Separable phrasal verbs are transitive, which means they can take an object. This direct object can separate the verb from its particle.
I have brought together 171 separable phrasal verbs in the following list. I hope it makes your job of learning them a little easier.
|Verb||Meaning and Example|
|add up||Calculate the total|
Why don't you add the figures up? You'll see that we really have spent more than we made.
|back up||Support, help|
Troops have been sent to the town to back the garrison up.
Back me up, John. You know I didn't take the money.
|break down||Cause to fall by breaking; make ineffective|
We broke the wall down using nothing more than our bare hands.
World opinion helped break the barriers of apartheid down. Segregation is a thing of the past.
|bring about||To cause or produce|
If I had known that the affair would bring her death about I would never have spoken to her in the first place.
|bring back||Remind someone of something|
The smell brought memories back. It reminded me of my grandmother's front room.
|bring down||Make something fall|
The scandal will bring the government down. There's no way he can remain prime minister if he's gay.
A clumsy tackle brought the player down before he got near the goal.
|bring forward||Suggest, propose; advance in time|
He brought the idea forward that we should bring the meeting forward two hours so that everyone could avoid the heavy traffic.
|bring off||Carry out to a successful conclusion|
I never thought they'd bring the rescue off. The building was so high and there were so many people that needed to get out.
|bring on||Cause to appear or occur|
It was the terrible filth of the medieval streets that brought the plague on. The filth allowed the rats to flourish and with them the fleas that spread the terrible disease.
|bring out||To make apparent|
Adversity brought the best out in his nature and showed that he was a hero indeed.
Bring your best fighter out. We'll soon see who the champion is.
|bring over||Fetch, carry, transport|
Bring the baby over here; I want to take a closer look at that infection.
He brought a nice pie over for my dinner. He's so sweet. Shame there isn't more people like him.
|bring to||Make yourself do something|
I couldn't bring myself to look at his body. It was horrible.
|bring up||Raise, care for, nurture; mention, suggest|
We brought six children up in fifty years of marriage.
I don't like to bring the question of pay up, but I think we're going to see the workers on strike if they don't get an immediate raise.
|brush aside||To disregard, ignore or dismiss|
He brushed my suggestion aside immediately. Said it would be too expensive and the company could not afford it.
|brush out||Touch or push gently or lightly|
It's only chalk. You can brush it out when it dries. The dress will be as good as new.
|brush up||To revise or relearn|
I'm going to Germany next week. I'll have to brush my German up before I set off.
|build in||Make something an integral part of something else|
Manufacturers seem to build in obsolescence into their products these days. It seems to be a way of maintaining sales.
|burn down||To cause to be destroyed by fire|
They burnt my house down by pushing a lit firework through the letter box. Thank heavens I was insured.
|buy out||To purchase the share or interest of|
Google bought You Tube out for one point six billion dollars. I don't know what Google intend to do with their new acquisition.
I'm calling the trip off because we don't have enough people to fill the coach.
|call up||Summon together|
The general called his troops up ready for the attack.
|calm down||Make or become quiet and tranquil|
When my daughter used to get upset it took hours to calm her down. Sometimes she would still be crying when her father came home.
|carry off||Take something by force; (of disease) kill|
The thieves carried the chalice off, despite the vicar's protests.
The plague carried thousands of people off, almost halving the population.
|carry on||Continue to do something|
We need to carry the business on. It's what Dad would have wanted. We can't close now, not after sixty three years.
|carry out||To accomplish; put into execution|
I promise to carry the job out as fast as possible. We will be finished by Friday at the latest.
I didn't think he would carry his threat out, but he fired her anyway.
|carry over||To persist to another time or context|
Because I had studied the subject beforehand, I carried my confidence over to the actual job.
|carry through||Accomplish or complete; endure or survive|
Despite the difficulties, we carried the project through to satisfactory completion.
