inseparable phrasal verb: pick on

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Today’s phrasal verb is “pick on”, and it is used when we want to talk about one person bullying or teasing another person. For example:

When I was in junior high school, the other kids picked on me a lot. It was terrible.

I got picked on a lot when I was in junior high school. (passive voice)

A bully is picking on my son at his school! I’m so angry about it!

We shouldn’t tease Jenny about her new boyfriend. She hates it when we pick on her like that.

A: Look at Bob’s haircut! He looks so silly!

B: Stop picking on him! I don’t think his hair looks so bad.

If we use “pick on” to mean “bully”, as in the first three examples, it’s very serious. To bully someone means to physically or emotionally cause harm to another person. It is a very serious problem for many children and teenagers. However, if we use “pick on” to mean tease, as in the last two examples, it’s less serious than bullying; it’s usually meant as a joke.

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