.

  • It was kind of awkward, she just shut him down mid-sentence.

So she just stopped him in the middle of his sentence and told him that his idea was no good or that he's wrong. She interrupted in a rude way and shut his idea down so it's definitely a negative thing to do or to experience yourself, right?

  • My boss didn't like the suggestion. He shut me down straight away.

 

10. (to) back (someone) up

Now it would be much better if your boss backed you up right which means to give support by telling other people that they agree with something that you said or something that you did.

  • Thanks for backing me up during the meeting.

 

11. (to) look back on (something)

When we think about or we talk about the past then we can use look back on something, an event or a time or an experience in the past.

  • I try to look back on the mistakes I made in the past and learn from them.

 

12. (to) look after (someone)

We look after people you know, we take care of them.

  • I offered to look after my sister's kids on Thursday night.
  • Who's going to look after your dog while you're away?

 

13. (to) look down on (someone)

To look down on someone is to have a low opinion of them or to think that you're better than them in some way.

  • It's really common for people who value university education to look down on those who don't have a degree.

Can you think of other times in your life or around you in your community where people look down on each other? See if you can write a sentence about that down below.

 

14. (to) look for (something)

We look for things right? You know when we lose something and we're trying to find it. Now, of course, we always need to use a noun that follows this phrasal verb right to explain what it is we're looking for.

  • I'm looking for my keys. I can't find them anywhere!

 

15. (to) look forward to (something)

Of course, we look forward to something happening right? We are waiting for something to happen and feeling really excited or really pleased about it.

Lots of you know that I love the warm weather and I usually complain about our relatively mild winter here in Australia but as you can imagine, we are just coming out of winter and heading into summer now and I am very excited about it.

  • I'm looking forward to summer.

 

16. (to) look around / look round

We look around or we look round. And that's when we visit a place and see what's there.

  • Before I book the venue, I'd like to come and look around if that's okay, just to make sure that it's suitable.

 

17. (to) look out!

To look out. We use it as an exclamation to tell someone to be careful. That's a really common use. We say:

  • Look out! You're about to knock the glass off the bench.

Look out!

 

18. (to) look out for (someone)

We look out for people.

Can you hear that? Look out.

Look out for someone, it means to take care of them and make sure that they're okay.

  • My nephews are always looking out for each other at school. It is so sweet.

19. (to) look (something) up

You might already know the phrasal verb look up. Are you already thinking of a few different phrasal verbs that use look up?

When we look something up, usually we're trying to find out some information right or we use a dictionary or Google or Youtube to find the right answer or the truth right. If you don't know a word you look it up in the dictionary.

Now look up is a separable phrasal verb and that means that we can insert the object into the phrasal verb or we can have it follow.

So we can say look up the word or look the word up. Both of them are okay, it's possible.

20. (to) look up to (someone)

Now if we keep thinking about look up, then I can say that I look up to someone right. I respect them, I want to be like them.

  • I really look up to my boss. I guess you could say that she's my mentor.

Now this phrasal verb is also inseparable, the object always follows the phrasal verb.

Who do you look up to? Is there someone in your life that you respect and you admire? Write about it in the comments below.

 

21. (to) look into (something)

To look into something is to investigate it and this phrasal verb is quite useful to use in a professional context.

If a colleague says:

  • We sent out the invitations last week but no one's responded. Do you think there's a problem with the website?
    That's odd, maybe. I'll look into it and report back after lunch.

 

22. (to) look over (something)

Another great phrasal verb to use in a work context is to look over something and this means to examine it but usually quickly you know, probably not going into a whole heap of detail.

  • I'll look over the report tonight and let you know if I want to add anything.

 

23. (to) look through (something)

We can look through something. Now of course, we have the more literal meaning of look through but like look over, it's also used when we examine something especially to find the information that you need.

  • I can spend hours looking through recipes getting inspiration for dinner each night.

 

24. (to) come down with

So when you come down with something, you are starting to show the signs of an illness.

  • They both came down with a terrible cold.

So it's the same as saying catch, you know, we say to catch a cold or catch an illness. It has the same meaning.

  • They came down with a cold. They caught a cold.

Same thing.

Now usually come down with is used with non-serious illnesses like a cold or the flu, a stomach bug or even just something when we're a little unsure. We might say:

  • I feel like I'm coming down with something.