His unwavering enthusiasm carried them through a difficult and dangerous time.
|chat up||Talk to someone to try to establish a romance|
He spent the night chatting her up, only to find out that she was already married.
|cheer up||Make or become less miserable|
Is there nothing we can do to cheer Dad up? It's so sad to see him so miserable all the time since we lost Mum.
|chew over||Consider a question or issue|
It's a big decision. I think we'll have to chew it over for a while before we say yes or no. I need to think about all the points you raised.
|chew up||Cut into pieces with teeth; damage with a machine|
That new puppy's chewed my slippers up. I can't possibly wear them now.
I switched to DVDs when my VHS machine started to chew the tapes up.
|chop back||To cut vegetation away from somewhere|
Chop those bushes back; they're hiding the road signs from drivers. It's getting dangerous.
|chop down||To fell trees with a saw, axe or tool|
They have chopped those beautiful trees down. The square looks so empty now.
|chop up||To reduce to small pieces|
First you need to chop the onion up into pieces. Chop up the carrots, the mushrooms and the garlic and add the wine. Simmer over a low heat for about twenty minutes.
|clean off||Remove a contaminant from something|
Before you start moving the books you need to clean the dust off them. They've been sitting here undisturbed for decades.
|clean out||To take everything from someone or somewhere|
The burglars cleaned my house out. They even took my children's toys!
I should never have gone into the casino. I lost two hundred pounds. Basically they cleaned me out.
|clean up||Clean a place|
I want you to clean your bedroom up now or you won't be watching any television tonight, my girl. It looks like a bomb went off in it.
|clear out||Remove or dispose of unwanted items or people|
I'm going to clear my garage out. There's so much junk in there that I can't get my car in anymore.
|clear up||(Medical) to be cured; tidy a place|
I don't need to go to the doctor now. That ointment you gave me has cleared my rash up.
I'll clear the table up if you do the washing up. It's a bit of a mess.
|close down||Close permanently|
It's a shame they closed that nice bookshop down on the corner. I'll have to find somewhere else to buy my books.
|close up||(business) Stop being open to custom or be in operation|
We spent a lot of money setting up the business, but it was obvious we were never going to make a profit. The only thing I could do was to close the business up and cut our losses.
|count in||Include or involve|
Hey! Count me in! It sounds like a fantastic idea. I'd love to be a part of it.
|count out||Exclude from something|
I'm sorry, but that's the stupidest idea I've ever heard. You can definitely count me out! There's no way I'm getting involved.
|count up||To calculate the total|
"Could you count the money up, Sally? I need to take it to the bank before they close."
|cross out||To mark writing to show that it is incorrect. Often with a line through the text.|
I made a lot of mistakes in that exam. I crossed them out and wrote the correct answers underneath, but I hope it doesn't affect my grade.
I think we should cut production back now that sales have reduced. Once Summer starts we can get back to full production.
|cut down||Reduce consumption; bring something to ground level.|
Cigarettes? I've cut them right down. Only smoke one or two a day now.
The Easter Islanders cut all their trees down to move those huge stone heads. Then they had no fuel.
|cut off||Disconnect; make inaccessible|
I forgot to pay the electricity bill and now they've cut me off. I can't watch TV and the house is freezing.
The tide cuts the island off from the mainland and the only way to visit is by boat.
|cut out||Exclude; remove a picture from a printed page|
I cut fat out from my diet and lost a lot of weight.
Is that a photograph or did you cut the picture out from a magazine?
|cut up||Reduce to smaller pieces; (vehicle) move suddenly into the path of a moving vehicle|
Cut up the bacon into bite-sized pieces then fry gently until cooked.
If you hadn't cut me up at the lights I wouldn't have crashed into the back of your car.
|draw up||Prepare plans in detail|
If the generals had drawn better plans up we might have won the battle.
|drum into||Make someone learn through constant repetition|
I never did learn my times tables, even though they used to drum them into me every morning for hours at a time. I guess I'm just not very good at maths.
|drum out||Expel from an organisation|
They drummed me out of the Army because I refused to fight. Now I'm happy to be a civilian again.
When I was at school we had a bully who used to duff you up in the playground. It was as much as part of going to school as the morning register.
|dust out||Clean something|
I need to dust the wardrobe out. It's filthy.
|eat up||Consume food quickly|
Eat your dinner up before it gets cold.
|figure out||Find the answer to a problem, realise|
It took me a while to figure the problem out, but once I had the answer it took only minutes to put it right.
|fill in||Enrich with detail|
Could you fill the form in, please? Then sign it at the bottom.
