52 Phrasal Verbs
If you are serious about becoming fluent in legal English and business English then you will need a repertoire of phrasal verbs. In this post, we look at some of the most important phrasal verbs to know, give definitions and clear examples to help you with your learning.
To follow a decision, a law or a rule
If you want to stay here, you simply have to abide by the rules.
To explain why you took a particular decision
I hope you can account for the missing money.
To take action
She acted upon her instincts and challenged the man.
To recommend not doing something
I advise against pleading guilty in this case.
To have the same opinion as someone else.
I agree with you. You shouldn’t go there tomorrow.
To take into consideration
We need to allow for unexpected costs along the way.
To plead or make a request.
He appealed to the court to change its decision.
To make a formal request for something (job, permit, loan etc.)
Jamie has just applied an online Legal English course with Legal English UK.
To move backwards, in fear or dislike
When he saw the bear, he backed away slowly whilst trying to keep eye contact.
To withdraw or admit defeat
The prosecution backed down when they realised that their witness was unlikely to turn up.
To make a copy of something (file, program, etc.)
You should back up all your computer files in a secure location.
To support somebody.
I’m going to be very strict with him. I hope you’ll back me up on this?
To base your hopes on something / someone
I’m banking on the witness to really help us out.
To faint, lose consciousness
Jenna fell in the parking lot and blacked out for at least a minute.
To separate using a barrier.
The police blocked off the street after the explosion.
The bomb blew a building up in the downtown area but luckily nobody was inside.
boil down to
To be summarised as
It all boils down to who has more power within the organisation.
To start a computer by loading an operating system or program
You need to boot up your computer before you begin your work.
To separate from a crowd
One of the wolves broke away from the pack.
To go out of order, cease to function
The washing machine broke down so we had to call in the repair technician.
To lose control of one’s emotions
John broke down when he heard the news.
To enter by force
Somebody broke into my car last night and took the radio.
To start suddenly
Rioting broke out after the government raised taxes again.
break out of
To escape from a place by force
Several prisoners broke out of the city prison last night.
To come to an end (marriage, relationship)
She broke up with Joe after dating him for five years.
To raise (a child)
Sara is bringing up her children by herself.
brush up on
To improve, refresh one’s knowledge of something
I must brush up on my Legal French before going to Paris next month.
To meet by chance or unexpectedly
I bumped into Adam at the bank. He says “hello”.
become exhausted from over-working
She needs to work fewer hours. Otherwise she will burn out.
To return a phone call
Could you please call back in ten minutes?
The game was called off because of bad weather.
To become more relaxed, less angry or upset
It took Kylie several hours to calm down after she saw the accident.
The soldiers carried on walking in order to get to their post before dark.
To do something as specified (a plan, an order, a threat)
His orders were carried out to the letter.
To register at a hotel or airport
They said I must check in at least three hours before my flight.
To pay one’s bill and leave (a hotel)
Donna checked out of the hotel this morning.
To refuse to speak
When the police started asking questions, the suspect clammed up.
clamp down on
To act strictly to prevent something
The local authorities have decided to clamp down on illegal parking in handicapped parking places.
To find by chance
I was cleaning up and came across some old photos of you.
To present oneself
Has the owner of the winning lotto ticket come forward yet?
To rely or depend on (for help)
You can count on me to keep your secret.
cut down on
To reduce in number or size
I’ve decided to cut down on the amount of sweets I eat.
To stop doing something
You need to cut out all red meat from your diet.
To handle, take care of (problem, situation)
Catherine is not good at dealing with stress.
To calm down, become less strong
After the storm died down, we went outside to see the damage it had caused.
To manage without
She didn’t get a salary this month, so she’ll have to do without extra treats.
To last longer than expected
The suspect’s trial dragged on longer than we had expected!
To write (contract, agreement, document)
They drew up a contract and had me sign it.
wear elegant clothes
Their wedding gave us a chance to dress up and get out of the house.
To visit, usually on the way somewhere
Why don’t you drop in to see us on your way home?
To deliver someone or something
I’ll drop off the papers later today.
To leave school without finishing
Zack dropped out of college and joined the army.
To reduce, become less severe or slow down (pain, traffic, work)
Traffic usually eases off about 7pm
To finish in a certain way; result in
Her marriage ended in divorce.
To finally reach a state, place or action
If you don’t improve your work habits, you’ll end up being fired.
To fail; doesn’t happen
His plans to trek through South America fell through when he got sick.
To understand, find the answer
He’s trying to figure out how to earn enough money to go on the trip to Spain.
To complete (a form/an application)
Please fill out the enclosed form and return it as soon as possible.
To discover or obtain information
I’m going to to find out who’s responsible for the power cut.
To concentrate on something
Tom had difficulty focusing on work the day before his holiday started.
get along (with)
To be on good terms; work well with
It’s important to get along with your team supervisor.
What are you getting at? Do you think I’m to blame?
I think we should get away for the weekend.
To manage to cope or to survive
Students without jobs have a hard time getting by.
When did you get in last night?
get into (+noun)
How did you get into your car without the keys?
I can’t get the ink stain off my shirt.
