English Phrasal Verbs

Phrasal Verbs are idiomatic expressions, combining verbs and prepositions to make new verbs whose meaning is often not obvious from the dictionary definitions of the individual words. They are widely used in both written and spoken English, and new ones are formed all the time as they are a flexible way of creating new terms.

A Phrasal Verb consists of a verb and a preposition or adverb that modifies or changes the meaning. Give up is such a verb that means stop doing something, which is very different from give. The word or words that modify a verb in this manner can also go under the name particle.

A reference page of 2,570 current English Phrasal Verbs (also called multi-word verbs) with definitions and examples is here.

Phrasal Verbs starting with P :

Pack away: Put something where it belongs

I PACKED AWAY the suitcases in the loft after we had emptied them.

Pack in:

Stop doing something

I'm trying to PACK IN smoking.

End a relationship

She PACKED her boyfriend IN.

Fill a venue

They really PACK them IN at the club- it was so crowded it was impossible to move.

Break down, stop working

The photocopier has PACKED IN again.

Pack it in: Stop doing something (used as an imperative)

The kids were making a fuss, so I told them to PACK IT IN.

Pack off: Send someone away

His boss PACKED him OFF to a regional office.

Pack out: Fill a venue

The stadium was PACKED OUT.

Pack up:

Stop doing something

You should PACK UP smoking.

Finish work

We had nothing left to do, so we PACKED UP early.

Break down, stop working

My printer PACKED UP last night- I'll have to get a new one.

Collect things and put them where you keep them

At the end of the presentation, I PACKED UP my laptop.

Pad down: Sleep somewhere for the night

I'm too tired to come home; can I PAD DOWN here tonight?

Pad out: Make a text longer by including extra content, often content that isn't particularly relevant

I couldn't think of much to write, so I PADDED the essay OUT with a few lengthy quotes.

Pair off:

Begin a romantic relationship

They PAIRED OFF shortly after starting university.

Introduce people, hoping they will start a relationship

I tried to PAIR him OFF with my sister.

Form pairs

The class PAIRED OFF to practise the exam interviews.

Pair off with: Form a pair with someone

I PAIRED OFF WITH Trish for the test.

Pair up: Form a pair

We PAIRED UP for the last activity.

Palm off:

Get someone to accept something that isn't true

He tried to PALM me OFF with a pathetic excuse.

Pretend something is better than it is in order to sell it

He tried to PALM his computer OFF as the latest model.

Pan out: The way a situation develops

I don't know how things will PAN OUT now the company's been taken over.

Paper over: Try to conceal a problem without really fixing it

The government tried to PAPER OVER the problems in the proposal, but the press were very critical.

Pare back: If you pare something back, you reduce the size or numbers.

They have had to PARE BACK the services they offer as their funding was reduced.

Pare down: Reduce, decrease

They have PARED DOWN the number of employees as they haven't been doing well.

Pass around: Give out to everybody there

The teacher PASSED the handout AROUND.

Pass as: Be believed to be something

Although not qualified, he managed to PASS AS a doctor for years.

Pass away: Die

Sadly, Georgia's uncle PASSED AWAY yesterday after a short illness.

Pass by:

Go past without stopping

I was just PASSING BY when I saw the accident.

Visit briefly

I was PASSING BY her house the other day when I heard about it.

Miss an opportunity

The chance for promotion PASSED me BY.

Pass for: Be accepted as something, usually when not

You'd be surprised at what PASSES FOR good cooking in many restaurants.

Pass off:

Convince something that something is real

I managed to PASS OFF the fake money in the market.

Happen in a certain way

The demonstration PASSED OFF peacefully.

Pass on:

Give a message to someone

I'll PASS the message ON when she gets here.

Decline an invitation or opportunity

I think I'll PASS ON dinner tonight- I'm not hungry.


Her husband PASSED ON last year.

Pass out: Faint, lose consciousness

He got so drunk that he PASSED OUT.

Pass over: Ignore someone and give a job, reward, etc, to someone more junior

They PASSED him OVER and made his assistant the new director.

