(Level A2 and above: 12 common phrasal verbs – with stories, exercises, and songs)
Written and compiled by Benedicte Gravrand, The Language House.
When they found out they had to fill in all these forms, Jill and Peter gave up on the idea that they should get married. After all, they just wanted to look after each other, put on some weight and be happy together for the rest of their lives. They were not looking for an official contract to confirm their love. They decided, however, to still go away and have their honeymoon (voyage de noce) in the Canary Islands, which they had organised a long time ago. Before setting off, they invited a lot of people for a honeymoon party. They closed down their flower shop, turned up the music, took off their shoes, and danced all night. Two days later, they flew to the Canaries, not knowing the volcano in La Palma was about to go off…
12 phrasal verbs
There are 12 phrasal verbs in this story. There are thousands of phrasal verbs (verbes à particule) in the English language. Many phrasal verbs have several meanings. They are very commonly used, especially in more informal contexts.
You probably already know many phrasal verbs such as; sit down, stand up, wake up, get up, and call back.
What is a phrasal verb?
A phrasal verb is a combination of a verb and a particle.
It can be:
- a verb and an adverb, such as break down (The car broke down just outside Winchester)
- a verb and a preposition, such as see to (You try to get some sleep, I’ll see to the children’s breakfast)
- a verb and both, such as look down on (She looks down on anyone who hasn’t had a university education)
Here are the 12 phrasal verbs from the Honeymoon Story (above):
- Go off
- to explode or to stop working (All the lights in the building suddenly went off)
- to leave a place (Dave’s gone off to the south of France for the summer)
- to start making a noise (I was just lying in bed waiting for the alarm to go off)
- Set off
- to start a journey (We set off early the next morning)
- to cause something to operate (Jeff pushed open the front door, which set off the alarm)
- to cause a situation to happen (He fears that the election could set off mass protests)
- Give up
- to stop doing something that you do regularly (He finally gave up smoking)
- to stop thinking or believing something (It was a difficult time, but we never gave up hope)
- Close down
- same as close (Their intention is to close down the factory)
- Turn up
- to increase the amount of sound, heat, or light by pressing a button or moving a switch (Don’t turn the TV up – I’m trying to read)
- to come somewhere, especially unexpectedly (There is no need to book – just turn up on the night)
- to be found after being lost (The documents finally turned up in an office along the corridor)
- Go away
- to move or travel away from a person or place (If he’s bothering you, tell him to go away)
- to leave your home for a period of time, especially for a holiday (We’ve decided to go away for a long weekend)
- verb and particle are never separated
- Look for
- to hope to get something that you want or need (He was looking for work as a builder)
- to search for someone or something (I’m looking for Jim. Have you seen him?)
- verb and particle are never separated.
- Fill in
- to add information such as your name or address in the empty spaces on an official document (I spent over two hours filling in the application form)
- to give someone details about something (Did Sam fill you in about the new project?)
- to do someone’s job for them while they are away (I’m filling in for the receptionist at the moment)
- Find out
- to discover a fact or piece of information (Her parents found out that she had a boyfriend)
- Put on
- to start wearing something (Peter put on his coat and went out / Melanie was putting on her makeup in front of the mirror)
- to make a machine or piece of equipment start working, especially by pressing a switch (Can you put the light on, please?)
- to become fatter (She put a lot of weight on after the children were born)
- Take off
- To remove clothing (I’d better take my shoes off)
- if an aircraft takes off, it leaves the ground and starts flying (The plane should take off on time)
- to become successful or popular very fast (Her business has really taken off)
- to have a particular amount of time away from work (I’m taking Monday off to go to London)
- Look after
- to take care of someone or something (It’s hard work looking after three children all day)
- to be responsible for something (an organization that looks after the interests of artists)
Bob Marley – Get up stand up (with lyrics)
Gloria Estefan – Go Away
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Put in the missing particle in the text. Choose from the list.
off (x3) in out up away on up after
The really anxious guide to home safety
If you want to go …… for your summer holiday, check a few things before you set …… : turn off the gas as you don’t want everything your own to go …… and destroy your house (and your street); have someone fill ….. for you at work while you take time ….. if you don’t want your company to go bankrupt (faire faillite) and close down; look … ..someone to look ….. your plants if you don’t want them to give up the ghost (die); find ….. if you can put ….. a reliable alarm system if you don’t want a visit from the burglars (cambrioleurs) – or just hide your jewellery in a hole under the house; and ask a friend to turn ….. at your house at unexpected times to ensure no one is having a big party or squatting there. I know, this is hard work. But what do you prefer? Home safety or a relaxing holiday?
If you want to go away for your summer holiday, check a few things before you set off: turn off the gas as you don’t want everything you own to go off and destroy your house (and your street); have someone fill in for you at work while you take time off if you don’t want your company to go bankrupt and close down; look for someone to look after your plants if you don’t want them to give up the ghost (die); find out if you can put on a reliable alarm system if you don’t want a visit from the burglars (cambrioleurs) – or just hide your jewellery in a hole under the house; and ask a friend to turn up at your house at unexpected times to ensure no one is having a big party or squatting there. I know, this is hard work. But what would you rather have? Home safety or a relaxing holiday?
This is a more difficult exercise.
Put in the missing phrasal verbs in the gaps. Choose from the list.
Note: sometimes you will have to conjugate the phrasal verb in the past simple.
Go off put on look for close down wake up take off
Fill in set off go away find out look after turn up
Little did I know …
My alarm ….. at 6 a.m. this morning and I ….. for work at 7. Little did I know (je ne savais pas) about my incredible day then.
I arrived at work only to ….. my company had ….. overnight. I checked my phone and saw an email from my company, saying they had serious financial difficulties. I was totally confused and really angry. But I did not ….. hope. I went to the newsagent and ….. a lottery ticket, thinking, “what’s the worst that could happen?” I went home, ….. my work clothes and ….. my sports clothes because I wanted to ….. for the day and spend it at the gym. I thought: “I am going to ….. my health. That way, I will stay busy and positive. I will look for a new job later. I’m sure it won’t be a problem, now that I have decided to be optimistic.”
In the evening, I ….. my lottery ticket everywhere. I just could not find it. I didn’t feel very optimistic then, thinking this was just an all-around horrible day. Then, the lottery ticket ….. in the pocket of my work jacket. I immediately checked the results of the lottery and found I had won the jackpot! Little did I know about my incredible day when I ….. that morning.
My alarm went off at 6 a.m. this morning and I set off for work at 7. Little did I know about my incredible day then.
I arrived at work only to find out my company had closed down overnight. I checked my phone and saw an email from my company, saying they had to suffered too many financial difficulties. I was totally confused and really angry. But I did not give up hope. I went to the newsagent and filled in a lottery ticket, thinking, “what’s the worst that could happen?” I went home, took off my work clothes and put on my sports clothes because I wanted to go away for the day and spend it at the gym. I thought: “I am going to look after my health. That way, I will stay busy and positive. I will look for a new job later. I’m sure it won’t be a problem, now that I have decided to be optimistic.”
In the evening, I looked for my lottery ticket everywhere. I just could not find it. I didn’t feel very optimistic then, thinking this was just an all-around horrible day. Then, the lottery ticket turned up in the pocket of my work jacket. I immediately checked the results of the lottery and found I had won the jackpot! Little did I know about my incredible day when I woke up that morning.
Jason Mraz – Look For The Good (with lyrics)
With some phrasal verbs, you can separate the verb and the particle:
They’ve called the meeting off (to call of= to cancel)
They’ve called off the meeting.
And with other phrasal verbs, you never separate the verb and the particle:
Look for your keys. Not: Look your keys for.