intransitive phrasal verb: catch on


Previously I discussed intransitive phrasal verbs. Just as a review, let me explain one more time. If a verb or phrasal verb is intransitive, it means that it does NOT take an object. So, today I’d like to write about the intransitive phrasal verb: catch on. It has two meanings:

1. to start to understand something. For example:

My girlfriend doesn’t want to tell her parents that we’re dating, but I think they’re starting to catch on.

A: I don’t understand how to play this game.

B: Don’t worry. Just watch us play, and I’m sure you’ll catch on.

In the first example, the parents are becoming suspicious that their daughter is dating the speaker. In the second example, the person is saying that if the listener watches them play the game, he or she will start to understand how to do it. This phrasal verb is often used when teaching someone how to do something.

2. for something to start to become popular. For example:

That TV show wasn’t popular at all when it started, but after a few weeks, it really caught on. Now everyone is watching it.

I know our products aren’t popular now, but I think they’ll catch on eventually. If they do, we’ll be very rich.

In the first example, the TV show started becoming popular after a period of being unpopular. In the second example, the products are still unpopular, but the person is predicting that after some time, they will become popular. The word “eventually” means after an unstated or unknown amount of time.

I hope that this is clear for you. If you don’t understand after reading the blog once, read it again and I’m sure you’ll catch on! 🙂


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