Now notice that come down with is transitive and inseparable so that means that we always need an object to complete that thought or that action right? We need that object. But it's also inseparable which means that the object needs to go after the phrasal verb and not in between it.

25. (to) to fight off

You can also fight off a cold, can't you? When you free yourself of that illness and your body overcomes that illness by fighting against it.

  • She came down with a cold but luckily she was able to fight it off quickly.

She overcame the cold quickly so the fighting here in this phrasal verb is figurative, not literally fighting a cold or punching that virus in the face. No.

It's inside her body, her immune system is working hard to fight off that virus you know, until she's feeling well again.

So this phrasal verb is transitive. We need an object but this time it is separable so that means that our object can either go between the verb and the particle or it can go after the phrasal verb.

  • She fought off the cold.
  • She fought the cold off.
  • She fought it off.

There is one little tip here that I want to share about separable phrasal verbs so when that object is a pronoun like in this sentence here. So we're not saying that cold or that illness. We're saying it. Then the object always goes between the verb and the particle.

  • She fought it off.

Not: She fought off it.

Okay? That's something to keep in mind for separable phrasal verbs.

 

26. (to) pass away

Now sometimes it's not as simple as finding something off and I'm sorry to anyone who is experiencing loss at the moment. People don't always overcome an illness, do they? They become more and more unwell until eventually, they pass away. So this is a polite and respectful way of saying to die.

Now it's just a little bit softer and more indirect to say that someone has passed away rather than saying he's dead or he died which sometimes it can sound quite direct and maybe a little disrespectful as well.

So be careful with your word choice when you're talking about someone dying. Often this phrasal verb is a much better choice.

When I talk about my dad I don't say: He died.

I say: He passed away.

Notice that this time the verb is intransitive and inseparable so we don't actually need an object to express this idea, do we?

To pass away, we know what that means. It's complete. And because there's no object, it also means that we can't separate the verb and the particle, right? So that's kind of obvious.

Check out this phrasal verb here…

 

27. (to) dip into

If you dip into something, you are spending some of your money but usually, it's money that you are saving for a specific purpose.

  • They have dipped into their savings to pay for their renovation.

Now interestingly, the object of this phrasal verb always describes a sum of money so it's a specific noun. It could be savings or a pension or a retirement fund for example. You get the idea. It's a specific type of noun that you would dip into.

 

28. (to) get by

Now maybe you've heard this phrasal verb in a line from a really famous Beatle's song: with a little help from my friends, I get by with a little help from my friends.

Get by means to manage to live or to do a particular task using just the money or the knowledge that you have at that time and nothing else.

  • Even though Tim has been without work for six months, they've been getting by.

They don't have as much money as they usually do but they manage to live with what they have. They don't need anything else to survive. They're getting by.

 

29. (to) go without

But if you go without that means that you know, you're living without the things that you need or you'd like to have.

If you think about the storms in Texas a couple of days ago, people have been going without power for five days or more. There was no power. They just had to find a way to live without that power. They went without power for five days.

I'm sure you can think of a time when you went without something for a little while. Did you go without sugar? Did you go without a break? Did you go without…

Hey I'm not going to finish that sentence for you. See if you can write your own sentence down in the comments below. I'll be down to check them.

 

30. (to) come up

So let's start with ‘come up‘. ‘Come up‘ has a few different meanings. It can mean to be mentioned or talked about in a conversation. 

  • If anything important comes up during the meeting, I'll tell you about it later.

It can also mean to approach or to go towards someone, especially if they are on a higher level than you are.

  • Come up on stage and collect your award!
  • Come up to my apartment, it's on the fourth floor.

Now if something like a job or an opportunity comes up, it becomes available.

  • This new opportunity has come up and we need to take it.

Now if a problem or an issue comes up, it happens and it needs to be dealt with immediately.

  • Something's just come up, so I need to cancel my appointment.

 

31. (to) come in

Come in‘. Well you've probably heard this one and it means to enter a building or a room.

  • The TV was so loud, he didn't notice me come in.

But it can also mean arrive.

  • The train comes in at 3 o'clock.
  • News is coming in that they found survivors in the crash!

But it can also be used when talking about clothing or fashion.

  • These shirts come in three colours.

 

32. (to) come out

If some information comes out, something that was previously unknown becomes known.

