Archive for phrasal verbs

phrasal verb: feel up to


Today, I’d like to go back to phrasal verbs, and this time I want to write about “feel up to” doing something. We use it when we want to talk about having enough energy to do something. Here are some example sentences using it.

A: Would you like to have dinner tonight?

B: I’d like to, but I’m so tired and I’m not feeling up to it.

Karen just got out of the hospital, so I doubt she’ll be feeling up to going skiing this weekend.

I know you worked all day, but are you feeling up to helping me with my computer tonight?

If you’re feeling up to it, why don’t we go dancing tonight?

Usually if a person is not feeling up to doing something it’s because they are sick or very tired. It could also be because of some situation that has caused them to be emotionally upset.

It is possible to use this expression in positive sentences, but it’s more commonly used in questions and negative sentences.

Please note that if there is a verb that follows “to”, it must be in the –ing form.

intransitive phrasal verb: nod off

Today, I’d like to teach the phrasal verb “nod off”. This is used when we want to talk about a person who falls asleep while they’re doing something. For example:

My brother got into a car accident because he nodded off while he was driving.

I nodded off in the theater, so I missed the end of the movie.

The meeting was so boring that I kept nodding off while the boss was speaking.

This phrasal verb is intransitive which means that it doesn’t take an object in the sentence.

phrasal verb: go around

This week, I’d like to teach you another phrasal verb. This time it’s the expression “go around”. In English, this has three different meanings:

1. for an illness to be passed from person to person (usually a cold or the flu). For example:

I caught a bad cold on Sunday. You’d better be careful. It’s going around these days.

A bad case of the flu is going around right now, so I’m worried that I’ll catch it.

2. for something to be circulated (often a rumor). For example:

There’s a rumor going around that you and Peter are dating. Is it true?

You shouldn’t believe every rumor that goes around this office. Most of them aren’t true.

3. to have enough of something for everyone in a group. For example:

There aren’t enough test paper to go around, so we’ll have to photocopy some more.

I don’t think there’s enough cake to go around. I should have bought a bigger one.

separable phrasal verb: put out


Today, I’d like to go over the phrasal verb “put out”. It has several meanings in English, so I’ll go over them for you now:

1. to extinguish something (usually a fire or a cigarette). For example:

Please put out the campfire before you go to bed. We don’t want to cause a forest fire.

The campfire has to be put out before you go to bed. (passive voice)

I told the man that his cigarette was bothering me, but he refused to put it out.

2. to publish something (usually a magazine or newspaper). For example:

This publisher is putting out a brand new magazine for women. They think it will be very popular.

A brand new magazine for women is being put out by this publisher. (passive voice)

The billionaire puts out several newspapers all over the country.

3. to cause an inconvenience for someone. For example:

My colleague was late for our appointment, so he really put me out.

My co-worker forgot to bring the materials for the presentation, so she put out the whole group.

4. to annoy someone. For example:

My girlfriend really put me out when she told me she didn’t like the present I gave her.

I was really put out when my girlfriend said she didn’t like the present I gave her. (passive voice)

It really puts me out when I hear people making racist comments!

5. to place something outside (often a pet). For example:

It’s time to go to bed. Can you put the cat out for the night?

The cat needs to be put out for the night. (passive voice)

Tonight we won’t put the dog out because it’s too cold.

6. to make an effort to do something (used with “an effort”). For example:

I notice that you’ve really been putting out an effort to improve sales. I appreciate your hard work.

My son has really been putting out an effort to improve his grades at school. I’m really proud of him!

The first five meanings are separable, but the last meaning is inseparable. With the meanings which are separable, please pay attention to what type of noun or pronoun is used. Some of the meanings talk about things and some of them talk about people.

inseparable phrasal verb: stand for

This week’s phrasal verb is “stand for”, and it has three different meanings:

1. for some initials to represent words. For example:

A: What does ASAP stand for?

B: It stands for as soon as possible.

My friend told me UFO stands for unidentified flying object.

2. to believe in and represent a certain ideal way of living. For example:

I believe that our prime minister stands for family values.

That company refuses to use cheap labor in poor countries. They really stand for honesty and integrity!

3. to tolerate something. For example:

My mother won’t stand for any swearing in her house. One time I said a bad word and she washed my mouth out with soap!

You’d better be on time for work. Our boss won’t stand for anyone arriving late.