Pass through: Visit a place without stopping or only stopping briefly

I didn't see much as I was only PASSING THROUGH the town.

Pass to: Give ownership or responsibility to someone

The shares PASSED TO his daughter when he died.

Pass up: Decline a chance

She PASSED UP the opportunity to go to university because she'd been offered a job.

Patch up: Fix or make things better

I tried to PATCH things UP after the argument, but they wouldn't speak to me.

Pay back:

Repay money borrowed

I PAID BACK the twenty pounds I'd borrowed.

Take revenge on

I'm going to PAY him BACK for that insult.

Pay for: Purchase

I PAID twenty pounds FOR the book.

Pay into: Deposit money

I PAID the cash INTO my account.

Pay off: Completely repay a debt

The mortgage will be PAID OFF in twenty-five years.

Produce a profitable or successful result

Their patience PAID OFF when he finally showed up and signed the contract.

Peck at: Eat very small amounts

The food wasn't very nice, so I PECKED AT it to look polite.

Peg away: Keep working at something

I PEGGED AWAY for weeks before my exams.

Peg down: Fasten something to the ground

We PEGGED the tent DOWN to stop the wind blowing it about.

Peg it: Die

After a long illness, she finally PEGGED IT yesterday.

Peg out:

Put washing outside to dry

I PEGGED the washing OUT after it stopped raining.


He PEGGED OUT last night from a heart attack.

Pencil in: Make a provisional appointment

I'll PENCIL Thursday night IN, but if anything comes up, give me a ring.

Perk up: Feel better or happier; make someone feel better or happier

She was ill in bed with flu, but she PERKED UP a bit when some friends dropped by.

Peter out: Lose impetus and stop

Everyone was keen at first, but the enthusiasm PETERED OUT when they saw how long it would take.

Phase in: Introduce gradually

They are PHASING IN the reforms over the next two years.

Phase out: Remove gradually

They have introduced a compact edition of the newspaper and are PHASING OUT the broadsheet edition over the next few months.

Pick at:

Eat unwillingly

I wasn't very hungry so I just PICKED AT my food.


There were a few problems that could be PICKED AT, but it was generally good.

Pick off: Target individuals to change a group

There were many rebels against the policy, but the government PICKED OFF the leaders.

Pick on: Bother, annoy, criticize or make fun of someone

My friends always PICK ON me because I don't sing well.

Pick out:


She PICKED OUT the ones she wanted to take and left the rest.

Identify from a picture

The victim couldn't PICK OUT her attacker from the photos the police showed her.

Pick through: Search something that is disordered for something

The police have been PICKING THROUGH the wreckage for clues.

Pick up:


Sales PICKED UP a bit during the Christmas period.

Learn quickly

She PICKED UP Spanish in six months.


While you're in town, can you PICK UP my trousers from the Dry Cleaner?

Receive (a broadcast)

When we rent a holiday cottage in Cornwall, we can't PICK UP Channel 5.

Collect (a person). This differs from the 'collect a thing' meaning - as that means 'collect and bring back' whereas this means either (i) 'collect and drop off on your way' or (ii) 'collect and bring to the same destination'.

i) Can you PICK me UP and take me to The George when you go to the party?

ii) Can you PICK UP some friends of mine on your way to the party? They're going too.

Pick up after: Tidy a mess someone else has made

I always have to PICK UP AFTER him because he leaves things all over the office.

Pick up on:

Correct someone when they say something wrong

My teacher PICKS UP ON any mistake I make and corrects me.

Notice something that most people don't

He's very quick to PICK UP ON new trends.

React to something

The government has PICKED UP ON the reports in the media.

Comment on something said earlier in a conversation

I'd like to PICK UP ON the point that Jill made.

Pick yourself up: Recover from a fall or problem

It took him a long time to PICK HIMSELF UP after his wife left him.

Pig off: Used to tell someone to get lost or leave you alone

He told them to PIG OFF and leave him in peace.

Pig out: Eat a lot

The food was great, so I really PIGGED OUT.

Pile up: Accumulate

Work just keeps on PILING UP and I really can't manage to get it all done.