  • After ten years, the truth finally came out.

Now it can also be a synonym for ‘appear'.

  • There was a dead tree coming out of the water.
  • And of course, after a big thunderstorm, the sun always comes out from behind the clouds.

We use this phrasal verb to say that the sun or the moon or the stars have appeared in the sky.

If your favourite band is working on a new album, they'll probably tell you when it's going to come out.

  • The new album will come out in June.
  • My sister's new book comes out in December.

It can also mean to go somewhere with someone for a social event.

  • Do you want to come out with us on Friday night?
  • He's not coming out with us tonight because he's unwell.

 

33. (to) come on

Come on! ‘Come on‘ is an expression that you'll hear all the time! It can mean hurry up.

  • Come on, we're going to be late!

Or you could use it to encourage or support someone.

  • Come on, you can do it!

It can also be used when you don't believe something that someone said.

  • Oh come on! That's not true!

Come on‘ can also mean to start working.

  • The light in the bathroom just came on.
  • The hot water isn't coming onAre you sure it's working?

It can also be used when you're referring to a sickness that is just starting to develop, usually with a common cold.

  • I think I've got a cold coming on.

 

34. (to) come down

To ‘come down‘. Now generally, this phrasal verb is a synonym for reduce or fall. It's used when something moves in a downwards direction.

  • There was a big storm last night and many of the trees came down.
  • Come down here now!

You can use this when you're talking to someone who's higher than you, perhaps they're upstairs or in a tree.

  • Come down here!

Come down‘ is also used something reduces, so often the price.

 

35. (to) come down on

But what about to ‘come down on‘? Now, to come down on someone is a really negative thing. It means to punish someone because they didn't perform as expected.

  • My boss came down on me really hard because I didn't finish the report in time.

 

36. (to) come over

Come over‘. Again, this phrasal verb has multiple meanings but the most commonly used one is used to describe movement. The movement from one place to another.

  • Come over here!
  • Why don't you come over to my house for dinner?

 

37. (to) come back

To ‘come back‘. Now, most commonly this phrasal verb is used when somebody or something returns to a place or returns to an original state.

  • I'll come back in half an hour and get you. 
  • I thought I got rid of my cold, but I think it's coming back.

 

38. (to) brush up on

This is a phrasal verb, but one that's idiomatic and it means to update or to improve your skills in some way. It can be used in any context really, formal or informal, but this expression is so useful in a professional context because sometimes it can be a little awkward or embarrassing to say that you don't have fantastic skills in one area. Right?

But by saying that you need to brush up on those skills is a much softer way of saying that you're not that good at something but you are willing to practise or study to improve those skills.

  • I'm brushing up on my Italian because I've got a business trip in July. 
  • I got the job at the publishing company! But I really need to brush up on my editing skills. I'm out of practice!

 

39. (to) turn down

Again, this is another common phrasal verb but it's also idiomatic. It means to say no to something or refuse something.

  • They offered me tickets to the conference, but I had to turn them down because it's my son's birthday.

 

As you probably know, phrasal verbs are made up of a verb with a particle, maybe even two. All the phrasal verbs in this lesson include the particle up and by focusing on up we get to study the meaning and understand how the verb is influenced by the particle. And we're gonna split the phrasal verbs from this lesson into five different categories. Ones that generally mean to move up, to increase or improve to create, to fix and to complete.

MOVE UP

So we're gonna start with phrasal verbs that have a general meaning, to move up.

So the word up means to take something from a low position to a high position, doesn't it? So if I pick up my mug and I move it higher, I move it up, then I'm taking it from a low position to a high position.

So there are a few phrasal verbs that fall into this same category, right? And they use up.

 

40. (to) pick up

So of course, we have pick up.

So that means to lift or to move something or someone, right?

  • We can pick up our mug.
  • We can pick up our child.

 

41. (to) get up

We can also get up And get up can mean to rise after sleeping or sitting down for a period of time. You might say:

  • I have to get up and go to my meeting.

 

42. (to) fill up

We also fill up things.

So when we fill up something, we put something inside it all the way to the top until it's full. So we can fill up our glass with water.

So you'll notice that in all of these phrasal verbs, we're taking something from a low position and moving it to a higher position.