I'll fill you in with what I know about him, but remember I've only met him once. Most of what I know I've read in the papers.
|fill up||Place contents into a container to maximum capacity|
We'd better fill the tank up with petrol at the next garage. I don't think we'll have another opportunity and there's a long way to go.
|find out||Discover something|
I'm going to find the truth out if it takes six months, so you might as well tell me now.
I read every book I could to find the details out about his life, but I still know hardly anything.
|fix up||Make an arrangement; repair or refurbish|
Thank you for fixing that meeting up with your boss. He says that I can start working here next week.
I'm going to fix the attic up so that Mum can stay with us. It'll make a nice spare room.
|get across||Make clear or convince|
I knew that we could get our ideas across to him eventually. He's a man who likes new ventures.
|get on||Enter a vehicle; mount a horse or cycle|
The train is leaving! Get on, or you'll miss it.
How did the knights of old get on their horses with all that armour?
|give away||Provide something for free, give|
He gave away to a beggar the diamond ring I had bought him. He was that kind of man - generous yet stupid.
|give back||Return something|
"Give back the book," he said. I gave the book back. End of story.
People are starving to death. We need to give the food out now, before it's too late.
|give up||Surrender; abandon something|
They forced him to give his job up. Now he's unemployed.
He gave his fortune up just to be with the woman he loved. Now that really is love.
|hand down||Transmit in succession|
They handed the money down from father to son for generations.
|hand over||Pass control to someone else|
Spain has been wanting Britain to hand Gibraltar over to them for three hundred years.
|hand in||To submit work for assessment|
I handed my homework in this morning. I hope I get a good grade.
|have on||Keep electronic equipment switched on; possess; deceive|
She has her television on all day.
I don't have any money on me. I'll have to pay you next week. Honestly! I'm not having you on.
|have over||Receive a guest in your house|
Let's have Mum and Dad over for lunch on Sunday. It's Dad's birthday.
|hold back||Keep from doing something|
The film was so sad I had to hold the tears back.
If your dog bites me I'll call the police. I suggest that you hold him back.
|hold off||Stop someone attacking you|
We held the enemy off for three days until the reinforcements finally arrived.
|hold out||Offer something to the front|
I couldn't believe it. I stood there, held my hand out and he shook it. Can you believe it? I actually shook hands with him. I don't think I'll wash my hand again.
|hold up||Delay; rob or steal from someone with threats|
If traffic hadn't held the police up they might have caught the robbers who held the bank up yesterday. The thieves got away with over ten thousand pounds.
|keep away||Keep things separate from each other|
You should keep matches away from children at all times.
Look! She doesn't like you and you don't like her. I've been asked to keep you away from her. Do you understand?
|keep up||Prevent someone going to bed|
My neighbours had a party till five o'clock this morning. They kept me up all night. I even had to call the police, they were so noisy.
|lay down||Give up something; establish a rule or law|
I think they say, "No greater love has a man than that he should lay his life down for his brother."
Don't you going laying the law down here, young man. You're not the police!
|leave in||Not taken or allowed out of something or somewhere|
I think we should leave the cat in the house tonight. She's scared of fireworks.
You must have left the key in the lock when we left the house. I hope nobody has seen it.
|leave on||Not switch something off|
Leave the computer on. We'll be using it again this afternoon. It'll go into power saving mode after ten minutes anyway.
|leave out||Not include someone in something|
I was never any good at football at school and they always left me out of the team.
|let down||Disappoint; make clothes longer|
I told you I wouldn't let you down. I know how important this day is to you, so I'll lend you this designer dress. You're a little taller than me so we'll have to let the hem down a bit, but I'm sure you'll look divine.
|let in||Allow entry|
I told the doorman that this was a private party but he still let half the town in.
|let off||Not punish|
The judge let her off because of her age. He said that at ninety-seven prison would serve no purpose.
|let out||Allow to leave; make clothes bigger|
I had to sit through the whole concert because the doorman wouldn't let me out.
