Phrasal Verbs

BEHAVIOURAL OBJECTIVES: At the end of the lesson, Students should be able to

  1. Use phrasal verbs correctly.
  2. Identify literal and idiomatic phrasal verbs
  3. Answer questions on the topic.

Phrasal verbs

A phrasal verb is a verb that is made up of a main verb together with an adverb or a preposition, or both. Typically, their meaning is not obvious from the meanings of the individual words themselves. For example:

She has always looked down on me.

 In the example, the phrasal verb ‘to look down on someone’ doesn’t mean that you are looking down from a higher place at someone who is below you; it means that you think that you are better than someone.

Phrasal verbs have two meanings; Literal meaning and Idiomatic meaning

Literal meaning

Some phrasal verbs have a literal meaning. They can be easily understood.

She opened the door and LOOKED OUTSIDE.

She was WALKING ACROSS the street when she heard the sound of an explosion.

Phrasal verbs can also have a figurative or idiomatic meaning which makes them difficult to understand.

Can you PUT ME UP for tonight?

The phrasal verb ‘put up’ here does not mean to build (as in putting a fence up). It has, however, an idiomatic/figurative meaning. It means to let someone stay in your house.

Phrasal verbs with be

Phrasal VerbDefinitionExample sentence
be about toTo intend to do or be near to doing something in the immediate future“Hi Johnny, I was about to call you.”
be after (someone)To be hunting, looking for, and/or chasing after (someone)“The police are after a man who robbed a bank yesterday.”
be after (something)To want (something) from someone“He’s being so nice to me these days. He is after something, for sure.”
be down toTo have an amount of something reduced to a lower or minimal number“After months of dieting, I am down to 190 pounds.” “I am down to my last dollar.”
be down toTo be the result of or primarily caused by something“A large number of diseases are down to genetic traits.”
be down withTo be suffering from, as a disease or illness“I can’t go to work today because I am down with the flu.”

Phrasal Verbs with come

Phrasal VerbDefinitionExample sentence
come acrossTo find unexpectedly“I came across that old watch of mine when I was cleaning out the drawers.”
come acrossTo give a certain impression through the way one acts“She comes across as a really confident person.”
come intoTo acquire, especially through inheritance or chance“John has been buying some flashy cars lately. He must have come into a bit of money.”
come up withTo think of, develop, or invent“I’m finding it difficult to come up with new ideas.”
come up againstTo meet and be forced to deal with some impediment, obstacle, or difficulty“We’ve come up against several political and legal problems.”
come down withTo catch or become infected with, as a virus or disease“I don’t feel very well today. I think I’ve come down with the flu.”


  1. His father always taught him not to _____ those people with less. (look up to / look down on)
  2. Stop complaining and _____ your work! (get on with / get over)
  3. The boss wants you to _____ your figures for this month to him. (hand out / hand in)
  4. We’re going to have to _____ our trip to Spain until September. (put up/ put off)
  5. I _____ Amir today at the supermarket. It was great to see him. (ran out of / ran into)
  6. I’m so tired of Sophie _____ her engagement ring all the time. (showing off, showing up)
  7. The police would not _____ to the kidnapper’s demands. (give up/ give in)
  8. I thought I would _____ for a cup of coffee. Is that okay? (drop off/ drop in)
  9. Have you ever _____ such an unusual piece of art? (come forward/come across)
  10. It’s important to _____ on time. (show up / show off)
  11. _____ your feet when walking; you don’t want to trip! (uplift / lift up)
  12. The tree was _____ by the wind. (blown up / blown over)
  13. He _____ his hat to show me his new haircut. (took off / took up)
  14. I just can’t seem to _____ this book. (get off / get into )