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Brushing up on phrasal verbs


Learning phrasal verbs

There are a great deal of (a lot of) phrasal verbs in English and many learners find them particularly difficult to master.
The best way to learn them is in context. When you come across [meet] one, write it down in an example sentence.
There are a couple of important points to remember about phrasal verbs. Firstly, a verb + preposition/particle combination may have more than one meaning. Come across, for example, can also mean give an impression of being, as in: He can come across as unfriendly when you first meet him. Come over can also be used with the same meaning, as in: He can come over as unfriendly. Secondly, it is sensible to concentrate first on understanding phrasal verbs rather than using them. There is usually an alternative way in which you can say the same thing using a single verb. So, for example, instead of put forward a plan you can propose a plan, and instead of rush into a decision you can make a hasty decision.

The verb

A very large number of phrasal verbs are formed using common verbs such as come, do, get or go, for instance. Here are some more examples with come. I hope our plans to visit Russia come off. [happen successfully] Sandro's family came over from Italy for the wedding. [travel to one place from another] I wouldn't usually say something like that. I don't know what came over me. [influence someone to behave in a particular way]
The proposal has come under a lot of criticism. [experience something (usually unpleasant)] If the opportunity to work in the US comes up, you must take it. [occur unexpectedly] Our plan has come up against some obstacles. [have to deal with a problem or difficulty]
The preposition/particle The second part of a phrasal verb is a preposition or particle. This can sometimes help you understand the meaning of the phrasal verb. For example, on can often convey an idea of continuing over a period of time. Selina decided to stay on at university and do a Master's degree. [remain] Try not to dwell on the past. [keep thinking about, usually something unpleasant] I didn't expect platform shoes to catch on. [become popular] I wish she"d stop going on about her new car. [talking at length] The crowd was urging the runners on. [encouraging] The weather was terrible but the climbers pressed on regardless. [continued in a determined way]
Phrasal verbs in topics It can be useful to learn phrasal verbs in sets connected with a topic. Here, for example, are some from the context of work: I need to brush up on my computer skills for my new job. [improve knowledge of something already learnt but partly forgotten]
The company laid off half its staff during the recession. [stopped employing] Tomorrow's meeting has been called off because Jack is ill. [cancelled] Sasha has thrown himself into his new job. [start doing something with great energy] It took me a few weeks to settle in at my new office. [feel relaxed and happy] It took me ages to put together the report. [prepare by collecting information from several sources]
Language help When you learn a phrasal verb, note down the positions of the preposition/particle and the object, if there is one. For example, you can say put a report together or put together a report, but you can only say rush into a decision (NOT rush a decision into).
Reword these sentences using a phrasal verb with come.
Complete the sentences with a verb, using the appropriate form.
  1. Dan is always ______ on about how rich he is.
  2. You can't change what happened, so don't ______ on it.
  3. We'd better ______ on if we're going to get to the hostel before dark.
  4. I'm going to ______ on after work to finish the report.
  5. Boxing has really ______ on. All my friends are going to training regularly.
  6. Hugo's family tried their best to ______ him on to complete his novel.
Do these sentences have the correct preposition or particle? If not, correct them.
  1. Michael can seem a little arrogant at times, but he's just shy.
  2. Charlie was quick to take advantage of a chance for promotion that arose at his workplace.
  3. The project was going well until we encountered some legal problems.
  4. I found some lovely old photos when I was sorting some boxes yesterday.
  5. I'm afraid it looks as if our plans to move to a new flat may not happen.
  6. Something strange happened to me and I shouted at him angrily.
  7. Do you think the company will have to lay any staff out?
  8. I learnt Spanish at school but need to brush it on before I go to Spain.
  9. I'm putting a presentation together for the board to consider.
  10. If you rush for a decision, you may regret it later.
  11. We'll have to call out tomorrow's picnic if the weather is bad.
  12. The family soon settled on to their new flat in the city.
  13. I love the way Katie always throws herself onto everything she does.
  14. Anne put forward some very interesting ideas at the meeting.
Which of the phrasal verbs on the opposite page can have the preposition or particle either before or after the object? Write the verbs in phrases both ways using one of these objects.

example : urge a team on - urge on a team

These sentences use some other phrasal verbs. Can you work out what the verbs mean from the context? Match the phrasal verbs in the sentences with the definitions in the box.
delay   ​explode   ​ abolish   ​waste time   ​not tell   ​criticise   ​occur   ​ start to work
Most of the students say they would like to do away with school uniform. The new arrangements won't kick in till next month. Stop messing around - go and tidy your room. Problems always seem to crop up at the most inconvenient times. These complications will set the building work back by several weeks. However hard he tries, his teacher always seems to run him down. I heard the bomb go off at midday. It's foolish to hold something so important back from your partner.
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