I've put on a stone in the past six months. None of my clothes fit me, and I've had to let my suit out twice so I can wear it to the wedding.
|light up||Begin smoking; illuminate something|
He lit a cigarette up next to the dynamite. No wonder he blew himself to pieces.
They light the palace up when it gets dark. It looks quite spectacular at night with all the floodlights on.
|live down||Cease being embarrassed|
I can't believe I spilled red wine down the cardinal's surplice. I'll never live it down, and he won't let me, you can be sure of that.
|mess around||Play with something carelessly|
I was messing around with the computer and I think I deleted some important files. Now I can't get it to work.
|mess up||Mishandle a situation|
Everything was arranged. All you had to do was shake a few hands, but you messed it all up completely by trying to be cleverer than you are.
|mull over||Think about something|
He said he would have to mull the problem over and tell us his decision in the morning.
|pass around||Give something to everyone present|
Could you pass this leaflet around at your next meeting? I'm sure your delegates will be interested.
|pass up||Decline an opportunity|
I don't believe that you passed the chance up to go out with her. Most men would give their right arm just to speak to her.
|pass on||Give a message to someone|
Could you pass the message on to him when you speak to him? Tell him it's very important.
|pay back||Repay money; get revenge|
He said he would pay the money back by last Friday. Well, he hasn't and now it's the time to pay him back for ignoring our little agreement. We need to send out the message that nobody cheats on us.
|pay off||Settle a debt|
We've just paid our mortgage off after twenty years. Now the house is ours.
|pick up||Gather together; (vehicle) take passengers|
Look at the mess in here! Pick all the pieces up and put them back in the box.
I'll pick you both up at half-past from outside the bus station. I'll be driving a red Ford Focus.
|play down||Make something seem less important|
We should play the importance of this accident down. If the press realise the true significance we'll be in real trouble.
|point out||Make people aware of something|
The ice shelf is melting faster than we anticipated. I think I pointed this fact out to you at our last meeting.
We're going to pull these old buildings down to make way for the new houses.
|pull together||Act in a more reasonable manner|
You had better pull yourself together before the interview, or they'll think you're crazy and you'll never get the job.
|put back||Return something to its place|
Put the books back on the shelf and leave the library, we're closing.
|put in||Install or add to|
Put some money in the box and you can make a wish.
I'm having a new washing machine put in next week.
We need to put the invasion off until the weather improves. I think we should be able to begin in two days.
|put on||Increase in weight|
He's put about twenty kilos on since the last time I saw him. It's all muscle. He looks like the Terminator!
|put up||Accommodate in your house; increase payments|
Are you sure you can put me up for the week? I'll have my own place again by Friday.
Great! They're going to put the council tax up again. Another fifty quid a year to find!
|quiet down||Become silent|
You'll have to quiet that baby down or they'll hear us. It's making far too much noise. Can't you feed it or something?
|rake up||Bring back to the public's attention|
Every year the press seems to rake that nonsense up about the accident. Why can't they just forget about it?
|ring back||Return a call by telephone|
Florence rang. She seemed upset. Why don't you ring her back and find out what the matter is?
|ring up||Telephone someone|
I thought I told you not to ring me up at home? What if my wife answered it?
|rinse off||Cleanse with water|
Quickly! Rinse that wine off your shirt before it stains.
|rinse out||Cleanse with liquid|
That's the filling done, Mr Jackson. Now, rinse your mouth out with this antiseptic.
I can't rule the chance out that the police may want to speak to you again. If they do want to, give me a call and I'll go to the police station with you.
|run down||Hit a pedestrian with a vehicle; cause exhaustion|
He ran an old lady down and didn't even stop to see how badly she was hurt. She's in hospital with a broken hip.
I hate hare coursing. The way the dogs run the hare down and then kill it when it's exhausted.
|run off||Make copies of|
I asked the printer to run a thousand copies off. That's enough for every member of staff to have their own copy of the magazine.
|save up||Accumulate things, especially money|
If you want a new cycle you'll have to save your pocket money up instead of wasting it on sweets and comics.
