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 B :

Back away : Retreat or go backwards

The crowd BACKED AWAY when the man pulled a knife.

Back down : Retract or withdraw your position or proposal in an argument

She refused to BACK DOWN and was fired.

Back off : Retreat

The police told the protesters to BACK OFF.

Back out : Fail to keep an arrangement or promise

He BACKED OUT two days before the holiday so we gave the ticket to his sister

Back out of : Fail to keep an agreement, arrangement

She BACKED OUT OF the agreement at the last minute.

Back up :

1. Make a copy of computer data

You should always BACK UP important files and documents so that you won't lose all your work if something goes wrong with the hardware.

2. Support

The rest of the staff BACKED her UP when she complained about working conditions.

Bag out : Criticise

Don't bag out BAG OUT Australian English.

Bail out :

1. Save, rescue

The government had to BAIL OUT the airline because it was losing so much money.

2. Remove water from something that is flooded

The boat was leaking so they had to BAIL it OUT.

3. Jump out of a plane because it is going to crash

The pilot BAILED OUT when he saw that the engines had failed.

Bail out on : Stop supporting someone when they are in trouble

Everybody BAILED OUT ON him when the scandal broke.

Bail up :

1. Talk to someone and delay them

I was late because he BAILED me UP on the phone and wouldn't shut up.

2. Rob someone at gunpoint

He was BAILED UP by a couple of muggers as he came out of the bank.

Ball up :

1. Confuse or make things complicated

The new project has BALLED me UP- I have no idea what to do.

2. Roll or form into a round shape

He BALLED UP his napkin when he had finished eating.

Balls up : Spoil, ruin

He BALLSED the presentation UP.

Bang about : Move in a place making a lot of noise

He's BANGING ABOUT in the kitchen.

Bang around : Move in a place making a lot of noise

I can hear him BANGING ABOUT upstairs.

Bang on about : Keep talking about something

He is always BANGING ON ABOUT football.

Bang out : Play a musical instrument loudly

She BANGED the tune OUT on the piano.

Bang up :

1. Put someone in prison

The judge BANGED him UP for eight years.

2. Damage badly

He BANGED his car UP last night.

Bank on : Count or rely on

I'm BANKING ON your help. I can't do it alone.

Barge in : Enter a place and interrupt

He keeps BARGING IN and asking stupid questions when I am trying to work.

Barge into : Enter a place and interrupt people rudely

They BARGED INTO my office without knocking and started talking even though I was on the phone.

Bash about : Mistreat physically

If you BASH your monitor ABOUT like that, it would not last long.

Bash in : Break, damage or injure by hitting

The burglars BASHED the door IN to enter the house.

Bash out : Write something quickly without much preparation

I BASHED the essay OUT the night before I had to hand it in.

Bash up : Break, damage or hurt by hitting

They BASHED him UP in the fight in the pub last week and he had to go to hospital.

Bawl out :

1. Scold, shout at someone

She BAWLED me OUT for coming home drunk.

2. Scold

She BAWLED Raj OUT for getting there late.

3. Sing or shout unpleasantly loudly

He BAWLED OUT our names at the top of his voice.

Be after : Try to find or get

The police ARE AFTER him because of the theft.

Be along : Arrive

The next bus should BE ALONG in the next quarter of an hour or so.

Be away : Be elsewhere; on holiday, etc.

She is AWAY on business for three weeks.

Be cut out for : Be suitable, have the necessary qualities

She is not CUT OUT FOR this kind of work.

Be cut up : Be upset

She was very CUT UP about coming second as she thought she deserved to win.

Be down :

1. Be depressed

He has BEEN DOWN since his partner left him.

2. Be reduced or less

The firm's profits ARE DOWN by ten percent this quarter.

Be down with : Be ill

Gul is DOWN WITH some bug and is off work today.

Be fed up : Be bored, upset or sick of something

I AM FED UP of his complaints.

Be in :

1. Be at home or at work

They ARE never IN. I always get their answer phone.

2. Be submitted, arrive

The application form must BE IN by 3pm on Friday.

Be in on : Be involved in

Susan was the only one who WASN'T IN ON the plan.