The third way of using “stand for” is always used in negative sentences and usually with the word “won’t”.

inseparable phrasal verb: lay into

This week’s phrasal verb is “lay into”, and we use it when we want to talk about one person scolding another person in a serious way. To scold someone means to criticize someone’s behavior directly to that person. Here are some example sentences for “lay into”:

My mom is always laying into my dad about not spending enough time with her.

My father really laid into me after he caught me smoking and drinking. He told me he was really ashamed of my behavior.

I can’t be late for work again! If I’m even two minutes late, my boss will really lay into me about it.

Nobody in our class did the assignment, so our teacher laid into us about the importance of completing our homework.

So, with this phrasal verb, we always put a person after the word “into”, and then if we want to talk about the topic of what the person was saying, we use “about” followed by the topic.

In my second example, the person whose father laid into him about smoking and drinking is a teenager because a adult would probably not be criticized for smoking and drinking by his father.

phrasal verb: get at

For this week’s phrasal verb, I’ve chosen another one that I wrote about in my book, Mike’s Phrasal Verbs. This one is “get at”, and it has three meanings:

1. for someone to say something indirectly when they’re speaking. For example:

A: Maybe it’s time for you to change your job.

B: What are you getting at? Are you firing me?

I see you don’t understand what I’m saying. What I’m trying to get at is that this project won’t be easy.

2. to reach something. For example:

I can’t get at the cookies. They’re on the top shelf, and I’m not tall enough.

If you can’t get at the books at the top, you can stand on this chair.

3. to have access to someone or something (usually for a negative purpose). For example:

The assassin tried to get at the president of the company, but his bodyguards protected him.

How are we going to get at the bank’s vault? The security system is so sophisticated.

This last example would be spoken by a person who’s trying to rob a bank. I’m sure none of you would have to use “get at” for negative reasons, but this is the kind of language we often hear in TV shows and movies, so it is important to know it. You can use it if you’re telling someone what happened in a particular story.

separable phrasal verb: creep out


This week’s phrasal verb is “creep out”, and it is used when we want to talk about a person or a place which makes us feel uncomfortable and a little scared. For example:

I don’t like the new guy in the office. His behavior is very strange, and he really creeps me out!

A: Why don’t you like Gary?

B: Because he’s always staring at the girls in the office, and it’s creeping everyone out!

Everyone say the Foster’s house is haunted. I don’t believe in ghosts but, I have to admit, that house creeps me out!

We don’t want to walk through the cemetery. That place really creeps us out!

So, as you can see from the examples, we always use this expression with a person like “me”, “everyone”, “the girls”, etc. If you don’t know the word “stare”, as in my second example, it means to look at someone for a long time. The picture I’ve selected today is an example of that.

separable phrasal verb: hear out

This week’s phrasal verb is “hear out”, and it is used when we want to talk about being willing to listen to someone give a reason, idea or excuse about something. For example:

A: I don’t want to hear any more of your stupid ideas to get rich!

B: Wait. Just hear me out. This one is a really good idea.

I know you’re angry at Brett for missing your birthday party, but he has a good excuse, so please just hear him out.

I have a very good reason for coming late to the meeting. I hope you’ll hear me out.

Peter says he has a good idea to help the company make more money. I’ll hear him out, but I doubt that I’ll like the idea.

We often use this expression in the imperative tense, which means that we’re telling someone directly to do something. The first two sentences are examples of this. Please note that when we use the imperative tense, we DON’T use the word “you”. Therefore, we say, “Hear me out.”, but we don’t say, “You hear me out.”. However, in the third sentence I put “I hope” in front of it followed by the future tense with “will”. In that case, we can use the word “you”.

inseparable/intransitive phrasal verb: drop by

drop by

Today’s phrasal verb is “drop by”, and it is used when someone wants to talk about going to a place without making firm arrangements before. For example:

I think I’ll drop by the grocery store after work and buy a steak for dinner.

Is it ok if we drop by Sharon’s house? I want to return the CD I borrowed from her.

A sales representative from ABC Company dropped by our office today, but I told him we weren’t interested in their product.

I’m really glad you dropped by today because I wanted to ask you a question.

If you need to borrow anything, just drop by anytime. You don’t need to call me beforehand.

It was so good to see you today. Please feel free to drop by anytime!

So, the first three examples are inseparable with an indirect object (the grocery store, Sharon’s house, our office), and the last three example are intransitive. This means that there is no object after “drop by”. If we use “drop by” in this way, it means that we are currently at the place which the other person came to. These places are usually our homes or workplaces.

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