I saved all the comics up and sold them to buy a new bike.
|see through||Continue with something to finality|
I started the journey and was determined to see it through to the end, no matter how difficult it was.
|see off||Chase away; say goodbye to travellers|
That bloody cat from next door is always digging up the garden. I'm going to buy a dog to see it off.
They left on the eight o'clock flight. We went to the station to see them off.
|send back||Return something|
I don't like the colour of the curtains. I'm going to send them back to the shop to get a refund.
|send over||Despatch something somewhere|
I'd be interested in reading the report. Why don't you send it over with the courier?
That storm set us back by at least a day. It'll be a miracle if we can complete the crossing to New York in time for the celebrations.
|set down||Write something as a record|
I'll set down the rules of the house on this paper so there can be no argument later about what you can or can not do.
|set up||Prepare equipment; start a company|
I set the computer network up myself. I couldn't afford a technician because I had just set the business up and money was tight.
|show off||Display with pride; enhance the qualities of|
She loves to show her piano skill off to anyone who shows an interest.
That new dress really shows your hair off to best advantage, Julia. You look gorgeous!
|shut off||Close, prevent access, stop the flow of|
The police have shut Church Street off after an accident.
Before you take the cover off you must shut the electricity off. Otherwise you'll be electrocuted.
|slag off||Be very critical of|
You can slag me off as much as you want, but I know you're only jealous because I'm the one marrying him, not you!
|slow up||Lessen the progress of something|
That burst water pipe will slow the building work up considerably. We'll have to pump the water out before the workers can get back to work.
|spell out||Explain in great detail|
She's the slowest student I ever had. If I don't spell everything out for her she just doesn't understand.
|stand up||Fail to attend an arranged meeting or date|
She was so upset when he stood her up at the cinema last night. She had to see the film on her own.
|stare down||Look intensely at someone with ill feeling|
She tried to stare me down but I just ignored her. So what if she used to be his girlfriend, I'm his wife now.
|start off||Begin something|
I'll start off the meeting by telling the members how much money has been spent in the past year on stationary alone.
|sweep out||Clean using a brush|
We need to sweep all that dirt out of the stables before we put the fresh straw in.
|take back||Induce nostalgia; retract a statement, admit an error|
That smell takes me back to when I was a little boy. It reminds me of my grandmother's house.
You'd better take that statement back or you'll be hearing from my lawyers. It's a damn lie!
|take down||Write notes; remove something; stop an opponent|
The policeman took everything down that I said in his notebook.
You shouldn't take your Christmas decorations down until the twelfth night. It's bad luck.
Carlisle's defence brought the United striker down unfairly. The referee declared a penalty.
|take in||Comprehend; deceive; make clothes smaller|
I was thinking of something else and didn't take much of what was said in, I'm afraid.
She took me in with her story until I found out she had lied all along.
I lost too much weight and they had to take my dress in before the wedding.
|take over||Assume control of a company of organisation|
Mr Nelson's company will take our company over on the first of April. From then on Mr Nelson will be in charge and you should direct further questions to him.
They tore my house down while I was on holiday. Apparently a lorry crashed into the front and it would have fallen down anyway.
|tear up||Rip into pieces; destroy|
You might as well tear that contract up for what it's worth. They've gone out of business and can't honour it.
They've torn the pavement up to make way for a new cycle path.
|tell apart||Distinguish between two things|
My husband is a twin. Sometimes it's difficult to tell him apart from his brother because they are both so alike.
|tell off||Talk angrily to someone for something they did|
My father told me off for coming home late last night, and now I can't go out for the rest of the week.
|think over||Consider something|
I don't know if I approve of your plans for the café. I'll have to think it over for a while and consider the consequences of such dramatic changes.
|think through||Consider all possibilities|
I think the business failed because we hadn't thought all the problems through before we started.
|think up||Create or invent|
Flight! Whoever thought that up must have been either crazy or a genius.
|throw away||Discard without consideration|
There are people out there who want to use you and then just throw you away when they have finished with you
|throw over||Cover with something|
They came racing up the stairs with a bucket of sand, ready to throw it over what we assumed was an incendiary bomb.
|tie up||Secure something with cord, string, rope etc.|
White attacked the couple, tied them up and forced him and Sheila Stroud to drive to the beach.
|tire out||Drain the energy from, exhaust|
All you end up doing is millions of conferences that just tire you out and exhaust you.
|touch up||Improve the appearance of; touch sexually|
I'm too lazy to paint the whole room so I just touched the bits up that were very dirty or worn.