Pin down:

Get a fixed idea, opinion, etc, from someone.

I've asked him to set a date, but he's a hard man to PIN DOWN and won't give a definite answer.

Discover exact details about something

The government can't PIN DOWN where the leak came from.

Pin on: Attach the blame to someone

The police tried to PIN the crime ON him.

Pin up: Fix something to a wall, or other vertical surface, with a pin

I PINNED the notice UP on the board.

Pine away: Suffer physically because of grief, stress, worry, etc

He's been PINING AWAY since his wife died and is a shadow of his former self.

Pipe down: Be quiet (often as an imperative)

The lecturer asked the students to PIPE DOWN and pay attention.

Pipe up: To speak, raise your voice

At first, no one answered, and then finally someone PIPED UP.

Pit against: Compete or force to compete

The war PITTED neighbour AGAINST neighbour.

Pit out: Go into the pits (car racing)

He PITTED OUT in the twentieth lap.

Pitch for: Try to persuade someone to give your work, business, a job, etc

He PITCHED FOR the job, but they gave it to someone else.

Pitch in: Work together to help achieve an objective

We were behind schedule, but the others PITCHED IN and we got it done in time.

Pitch into: Criticize severely or attack someone

The shareholders PITCHED INTO the management about their pay rises at the meeting.

Play along: Pretend to agree or accept something in order to keep someone happy or to get more information

I disagreed with the idea but I had to PLAY ALONG because everyone else liked it.

Play around: Be silly

The children were PLAYING AROUND and being annoying.

Play at: Pretend to be something

He just PLAYS AT being a lawyer- he never wins a case.

Play away: Be sexually unfaithful when away from home

He travels abroad a lot and his wife thinks he PLAYS AWAY.

Play back: Listen to or watch something you've recorded

We PLAYED the recording BACK to see if it was OK.

Play down: Try to make something seem less important

The Government has tried to PLAY DOWN the importance of the minister's resignation.

Play off:

Play a game to decide who the winner is

As both teams had the same points, they PLAYED OFF to decide the winner.

Make people compete against each other so that you benefit

He PLAYED them OFF against each other to get the best deal.

Play on:

Continue playing a sport though there might be a reason to stop

It looked like a foul, but the referee told them to PLAY ON.

Continue playing music

The band PLAYED ON for another hour.

Exploit a weakness

They are just PLAYING ON our fears to get us to do what they want.


The advert PLAYS ON the slogan.

Play out:

Progress, often till it finishes

Let's see how things PLAY OUT.

Pretend that something is real and reduce its effect

Computer games allow people to PLAY OUT their violent urges.

Play something to the end

Rain stopped them PLAYING the game OUT.

Play up: Behave badly

The children PLAYED UP all evening and drove the babysitter mad.

Play up to: Flatter someone

I'm PLAYING UP TO my boss at the moment because I want the promotion.

Play upon: Exploit a weakness

They are PLAYING UPON people's concerns to get their way.

Play with:

Touch and move something to occupy your hands

He can't stop PLAYING WITH his beard.

Not eat much of a meal

I wasn't hungry, so I just PLAYED WITH the food.

Consider something, but not seriously

We PLAYED WITH the idea, but decided against it.

Plead out: Plead guilty to get a reduced sentence or fine

The CEO PLEADED OUT and blamed the CFO for the fraud.

Plough back: Re-invest money you have made into a business

We PLOUGHED BACK all the profits to grow the company.

Plough into: Collide into at speed

The bus skidded and PLOUGHED INTO the bus stop.

Plough on: Continue doing something you don't want to

It was really boring, but we PLOUGHED ON.

Plough through:

Eat a big meal

We PLOUGHED THROUGH all seven courses.

Read something that is difficult or takes a lot of time

It took me ages to PLOUGH THROUGH 'Ulysses'.

Move through somewhere where there is little space or there are obstacles.

The boat had to PLOUGH THROUGH the ice.

Plough up: Break the surface of soil

The tractor PLOUGHED UP the field so they could sow the seed.

Plow back: Re-invest money you have made into a business

We PLOWED BACK all the profits to grow the company.