Be not on : Be unacceptable

The way he's behaving IS just NOT ON.

Be off :

1. Be bad (of food)

This yoghurt must BE OFF. It smells foul.

2. Depart, leave

I'm OFF home. It’s five o'clock.

Be on :

1. Be functioning (of machines)

The computer IS ON.

2. Take place

The show IS ON for the next three months.

3. Take medication or drugs, especially when they affect the person badly

He IS ON anti-depressants and has become very difficult to please.

Be on about : Mean, try to say

I couldn't understand what he WAS ON ABOUT. It made no sense.

Be onto : Pursue, be aware of someone's true nature

He's being very careful because he thinks the police ARE ONTO him.

Be out : Be absent from a place

She IS OUT on a visit for the day.

Be out of : Have no more left

We're OUT OF coffee so I'll have to go and get some.

Be out to : Attempt

She IS OUT TO get him sacked because she hates him.

Be snowed under : Have too much work

We're completely SNOWED UNDER at work because it's the end of the tax year.

Be taken aback : Be shocked or surprised

I WAS TAKEN ABACK when I saw him because he's lost all his hair.

Be taken with : Like something

I WAS very TAKEN WITH the performance- it was superb.

Be up :

1. Be out of bed

She's not UP yet.

2. Have increased or risen

The company's profits ARE UP by fifteen percent.

3. When the time for something finishes or expires

Time's UP, please finish your drinks and leave.

Be up to :

1. Be good enough

He's not UP TO the job; get someone else.

2. Doing something naughty or wrong

What are those kids UP TO?

Bear down on : Move towards

She spotted him on the other side of the room and BORE DOWN ON him.

Bear on : Influence, affect

The judge's character may well BEAR ON the final decision.

Bear out : Confirm that something is correct

Statistics BEAR OUT the government’s positions on the issue.

Bear up : Resist pressure

How are you BEARING UP under the strain?

Bear up under : Cope with something difficult or stressful

He's BEARING UP UNDER the pressure.

Bear with : Be patient

Please BEAR WITH me a moment while I finish this email.

Beat down : Strong sunshine

The sun WAS really BEATING DOWN and we couldn't stay outdoors.

Beat up : Attack violently

The mugger BEAT him UP and stole his wallet.

Beaver away : Work hard

She& is BEAVERING AWAY before her exams.

Beaver away at : Work hard doing something

I have to BEAVER AWAY AT it or else I will fail the course.

Bed down :

1. Sleep somewhere less comfortable than normal

We had to BED DOWN on the floor for the night.

2. Become established or successful over time

The new government has found it hard to BED DOWN and become accepted.

Bed out : Move a plant outside

I BEDDED the plants OUT when the weather warmed up.

Beef up : Make something stronger or more solid

The company BEEFED UP their case when they saw that the public wouldn't accept their first explanation of the accident.

Belt out : Sing something loudly

They BELTED OUT the national anthems before the game.

Belt up :

1. Be quiet

She told the students to BELT UP because they were making so much noise.

2. Fasten your seatbelt

I told the kids to BELT UP before I started the car.

Bend down : Lower the top half of your body

I BENT DOWN to pick it up off the floor.

Bend over : Lower the top part of your body

I BENT OVER to do my shoes up.

Bend over backwards : Do a lot to try to help or please someone

I BENT OVER BACKWARDS for them and they did not even thank me.

Black out :

1. Fall unconscious

He BLACKED OUT and collapsed on the floor.

2. Lose light

Everything BLACKED OUT when the power supply failed.

Blank out :

1. Censor text so that words cannot be read

The email addresses were BLANKED OUT in the documents shown to the court.

2. Have a temporary memory failure

I was so nervous in the interview that I just BLANKED OUT and couldn't answer their questions properly.

Blare out : A loud sound or music

The music was BLARING OUT and I couldn't get to sleep.

Blast off : Leave the ground- spaceship or rocket

The space shuttle BLASTED OFF on schedule yesterday.

Blaze away : Fire a gun repeatedly

The shooters BLAZED AWAY at the pheasants.

Bliss out : Be extremely relaxed and happy

I BLISSED OUT on the beach all week.