Dirty sod tried to touch me up in the lift. Put his hand under my skirt. I didn't half slap him on the face, I can tell you. He won't try that again in a hurry.
|try on||Wear clothes to check the fit|
I tried the jacket and the trousers on before I bought them. They were a perfect fit.
|try out||Test something|
I'd like to try the car out before I buy it. Do you have one I could borrow for the day?
The good thing about the computer program is you can try it out before you buy it.
|turn down||Reduce in intensity; reject an offer|
Turn the fire down. It's very hot in here.
Thanks for the invitation, but I'm afraid I'm going to have to turn it down. I've already agreed to go to Mary's party.
|turn on||Attract or give pleasure; start a machine or device|
She really knows how to turn me on! I just can't get enough of her.
Turn the lights on! It's very dark in here.
|turn out||Produce something; extinguish a light source|
My factory can turn thirty thousand clips out an hour. That's much faster than an army could do it by hand.
Quick! Turn the lights out! There's a cop coming and he'll see us.
|wake up||To cause someone to emerge from a state of sleep|
I've tried to wake him up, but he won't stir. I think he might be dead.
|wash away||Removal of a structure by the action of water|
That was a very high tide last night. It's completely washed my front wall away.
|wash down||Have a drink to help swallow something|
Here, have a drink of water to help wash those tablets down.
|wash off||Remove contaminant with water|
That's paint stripper! You'd better wash it off your car roof or you'll have no paint left. Use plenty of water.
|wash out||Ruin of an event due to rain|
The rain washed the festival out this year. It's a shame. So many people put in so much work to make it happen. Perhaps it'll be better weather next year.
|wear away||Remove gradually, erode|
The action of the waves over millennia has worn the cliffs away leaving strange columns of limestone standing in the water.
|wear down||Weaken; reduce through use|
My job has begun to wear me down. It's so stressful. I think I have to get another one soon.
Fifty thousand miles and I've worn two sets of tyres down on my car. Now I have to replace them for the third time this year.
|wear out||Use something to destruction|
I only ever buy one pair of shoes. A good pair that will last a long time. Then I wear them until I wear them out. Then I buy another pair.
|wind down||Slowly close a company|
At least we had plenty of warning of the closure. No one buys cathode ray tubes anymore so we've been winding production down for the past six months. With TFT screens becoming more popular it was inevitable that we should close the company.
|wind up||Irritate; close and unprofitable company; tighten|
It really winds me up that the management didn't pre-warn us that they were winding the company up.
Twice a day I have to wind every clock up in the house or they stop working. Twelve clocks is eleven too many.
|wipe off||Remove contaminants using a cloth or similar|
Waitress! Can you wipe the crumbs off this table? We'd like to eat.
|wipe out||Kill an entire population|
If a big meteorite or an asteroid hit the Earth they think that it would completely wipe humans out, just like the dinosaurs.
|work off||Physical action to lose weight or change mood|
Lose weight! Work those pounds off in the gym.
Japanese factories have a stress room where employees can work their frustrations off by hitting life-size dummies resembling their bosses.
|work out||Find a solution to a problem|
They had some big difficulties in the first years of their marriage but they worked them out. They're still married after forty years.
Work the answer out for yourself. Just read the instructions.
|write down||Make notes|
She wrote her phone number down on a card and handed it to me. It was one card I was not about to lose.
|write off||Destroy something in an accident|
"How is your car now? It was a bad accident."
"They say I've written it off. I hope the insurance pays out soon because I really need a new one."
|write out||Write something entirely|
I normally have to write my notes out completely if I'm to remember anything at all about the lessons. It takes a long time, but I get much better exam results.
|write up||Make a complete written account|
I wrote the report up and submitted it to the prosecutor. Now they knew as much about the incident as I did.