Phrasal verbs

Phrasal Verbs: A Trick to Learning

Ah, good old phrasal verbs. Last week, I sent out a message on Instagram, asking for topics to write about. And one of the answers I got, other than speaking about football, was phrasal verbs. Yes, phrasal verb. I’ll say it again… no, I won’t.

One of the topis many learners struggle with is that of the phrasal verb. Because there are so many of them! It really is astonishing. And then, naturally, most people want to study them. Well, good luck with that. I just did a little google search to “how many phrasal verbs are there” and my first result: 200 common phrasal verbs with meanings and example sentences. Yes, you saw that right, 200! Enjoy studying.

So, there has to be another way right? And I believe there is. I want to talk about it in this post. Though, let’s go step by step.

Phrasal Verbs: The Basics


All of them consist of a verb and a particle.

You should know what verbs are: “Look”, “walk”, “drink”, etc. They typically form the first word of the combination.

The second one is the particle. This particle can be a preposition or an adverb, or multiple. This can be: “up”, “around”, “after”, etc.

What matters is the combination of the words as a phrasal verb is formed. The verb can be the same with many particles and particles can have different verbs.

Formal/ Informal

Another basic aspect is to remember that phrasal verbs are considered informal. Meaning we need to be a little bit more careful with when to use them, the setting in which we use them. The positive aspect is that there is always a more formal equivalent of each one of them. In this link, you can find 25 examples of this.

The Trick

So, now the actual trick, because there is one.

Instead of learning all of the phrasal verbs by heart and memorizing them, it is a good idea to be able to interpret the particles after the verb. This is the trick that I would like to share with you in this post. By giving you some examples of particles while using them with different verbs I want to give you some more information about how it all works.


So, I would prefer to show by example and let’s start with the particle “up”.

My first thought is a movement in the direction of the sky. For example, “stand up”. “To stand” means to be on your feet. And so, to “stand up”, which indicated a movement upward. Before I sat on my butt, now I am standing.

But “up” can also indicate “better”. This for example about “to make up” which actually has two meanings. Imagine were are having a fight, and afterward we “make up”. We made things better, we made up and now we are friends again.

How about meaning something new? I can “come up” with an idea or “make up” a new story. No problem at all.And I could “go on” for a while with this particle.


Yes, that was planned like that, the next one is “on”. This particle we can, for example, use to describe movement forward. As I did in the sentence above, “to go on” means to continue. “To go forward”. The same happens with “move on!”, it shows that there should be movement forward.

But how about placing something on top of something else? “Can you please put that on the table?” You were asked to place something on top of a table.

With a little bit of imagination, we could even derive some type of dependence from the last point. “You can depend on me” or “count on me”.


There are many more examples that I could give, but I hope you get the idea of what I am trying to explain. Naturally, if you have any questions, you can always “come back” on the topic in the future. “Back” here means to return. There are many examples of this. The one I gave means that we can always return to a specific topic that we spoke about before. Or that missed call (never lost call) that you need to “call back”?

How about when you bought a product and you’re not sure you actually want to keep it, you can “take it back” to the shop. With a little bit of luck, you “get back” your money as well.


Phrasal verbs are absolutely not the easiest part of the English language, I will never say they are. But we can make them that little bit easier by looking at them in a different way. By thinking about the meaning of the particle, we can get the meaning a lot faster.

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