Plow into: Collide into at speed

The bus skidded and PLOWED INTO the bus stop.

Plow on: Continue doing something you don't want to

It was really boring, but we PLOWD ON.

Plow through:

Eat a big meal

We PLOWED THROUGH all eight courses.

Read something that is difficult or takes a lot of time

It takes me ages to PLOW THROUGH any of Henry James' novels.

Move through somewhere where there is little space or there are obstacles

The police car had to PLOW THROUGH the crowd.

Plow up: Break the surface of soil

The tractor PLOWED UP the field so they could sow the crop.

Plug in: Connect machines to the electricity supply

He PLUGGED the TV IN and turned it on full blast.

Plump for: Choose

I PLUMPED FOR the steak frites.

Point out: Make someone aware of something

He POINTED OUT that I only had two weeks to get the whole thing finished.

Polish off: Finish, consume

She POLISHES OFF half a bottle of gin every night.

Polish up: Improve something quickly

I need to POLISH UP my French before I go to Paris.

Pony up: Pay for something

I had to PONY fifty dollars UP for the meal.

Poop out: Get too tired to do something

I was going to write my essay, but I POOPED OUT and went to bed instead.

Poop out on: Fail to keep an appointment

We were supposed to meet yesterday, but she POOPED OUT ON me at the last minute.

Pop in: Visit for a short time

He POPPED IN for a coffee on his way home.

Pop off:

Talk loudly, complain

He's always POPPING OFF when things don't suit him.

Go out for a short time

He's just POPPED OFF for a break but should be back in a few minutes.

Pop out: Go out for a short time

I'm just POPPING OUT to the shops. Do you need anything while I'm out?

Pop up:

Appear, like windows and boxes opening on a computer screen.

The dialogue box POPPED UP when I pressed Enter.

Appear unexpectedly

I'm going to have to work late tonight because something has POPPED UP.

Potter about: Spend time doing little things for pleasure

On Saturday mornings, I POTTER ABOUT the garden if the weather's fine.

Potter around: Spend some time doing little things for pleasure

I POTTERED AROUND, sorting out my CDS and a few other things.

Pour down: Rain hard

It POURED DOWN all day so we had to remain indoors.

Pour forth: Emerge from a place in large numbers

Useless statistics POUR FORTH from him.

Prattle on: Talk too much

Geoff just PRATTLED ON instead of giving a straight answer.

Press ahead: Continue with something

They PRESSED AHEAD with the elections despite the violence.

Press on: Continue with something

We PRESSED ON to get to our destination before night fell.

Price up: Charge more for something

In rural areas where they have a monopoly, some garages PRICE UP fuel because there's nowhere else to buy it.

Print out: Make a hard copy of a computer document

He PRINTED OUT the letter and checked through it carefully.

Prop up: Support something, both physically and financially, politically, etc.

The council have PROPPED UP the museum for years with grants.

Psych out:

Work out or anticipate someone's intentions

We have to try to PSYCH OUT our rivals.

Make someone less confident

Boxers try to PSYCH their opponents OUT before the fight to gain an advantage.

Psych up: Prepare someone mentally

I PSYCHED myself UP for the exam.

Pull ahead: Overtake, move in front

The lorry was going slowly but we managed to PULL AHEAD.

Pull apart:

Destroy an argument, theory, etc

My tutor PULLED my essay APART.

Stop people or animals fighting

A fight broke out in the pub and it was hard to PULL the people involved APART.

Make someone unhappy or upset

It PULLED me APART to see them arguing so much.

Pull away: When a vehicle moves from a place

The car PULLED AWAY from the lights at high speed.

Pull back:

Score a goal or point when losing

They were two-nil down until five minutes before the end, when they PULLED BACK a goal.

Move away from a place, especially when talking about soldiers

They have PULLED the troops BACK from the front line.

Move away from someone

She PULLED BACK when he tried to kiss her.

Decide not to do something or not to be involved with it any longer

They PULLED BACK from the deal.

Pull down:


They PULLED the old cinema DOWN to build a new shopping mall.