Block in :

1. Park a car and obstruct another car

I could not drive here this morning because someone had BLOCKED me IN.

2. Shade or fill in

He BLOCKED IN the events in his calendar.

Block off : Obstruct an exit to prevent people from leaving

The police BLOCKED OFF the road after the murder.

Block out :

1. Stop light from entering or leaving

The trees BLOCK the sun OUT most of the day.

2. Try not thinking about or feeling something because it is upsetting or painful

It was so unpleasant that I try to BLOCK it OUT- otherwise, I would just be angry all the time.

Block up : Fill a space so that nothing can pass

The pipe is BLOCKED UP and no water gets through.

Blow away :

1. Kill

He grabbed a gun and BLEW the police officer AWAY.

2. Beat rivals or competitors by a large margin

Their new product has BLOWN all the others AWAY.

3. Impress greatly

Her first novel BLEW me AWAY.

4. When the wind moves something from a place

The flag BLEW AWAY in the storm; we will have to buy a new one.

Blow down : When the wind forces something to fall

A tree was BLOWN DOWN in the storm.

Blow off :

1. Not keep an appointment

We were going to meet last night, but she BLEW me OFF at the last minute.

2. Ignore, not do something

I BLEW the homework OFF and did badly.

Blow out : Extinguish candles, matches, etc.

She BLEW the candles OUT on her birthday cake.

Blow over : When a scandal gets forgotten

The scandal BLEW OVER within a fortnight when the press found someone else to attack.

Blow up : Explode

The bomb BLEW UP without any warning.

Blurt out : Say something quickly without thinking, especially if you shouldn't

I was really angry when he BLURTED OUT the secret.

Bog down : Slow make progress

Yasini got BOGGED DOWN in his research and didn't finish the project in time.

Bog in : Eat enthusiastically

We were starving and BOGGED IN when the food was served.

Bog into : Eat something enthusiastically

They BOGGED INTO the lunch.

Bog off : Get lost

He lost his temper and told her to BOG OFF.

Boil down : Simplify, reduce to the essentials

The report is so long, I BOILED it DOWN into a two-page summary.

Boil down to : Amount to

It all BOILS DOWN TO money at the end of the day.

Boil over :

1. When a hot liquid spills out of a container

I left the milk on the cooker and it BOILED OVER.

2. When people lose their tempers and things get nasty

The tension had been building up and it BOILED OVER in the meeting.

Boil up :

1. Feel a negative emotion strongly

The anger BOILED UP in me when I saw what they had done.

2. Cook or heat something to boiling point

I BOILED UP some water for a cup of coffee.

Bone up on : Study hard

I need to BONE UP ON my French grammar for the test.

Book in :

1. Make a reservation in advance

I'll BOOK us IN at the Intercontinental.

2. Check in at a hotel

WE took a taxi from the airport to the hotel and BOOKED IN.

Book into :

1. Make a reservation in advance

I've BOOKED us INTO a hotel in the centre of town for three nights.

2. Check in at a hotel

We BOOKED INTO the first hotel we could find.

Book up : Reserve

The flight's fully BOOKED UP. I'll have to go the following day.

Boot up : Start a computer

He BOOTED UP the computer and started work.

Border on :

1. Be located next to a place

Portugal BORDERS ON Spain.

2. Be very nearly something

What he did was BORDERING ON betrayal.

Boss about : Use excessive authority to control people

She BOSSES everyone ABOUT.

Boss around : Use excessive authority to control people

He BOSSES everyone AROUND.

Botch up : Ruin or spoil something

I BOTCHED UP the whole project and it had to be cancelled.

Bottle away : Store up

He kept his feelings BOTTLED AWAY.

Bottle out : Lack courage to do something

She was going to tell her boss exactly what she thought, but BOTTLED OUT in the end.

Bottle up : Not express your feelings

She BOTTLED UP her feelings even though she was furious with them and kept quiet.

Bottom out : Pass the lowest point and start rising

The recession BOTTOMED OUT and the economy is recovering well.

Bounce into : Force someone

They have BOUNCED the government INTO calling an early election.

Bounce back : Recover

The economy is BOUNCING BACK from the recession.

Bounce off : Test ideas

They BOUNCED ideas OFF each other in a brainstorming session.

