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26 Commonly Used Phrasal Verbs A-Z.

Updated: Nov 9, 2020

Here are 26 phrasal verbs that are commonly used in spoken American English:

1. Act up: to behave badly, misbehave, to not function properly (engine).

Examples: One of my students was acting up today. I need to talk to her parents.

My car’s engine is acting up. I need to go to a mechanic.

2. Break down:

  • to stop functioning or working.

Example: I think my car will break down soon; the engine is acting up.

  • to analyze information to order to make it easier to understand or manage.

Example: This sentence is difficult to understand. Can you break it down please

  • to lose control of your emotions when in a state of distress.

Example: I broke down in tears when I heard of the passing of my aunt.

3. Call off: to cancel an event or meeting.

Example: They had to call off the wedding because of Covid-19.

4. Catch up: to get to the same point as another person or the level or point you are supposed to be (in work, school, etc.).

Ex. I had a great 2 week vacation, but it’s going to take me forever to catch up at work.

Can you guys slow down? I can’t catch up with you guys if you keep running that fast!

5. Drop off: to leave someone or something at a specific location.

Examples: Can you drop me off at the corner, please?

They dropped off the package at my neighbor’s door.

6. End up: to reach or come to a place, condition, or situation that was not planned or expected.


- He didn’t want to end up like his father.

- She ended up a rich woman.

- He kept getting into trouble until he ended up in jail.

7. Fit in: to try to be accepted by a group of people or seen as “one of them.”

Example: After they moved to California, Paula had trouble fitting in with the new students in the new school.

8. Get by: to manage to do something with great difficulty.

Example: He had just enough money to get by when he started his business.

9. Go over (something) review something (a document, file, etc.)

Example: Can you over the files that I sent you? I want to make sure everything is correct and there are no mistakes before I finalize the contract.

10. Get along: To have a friendly relationship with someone.

Example: I get along pretty well with my neighbor.

She doesn’t get along with her mother-in-law.

11. Hold on:

  • to hold something tightly and carefully so that you don't drop it or do not fall.

Example: hold on tight: Hold on tight everyone, the boat’s getting ready to go.

  • to endure or keep going in difficult circumstances.

Example: We have to hold on and keep moving forward.

12. Identify with (something/someone)

  • to think of (something) as being the same as (something else).

Example: It is a mistake to identify being healthy with being thin.

  • to think of (someone) as being very closely associated with (something).

Example: She has always been identified with the civil rights movement.

  • to feel that you are similar to someone and can understand them or their situation.

Example: Readers can identify with the hero of the novel.

13. Jack up: to increase the price or the cost of something by a large amount.

Example: The jacked up the price of toilet paper and hand sanitizers.

14. Keep up: to move or progress at the same rate as someone or something else.

Example: Technology is advancing very fast; I can’t keep up with it.

15. Lay off: to discharge a worker temporarily or permanently because of a shortage of work.


- Two major airlines had to lay off over 35,000 employees last month due to Covid-19.

- I got laid off from my job due to the pandemic.

16. Move out: to leave your or someone’s place of residence and go somewhere else.


- Many American teenagers move out of their parents’ house after eighteen.

- Her roommates were toxic; therefore, she had to move out.

17. Name after: If you name somebody after someone/something else, you give them the same name. Example: When Bill and Jenny named their son after the revolutionary fighter Che Guevara, their parents thought they were crazy. But now they like the name "Che".

18. Open up: If you open up to somebody, you share your feelings with them. If the president opens up the border, it becomes easier for other people to travel to the country.

Example: They need to open up the economy; millions of people are losing their jobs!

19. Put off: to postpone something until a later time.

Example: They’re thinking about putting off the wedding.

19. Rip off: to cheat someone, especially by charging them too much money for something.

Example: Sometimes tourists worry about getting ripped off while traveling to a new country.

Show up: to arrive or turn up for an appointment, event or gathering.

Example: Oh wow! You guys showed up early! That never happens.

20. Turn down: to reject something offered or proposed (a contract, a deal, job offer, etc.).


- After carefully thinking about it, he decided to turn down the offer for the head of sales position.

- Before he became a best-selling author, he got turned down by many publishers.

21. Take off: to remove clothing, or to leave for a journey (e.g. planes take off when they begin their flights).

Example: She was very happy when she finally got home and took off her shoes. They had been hurting her feet all day!

22. Use up: If you use up something, you use all of it and have none left over.

Example: You used up all the milk last night. We have no milk left for breakfast.

25. Work out:

  • to have a good or specified result (to be successful).

Example: I really hope your business plan will work out!

  • to plan or devise something in detail.

Example: They had to work out a plan for the soccer tournament indoors on rainy days.

26. Zone out: to lose concentration or consciousness, usually for a brief moment.

Example: I just zoned out for a second; sorry! Who called you on the phone today?

Write an example in the comments below.

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