To board (bus, train, plane)
I’m trying to get on the flight to Brussels.
get on with (something)
To continue to do; make progress
After they split up, she had a hard time getting on with her life.
get on (well) with (somebody)
To have a good relationship with
He doesn't get on very well with the other members of the committee.
He had a hard time getting out of Newark because of the snow.
get out of
To avoid doing something
Edna’s trying to get out of working the night shift.
To recover from (illness, disappointment)
Has she gotten over the flu?
To recover from (illness, disappointment)
Mary had the chickenpox last week but she got over it.
get rid of
Please get rid of that old t-shirt. It’s so ragged.
To meet each other
Let’s get together for your birthday on Saturday.
To rise, leave bed
Will you please get up? You’ve got a class in 20 minutes.
To To hand in; submit
I’ll give in my paper tomorrow.
To stop doing something
Morris gave up drinking 10 years ago.
To spend one’s childhood; develop; become an adult
He’s like Peter Pan. He never really grew up at all.
To submit (report, homework)
Please hand in your papers before Friday.
Susan volunteered at the shelter where she handed out warm clothes.
To spend time in a particular place or with a group of friends
Which pub does the team hang out at after the game?
To end a phone conversation
If you hang up now, I’ll never speak to you again.
Please hold on and a representative will answer your call.
To be quick, act speedily
Hurry up and finish your lunch or we’ll miss the train.
To resolve by discussion, eliminate differences
The two countries met at the conference to iron out their differences.
Yes David, you can join in the discussion any time you like.
To engage in, become a member of
There was a war on, so some kids were only sixteen when they joined up.
To continue doing something
If you keep on making that noise I will get annoyed.
keep up with
To stay at the same level as someone or something
I read the paper every day to keep up with the news.
To begin, start
The rugby match kicked off at 3 o’clock.
To omit, not mention
Please check your form again and make sure nothing is left out.
I feel so let down because they promised me a puppy but all I got was a doll.
To take care of
Andy can you look after your sister until I get back?
look down on
To consider as inferior
She’s such a snob. She always looks down on anyone who is poor.
To be a spectator at an event
If you don’t want to take part in the game you can look on for now.
To try to find something
Harry went to the shop to look for a new computer.
look forward to
To await or anticipate with pleasure
I’m looking forward to my birthday. It’s in two days time.
look up to
I always looked up to my father. He was a great man.
make fun of
To laugh at/ make jokes about
It’s not nice to make fun of people in wheelchairs.
To invent (excuse, story)
That’s a good excuse. Did you make up it up yourself?
To mistake one thing or person for another
She had so many cats that she kept mixing up their names.
To arrive in a new home or office
Did you hear? Our new neighbours are moving in this afternoon.
To leave your home/office for another one.
When are you moving out? We need your office for the new guy.
To fall asleep
You were so tired after the game that you nodded off on the couch.
To admit or confess something
Come on. Own up. We know you did it!
Your grandfather passed away peacefully in his sleep last night.
He didn’t drink enough water so he passed out at the end of the race.
I’ll pay you back as soon as I get the loan.
To postpone, arrange a later date
Don’t put off until tomorrow, what you can do today.
To turn on, switch on
It’s very dark in here. Please put on the light on.
The fire fighters were able to put out fire in ten minutes.
To accommodate, give somebody a bed
I can put you up until the weekend but then I’m going away.
To collect somebody
I’ll pick you up at around 7:00 to take you to the airport.
To indicate/direct attention to something
As I already pointed out, there was a mistake in your calculation.
To count on, depend on, trust somebody
You can rely on me. I always arrive on time.
Since he had a sound alibi, the police ruled him out as a suspect.
To escape from a place or suddenly leave
He ran away from home and joined the circus.
To meet by accident or unexpectedly (also: bump into)
I’m so glad I ran into you. I need to ask you something.
run out of
To have no more of something.
It looks like we've run out of milk. I’ll just pop to the shop to buy some.
To start a journey.
Let’s set off early to miss the rush hour traffic.
To start a business
They set up their own company when they were still in high school.
To compare prices
Don’t buy that. Let’s shop around and see if we can find something cheaper.
To brag or want to be admired
He’s such a show off. He has to tell everybody about his new computer.
I don’t think she’ll show up tonight. Her daughter is sick.
shut up (impolite)
To be silent, stop talking
Shut up, you’re spoiling the movie!
To take a seat
I think you should sit down. It’s bad news.
To rise from a sitting position
The whole stadium stood up for the national anthem.
stick up for
My big brother always stuck up for me when I got into a fight.
To resemble, in appearance or character
Angie really takes after her grandmother.
take care of
To look after
Please take care of my cat when I’m away.
To leave the ground
The plane will take off as soon as the fog lifts.
To hire or engage staff
I hear they’re taking on extra staff for this event.
To remove; extract
Please take out your mobile phones and turn them off.
To reprimand/criticize severely
The coach told her off for not trying hard enough.
Take your time and think it over before you decide.
To wear something to see if it suits or fits
Go ahead, try it on and see if it fits?
I asked her out but she turned me down flat.
To finish a product (so that there’s none left)
Your parents have used up all the coffee!
To be careful
Watch out! There’s a dog in the road.
To become unusable
Julie wore out her shoes running the marathons.
To do physical exercise
You should work out twice a week at the gym.
To clean (board, table).I’ll wash up if you wipe off the table.