Bowl over : Surprise someone greatly

I was BOWLED OVER by the news.

Box in : Prevent something from moving, especially vehicles

I was BOXED IN by the bus and could not change lane.

Box up : Pack things in boxes to move them

At the end of term, I BOXED my books UP and sent them home.

Branch out : Move into a different area of business, etc.

The supermarkets have BRANCHED OUT into banking.

Break away : Leave an organization, usually to form a new one

The SDP BROKE AWAY from the Labor Party.

Break down :

1. End negotiations unsuccessfully

The talks between management and the unions BROKE DOWN acrimoniously.

2. Start crying

He BROKE DOWN in tears.

3. Stop working

My car's BROKEN DOWN, so I came by taxi.

Break in :

1. Go into a building to steal something

The burglars BROKE IN and stole the TV and video.

2. Interrupt something

I'm sorry to BREAK IN on your conversation, but there's a problem.

3. Train a horse to be ridden

It took ages to BREAK the horse IN.

Break off :

1. Break a piece from something

She BROKE OFF a square of chocolate and gave it to her dog.

2. End a relationship

She BROKE OFF their engagement when she found out that he'd been unfaithful.

Break out of : Escape

Three dangerous Category A prisoners BROKE OUT OF Wands worth Prison last night.

Break through : Pass a barrier or obstacle

The crowd BROKE THROUGH the police barriers and attacked the hunters.

Break up :

1. Break into many pieces

The plate BROKE UP when he dropped it on the floor.

2. Close an educational institution for the holidays

Schools BREAK UP at the end of June for the summer holidays.

3. Finish a relationship

They had been going out for a couple of years before they BROKE UP.

Breeze along : Move easily and quickly

The film BREEZES ALONG for the first hour then becomes rather dull and slow.

Breeze in : Enter a place quickly

He BREEZED IN and started shouting at us.

Breeze into : Enter a place quickly

He BREEZED INTO the room and switched the TV on.

Breeze through : Pass easily, succeed

She BREEZED THROUGH her exams.

Brighten up :

1. Improve (weather)

The day started cloudy but BRIGHTENED UP in the afternoon.

2. Become happier

He BRIGHTENED UP when he heard the news.

3. Make something more attractive or pleasant

We tried to BRIGHTEN the place UP by painting it.

Bring about : Make something happen

The changes to the law were BROUGHT ABOUT by the government because so many people were ignoring the old one.

Bring along :

1. Bring someone or something to certain place

You can BRING your friends ALONG if you like.

2. Help someone improve

Her coach has BROUGHT her ALONG a lot in the last six months.

Bring around :

1. Persuade or convince someone

It took me ages to BRING him AROUND to my point of view.

2. Bring something with you when you visit

He BROUGHT some books AROUND when he came last night.

3. Get someone talking about something

He did not want to discuss the details, but I managed to BRING him AROUND and he told me everything.

Bring back :

1. Cause someone to remember

Visiting my old school BROUGHT BACK memories of when I was a pupil there.

2. Return

He took the calculator home yesterday and hasn't BROUGHT it BACK yet.

Bring down :

1. Make a government fall

The vote of no-confidence BROUGHT the government DOWN.

2. Make something cheaper

The improvements in technology have BROUGHT the prices of computers DOWN considerably in recent months.

Bring forth :

1. Produce something, make it known or visible

The prosecution BROUGHT FORTH a lot of evidence against him.

2. Produce

She BROUGHT FORTH a surprising result.

3. Make something happen

The report has BROUGHT FORTH a lot of criticism of the policy.

4. Remove something from where it is kept or hidden

She BROUGHT FORTH the diary and showed it to us.

Bring forward : Make something happen earlier than originally planned

The meeting has been BROUGHT FORWARD to this Friday instead of next week because some people couldn't make it then.

Bring in : Earn

The job BRINGS IN two thousand dollars a month.

Bring on : Cause something to happen or speed up the process

Getting wet in the rain yesterday BROUGHT ON my cold.

Bring out : release or publish

The band is BRINGING OUT a new CD in the autumn.

Bring out in : Cause a health problem or reaction

It was the lobster that BROUGHT me OUT in this rash all over my body.