 

INCREASE/IMPROVE

The next box is to increase or improve in some way and so these words really mean to make something greater or better or bigger which is similar to moving something upwards but not quite.

Let's think about some of the phrasal verbs with up that help to express the same idea.

43. (to) climb up/go up

We climb up. Or maybe we go up a set of stairs and that's to increase the height that you're at and to reach a higher level of a building.

  • climbed up the stairs to get to the balcony and watch the sunset.

We also use go up to talk about an increase in value or an increase in number, as well.

 

44. (to) back up

You can also back up, this is a great phrasal verb, it means to provide extra support or increase the support that you need.

  • She backed up her stories with photographic evidence.

You know we might even say that someone backed you up, they provided support, they argued on your side. They were supportive of you, so they backed you up.

 

45. (to) grow up

We say grow up and that means to increase in size or maturity.

  • We say our kids grow up too quickly.

 

46. (to) cheer up

Cheer up. We use it when we want to improve our mood, right? To cheer up.

  • Cheer up, the weather's gonna be better tomorrow.

 

47. (to) dress up

We also dress up, which means we increase the quality of our clothes. Maybe we make ourselves look better, look nicer.

 

CREATE

All the phrasal verbs in this box relate to create.

48. (to) cook up

You know I love to cook, right? So the phrasal verb, to cook up, is a really great one to use when you want to make something, some food for someone else, to cook up some dinner, to cook up a steak for example.

It can also mean to get an idea ready, an exciting, interesting idea.

  • I'm cooking up a plan to do something interesting, maybe a surprise party.

 

49. (to) whip up

Now whip up is a little similar to cook up, it means to cook something but to do it really quickly.

  • I'm just gonna whip up a sandwich during my break.

Right? We wouldn't whip up an entire roast dinner but we can whip up something quickly.

 

50. (to) dream up

How about to dream up? To think of a new idea or to imagine something new, to be creative with your thoughts.

  • dreamed up an entire new plan for the party.

 

51. (to) set up

And we use set up when we organise or we plan something like an event or maybe even a system.

  • I set up my studio every time I need to film a lesson for you.

 

52. (to) make up

Make up is a good one as well. Make up can refer to inventing or creating a lie or a fake story.

  • She would often make up stories to make her life seem more interesting.

Make up. Cool, huh? Not to be confused with the noun makeup but the phrasal verb make up is to creatively think up a story or an idea.

 

53. (to) come up

We can also use come up with when we're creating something, a new idea or a solution because come up with means to suggest or to think of a new idea.

You know Elon Musk? Great example.

  • He comes up with grand plans to save humanity like electric cars and flying to Mars.

 

So can you see how all of those phrasal verbs have something to do with, they're connected to the idea of creating or making something and that's why they're grouped together but there are many more of them as well but that's why paying attention to the particle and the meaning that the particle offers the verb can help you to learn and to practise and to remember and even to guess the meaning of new phrasal verbs.

 

FIX/GET BETTER

So in the next box is fix or get better so to fix something or to repair it, to make it whole again.

54. (to) make up

Let's go back to make up because if you make up with someone, you're repairing your relationship after you've had an argument.

  • Sarah and John had another argument but they always make up.

And again, that's not to be confused with our other meaning right our noun or our other phrasal verb meaning, to make up.

 

55. (to) heal up

Heal up is another one. Heal up is when an injury gets better.

  • His broken leg healed up really quickly.

So it fixed itself, it got better.

 

56. (to) sober up

To sober up, means to become less drunk or intoxicated.

  • Coffee and breakfast will help you to sober up after a long, crazy night out on the town.

 

57. (to) patch up

Patch up is a great one. A little informal but a lovely phrasal verb. It means to fix or to make something whole again.

  • I'm gonna patch up the hole in my jumper.

So that I can use it again. I can wear it again. I'm gonna fix it. I'll patch it up.

 

COMPLETE

Inside the last box, we have phrasal verbs that mean to complete, to completely finish something.

58. (to) finish up

We finish up something, we complete it.

  • Please finish up the design by Friday.

 

59. (to) wrap up

Another phrasal verb with a similar meaning is wrap up.

  • It's almost time to wrap up this lesson.

 

60. (to) drink up/eat up

And we can say drink up. Drink up or eat up. That means finish your food or your drink. Finish it, we're gonna be late.

  • Drink up! We're gonna be late.

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