Separable, inseparable, transitive (add object)

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Phrasal Verbs Resource

Many English verbs consist of two parts: a base verb and a preposition or an adverb particle. When the verb is used with the adverb particle, the combination is called a phrasal verb. There are a very large number of these in English, and the particle that follows the verb changes the meaning of the phrasal verb in idiomatic ways.

The meaning of the phrasal verbs is often very different from the meanings of the two words taken separately. In order to understand the meaning of a phrasal verb, you may have to refer to the dictionary.

At the same time, some particles can be separated from the verb so that a noun and pronoun can be inserted, whereas other particles cannot be separated from the verb; in addition, still others can be used in a separated form or as a unit. Moreover, phrasal verbs can be intransitive -- not followed by a direct object – or transitive – followed by a direct object. Therefore, phrasal verbs can be separable, inseparable, transitive (add object) or intransitive (no object).

Here is an alphabetical list of frequently used phrasal verbs with definitions and examples. In cases where the phrasal verb can be either separated or used as a single unit, examples are given of both forms.


add on

(separable) – to increase

We added on another floor to our house. (We added it on to our house.)

add up

(intransitive – no object) – to result in

Your story just doesn’t add up. I think you are not telling the truth.

add up to

(inseparable) – to total

The bills often add up to more money than she earns.

ask for

(inseparable) – to deserve a negative consequence

Why are you asking for trouble?

ask out

(separable) – to ask for a date

Joe asked Mary out last night, and they went to see a movie.

back away

(intransitive – no object) – to retreat

When Jim saw the dog, he backed away because he got scared.

back off

(intransitive - no object) – to abandon

The bank robber backed off when he noticed two police cars parked in front of the bank.

back up (1)

(separable) – to reverse

When he backed the car up in the driveway, he almost struck the cat.

back up (2)

(separable) – to support

My sister always backs me up when I have problems.

back up (3)

(separable) – to confirm

My brother will back me up if you don’t believe what I told you.

back up (4)

(separable) – to make copies of computer files

You should back your data up at least once a week if you don’t want to risk losing any information.

bail out (1)

(intransitive -- no object) – to quit

John bailed out of the competition when he found out that Sam was also competing.


bail out (2)

(separable) – to rescue

When you lent me some money last month, you bailed me out of a difficult situation.

bash in

(separable) – to break

Someone bashed in the side window of my car. (Someone bashed it in.)

beat up

(separable) – to hurt someone

He has a black eye; someone must have beaten him up last night.

black out

(intransitive - no object) – to lose consciousness

Jack hasn’t eaten anything for three days so he finally blacked out.

blend in

(intransitive - no object) – to match

When you move to a new neighborhood, you’ll blend in after awhile.

blow up (1)

(separable) – to inflate

Please blow up only the red balloons for Sally’s birthday party. (Can you blow them up?)

blow up (2)

(separable) – to explode

The contractors will blow up the old hotel tomorrow so they can build a new townhouse complex. (They will blow it up.)

blow up (3)

(intransitive - no object) – to become angry

He blew up when the opposing team won the game in the last minute of overtime.

boss around

(separable) – to order people what to do

The new supervisor likes to boss around the employees. (He likes to boss them around.)

break down (1)

(separable) – to separate into parts

He did not understand the sentence, so Mary broke it down into separate words, translating each separately.

break down (2)

(intransitive - no object) – to stop functioning

When his computer breaks down, Peter can always fix it.


break down (3)

(intransitive - no object) – to lose control

Chrissie broke down in tears when she failed the exam.

break in (1)

(intransitive - no object) – to enter by using force

The thief broke in the apartment while the family was away on holidays.

break in (2)

(separable) – to wear something until it is comfortable

When I buy new shoes, first, I need to break them in, in order not to hurt myself.

break up

(inseparable) – to scatter

Last night, the gathering broke up around midnight.

break up (with)

(inseparable) – to end a relationship

Lisa broke up with Jack when she met Joe.

bring down

(separable) – to cause to fail

Julia is very jealous of Jill’s success, so Julia would do anything to bring Jill down.

bring forth

(inseparable) – to produce

Your thoughtful remark will bring forth lots of discussion during the meeting later today.

bring in

(separable) – to earn money

Claudia has a very stressful job, but she brings more money in than her brother.

bring on

(separable) – to cause to start

When you bring the music on, the show will start.

bring up (1)

(separable) – to mention

Sara never brings Eric’s past up when they visit her grandparents.

bring up (2)

(separable) – to raise to maturity

Sandra’s husband brought the children up alone after his wife died in a car accident.


brush up on

(intransitive - no object) – to practice

I’ll need to brush up on my Spanish when I move to Mexico.

burn down

(inseparable) – to destroy by fire

Sasha’s hometown in Central Europe burned down several times during the Middle Ages.

burn up

(separable) – to cause anger

The insurance agent burned Sam up when the agent did not want to discuss Sam’s options.