Bring round : make someone wake up from unconsciousness or an anesthetic

The doctors BROUGHT him ROUND a few hours after the operation.

Bring up :

1. Mention

They didn't BRING the subject UP at the meeting.

2. Raise a child

My parents BROUGHT me UP strictly.

Brush off : Ignore, pay little attention

The minister BRUSHED OFF the criticism.

Brush up : Improve a skill quickly

She took a two-week course to BRUSH UP her Spanish before she traveling around South and Central America.

Bubble over : Become very excited

She BUBBLED OVER with joy when she heard her exam results.

Bucket down : Rain heavily

Take an umbrella; it is BUCKETING DOWN.

Budge up : Move to make space for someone

We had to BUDGE UP to let the fourth person in the back of the car.

Buff up :

1. Clear, clean or make something shine

The silver candlestick looked lovely after I BUFFED it UP.

2. Improve

After the scandal, the politician tried to BUFF UP his public image.

Buff up on : Improve your knowledge quickly

I BUFFED UP ON my grammar before the test.

Bug off : Go away

I told her to bug off because she was annoying me.

Bug out :

1. Open your eyes wide in surprise

He BUGGED OUT when she turned up.

2. Leave somewhere in a hurry

They BUGGED OUT when the police arrived.

Build up :

1. Develop a company

She BUILT the business UP from nothing into a market leader in less than a decade.

2. Increase

Tension has been BUILDING UP ever since the government passed the unpopular law.

Bulk out : Make something bigger or thicker

I BULKED the essay OUT with a few quotes to reach the number of word required.

Bump into : Meet by chance

I BUMPED INTO Helen on the underground the other day.

Bump off : Kill

The drug dealer was BUMPED OFF by a rival gang.

Bump up : Increase

They BUMP UP the prices in the high season.

Bundle off : Send someone somewhere

He BUNDLED the kids OFF to bed.

Bundle out : Expel

The barman BUNDLED the drunk OUT because he was annoying the other customers.

Bundle up :

1. Put on warm clothing

We BUNDLED UP before going out as it was snowing.

2. Wrap or tie things together

I BUNDLED UP my newspapers and dropped them in the recycling bin.

Bunk off : Not go to school when you should

I used to BUNK OFF school and go into town.

Buoy up : Make someone feel more positive

After so much criticism, the positive review BUOYED him UP.

Burn down : Burn completely

They had to completely rebuild the museum after the old one BURNED DOWN.

Burn off : Remove by burning or similar process

I BURN OFF a lot of calories in the gym.

Burn out : Lose enthusiasm and energy to continue in a demanding job

Jennie BURNT OUT after ten years working as a future broker and went to live in the country.

Burst into :

1. Catch fire very quickly

She BURST INTO laughter when she heard the joke.

2. Laugh, cry or clap loudly

The car BURST INTO flames and the driver died as he didn't have time to get out.

Butt in : Interrupt

I hope you don't mind me BUTTING IN on your conversation, but I couldn't help hearing what you said.

Butt out : Not be involved in other people's business

This is none of your business, so just BUTT OUT!

Butter up : Praise or flatter someone excessively

I tried BUTTERING my tutor UP but she still wouldn’t let me hand it in late.

Buy in : Force a CD or record into the charts by buying lots of copies

Joe Meek's last hit, 'Singing' the Blues', was probably BOUGHT IN at number 40, but failed to go any higher.

Buy into : Accept an idea

I never BOUGHT INTO the idea of a federalist European Union.

Buy off : Pay someone to stop them causing trouble

He BOUGHT the newspaper OFF by placing a lot of adverts.

Buy out : Buy somebody's share in a company

His business partners BOUGHT him OUT to get rid of him.

Buy up : Buy all of something

We BOUGHT UP all the shop had before the price went up.

Buzz around : Move quickly around a place

Reporters were BUZZING AROUND the scene of the accident.

Buzz off : Leave somewhere

I am BUZZING OFF now. I have to meet some people.

Buzz off : Go away (imperative)

He told them to BUZZ OFF because they were annoying him. Grammar Tests| Grammar| Phrasal Verbs to HOME PAGE