Literal phrasal verbs

Some of the most common phrasal verbs have an obvious meaning (a literal meaning) which you can guess from the two parts. You should understand these examples if you know each individual word:

I ran out of the room.

I put my keys in my bag. Then I took them out again.

You could argue that these shouldn't be called phrasal verbs - they are simply a verb with a place or direction.

Idiomatic phrasal verbs

Phrasal verbs also have idiomatic meanings - meanings that are less obvious or impossible to guess from the individual words (but you might be able to guess from the context). Can you guess what these mean?

Oh no! We've run out of milk.

My boss expects me to put in 10 hours a day.

It's important to take out holiday insurance before you travel.

Practice 1: learn the meanings (literal or idiomatic)

Click on the flashcard to see the definition. If it's easy, remove it from the flashcards. If it's hard, click needs more practice and you can try it again.


Example / definition:




Practice 2: remember the phrasal verbs

How many phrasal verbs can you remember from the examples? Click on the question to see the answer. If it was easy, you can remove it from the set of cards, otherwise click needs more practice to save it and see the next one. Keep going until there are no questions left.





You'll probably remember these better if you have a break now or study something different. Come back tomorrow and try the next set of flashcard questions for these phrasal verbs.

Practice 3: test yourself - same verbs, new questions

Now test your understanding with these examples. What's the best phrasal verb to complete these sentences?





Here is a summary of the verbs studied in this lesson. **Note sb = somebody, sth = something.


He put too much milk in my coffee.
(place sth inside another)

I'm having a new dishwasher put in this weekend.
(put sth in = install sth, fix it in place)

My boss expects me to put in at least 10 hours a day!
(put sth in(to) = spend time/money/effort doing something)

 He opened the envelope and took out the letter.
(remove sth/sb from somewhere)

You should take him out to the new Chinese restaurant.
(take sb out = invite sb to go somewhere socially with you)

I had to take out a loan to pay for my new car.
(take sth out = obtain an official financial service, usually insurance or a loan)

 She stood at the window and looked out at the garden.
(look outside)

Look out! The lion has escaped!
(look out = warning: be careful!)

I always look out for my younger sister.
(look out for sb = think about sb and do things to make sure they are well)

The professor held up the picture so everyone could see it.
(hold something in a higher position)

These are really old shoes, but they're holding up quite well.
(hold up = remain strong or in quite good condition, after time)

We were held up by heavy traffic.
(hold sth/sb up = delay sth/sb)

 He heard a noise and looked back at the house, but there was no one there.
(look at sth/sb again)

Looking back on those days, we had a very happy life.
(look back =  think about something in the past)

They had a big fight and he ran out of the room.
(leave suddenly or quickly)

Oh no! We've run out of chocolate!
(run out (of sth) = use sth completely so that nothing is left.


 *These phrasal verbs and questions are adapted from the PHaVE list, from research by Garnier, M. & Schmitt, N. (2014). The PHaVE List: A pedagogical list of phrasal verbs and their most frequent meaning senses. Language Teaching Research, 19(6), 645–666. DOI: 10.1177/1362168814559798