Make someone depressed

Losing her job PULLED her DOWN.


He's PULLING DOWN a fortune.

Pull for: Support

Who will you be PULLING FOR in the final?

Pull in:

When a train arrives at a station

The train PULLED IN and we rushed to meet her as she got off.


Their last tour PULLED IN millions of fans.

Stop a car by the side of the road

I PULLED IN to let the passengers out.

Arrest or take someone to a police station for questioning

The police PULLED them IN after the trouble.

Pull off:

Manage to do something difficult or tricky

No-one thought that she would be able to do it, but she PULLED it OFF in the end.

Start moving (vehicles)

When the lights turned green, the car PULLED OFF.

Pull on: Put clothes on

I PULLED ON a jumper when the sun went in.

Pull out:

Start moving (train)

The train was PULLING OUT when I got there.

Move into traffic

The traffic was so bad that it took me ages to PULL OUT.


The project was going badly and they decided to PULL OUT.

Remove soldiers from an area

People want the government to PULL the troops OUT.

Pull over:

Stop by the side of the road

The police PULLED the car OVER.

Make a vehicle stop

The police PULLED the car OVER and tested the driver for alcohol.

Pull through: Recover from and illness or problem

At one stage it looked as if she was going to die, but she PULLED THROUGH in the end.

Pull to:Close a door or window that has been left open

Could you PULL the door TO, please?

Pull together: Work together as a team

If we all PULL TOGETHER, we'll have it finished in no time.

Pull up:

Slow and stop a car

The cab PULLED UP outside my house and I got out.

Inform someone that they are wrong

He PULLED me UP because I had got my facts wrong.

Pull yourself together: Become calm or regain control of your emotions

He was so angry that he couldn't PULL HIMSELF TOGETHER.

Push in: Get in a queue without waiting

She just PUSHED IN the queue in front of me at the supermarket checkout.

Put across: Communicate, convey a message

He found it difficult to PUT ACROSS what he wanted to say at the meeting.

Put away:

Put something back in the correct place

He PUT the dictionary BACK on the shelf after he'd finished the crossword.

Put someone in prison

The judge PUT him AWAY for ten years for robbery.

Put back: Rearrange something for a later time

The AGM has been PUT BACK until July the seventeenth.

Put by: Save for the future

I try to PUT some money BY every month towards our summer holiday.

Put down:

Kill an animal because it's old, ill, etc.

He had his dog PUT DOWN because it was in a lot of pain from its tumours.

Stop holding (but withdraw support gently)

PUT the gun DOWN slowly and keep your hands where I can see them.

Put down for: Commit to make a payment

PUT me DOWN FOR 50p per mile.

Put down to: Give as an explanation

He didn't score many, but we can PUT that DOWN TO inexperience.

Put in: Install

They had to PUT IN a whole new central heating system because the house was so cold.

Put in for: Make a request

He PUT IN FOR a transfer to the new branch.

Put off:


The concert's been PUT OFF until next month because the singer's got a throat infection.

Stop liking something or somebody

I was really PUT OFF by the way he eats with his mouth open.

Put on:

Get fat

He's PUT ON a lot of weight since he gave up smoking.

Deceive, lie

I am not PUTTING you ON.

Start wearing

I PUT my coat ON before we went out.

Put out:


Several charities PUT OUT an appeal on TV for money for the victims of the flooding in Mozambique.

Disturb or trouble someone

Would it be PUTTING you OUT greatly if I asked to change to another day.

Extinguish a cigarette, fire, etc.

He PUT OUT his cigarette before entering the building.

Put through: Connect someone by phone

Could you PUT me THROUGH to extension 259 please?

Put towards: Make a financial contribution

She PUT $250 TOWARDS the cost of the repairs and we had to pay the rest.

Put up:

Allow someone to stay at your house for a night or a few days.

She PUT me UP for the night because I'd missed the last bus and there were no night buses running.

Increase prices, taxes, duties, etc.

The government has PUT tuition fees for undergraduate students UP again.

Put up with: Tolerate

I can't PUT UP WITH my neighbour's noise any longer; it's driving me mad.

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