Sam got burned up when the insurance agent didn’t want to discuss options for car insurance.



butt in

(intransitive - no object) – to interrupt

You should not butt in unless you are invited to join the group.

butter up

(separable) – to flatter

Billy has been buttering Jenny up all week hoping to get a pay raise at the end of the month.

call on

(inseparable) – to ask

Cynthia always calls on you when she needs help; she trusts you.

call off

(separable) – to cancel

There is nothing worse than calling a wedding off in the last moment.

call up

(separable) – to telephone

Can I call you up later today and chat about your latest trip?

calm down

(inseparable) – to relax

Kendra was very nervous but calmed down once she passed the driving test.

care for (1)

(inseparable) – to want

Do you care for coffee or tea after lunch?

care for (2)

(inseparable) – to take care of

Maggie cared for her ill grandmother for more than three years before Maggie’s sister took over.

carry on

(intransitive - no object) – to continue

Carry on,” the teacher said when she entered the classroom, and the students continued checking their homework.


catch on (1)

(intransitive - no object) – to become popular

Being bald and wearing tattoos have caught on fairly quickly in many countries.

catch on (2)

(intransitive - no object) – to learn

Children catch on very quickly when they learn languages.

catch up (with)

(inseparable) – to follow/reach

“You can go ahead,” insisted Andrea. “I’ll catch up with you later.”

check in

(inseparable) – to register at a hotel or inn

I can check in later. The hotel desk is open until 9PM. .

check out (of)

(inseparable) – to leave a hotel or inn

We will need to check out of the hotel before noon, so we will still have time to go for a swim.

cheer on

(separable) – to support

Hockey fans always cheer their teams on loudly on sports nights.

cheer up

(separable) – to help someone feel better

When Lily is depressed, her brother cheers her up with jokes and cartoons.

chicken out

(intransitive - no object) – to give up

Vivian chickened out in the last moment when Sam asked her to go bungee jumping.

chip in

(inseparable) – to contribute

When we celebrate a birthday in the office, everyone chips in at least $5.

clean up

(separable) – to tidy up

Students should always clean up after themselves at the end of the class. (Can you clean it up?)

come across

(inseparable) – to find

I came across a very rare 16th century book while browsing the bookstores in old Berlin.


come along (1)

(intransitive - no object) – to progress

How is your new project coming along?

come along (2)

(intransitive - no object) – to appear

When Anna came along after class, Johnny became very quiet.

come around

(intransitive - no object) – to change one’s opinion

When will you come around and finally agree with me?

come by

(inseparable) – to obtain

I came by many second hand sweaters since my older sister got rid of them very fast.

come down (with)

(inseparable) – to become sick

Every winter, I came down with the flu.

come into

(inseparable) -- to acquire

George came into a fortune when his parents suddenly died.

come on

(intransitive - no object) – to reflect

Stacey comes on as a tough person, but in fact, she is very sensitive.

come on

(intransitive - no object) – to become available

The hot water came on very late last night since the plumber was fixing the pipes all day.

come out

(intransitive - no object) – to become known

The beauty queen’s past came out during a routine reference check.

come over

(intransitive - no object) – to visit causally

Why don’t you come over after the game and have lunch with us?

come through

(intransitive - no object) – to do what is expected

William came through only after Wanda begged him for three days to get the tickets for the game.

come to

(inseparable) – to total

Our charges came to an even number after we added the taxes and the extra commission.

come up

(intransitive - no object) – to be mentioned

The topic of marriage never came up during the lovely couple’s conversations.

come up with

(inseparable) – to think of/invent

Mary always comes up with very creative ideas.

come upon

(inseparable) – to discover by accident

While cleaning the attic, I came upon a very rare and beautiful pearl necklace.

count on

(inseparable) – to depend on

I have always counted on my brother sine he helped me and kept his promise no matter what.

crank up

(separable) – to increase

Crank up the volume on the radio so that I can also hear the speech!” (Crank it up!)

cross out

(separable) – to eliminate

I crossed out all the typing mistakes in the document. (I crossed them out.)

cut down on

(inseparable) – to reduce

Since gas is so expensive, Sheila decided to cut down on driving and walk instead.

die down

(intransitive - no object) – to decrease

After midnight, the music died down next door, and I finally fell asleep.

dig up

(separable) – to look for

The detective was unable to dig up any useful information on the suspect. (He couldn’t dig it up.)

do in

(separable) – to make tired

Two games yesterday and one more today did the soccer player in. He slept through the whole weekend.

do over

(separable) – to redo

The assignment was so poorly organized that I had to do the entire paper over.

doze off

(intransitive - no object) – to fall asleep

The speech was so boring that almost everyone in the audience dozed off.


drag on

(intransitive - no object) – to continue endlessly

After an interesting and dynamic start, the movie dragged on uneventfully for almost two hours.

draw up

(separable) – to prepare

Before you write a research paper, it is always a good idea to draw up an outline first. (Draw it up, first!)

dream up

(separable) – to plan

Johnny dreamed up the perfect game for Celia’s birthday party to keep all guests entertained. (Johnny dreamed it up.)

dress up

(inseparable) – to wear formal clothing

When going to the opera, Misty loved dressing up and wearing her newest clothes.

drink up

(separable) – to finish a drink

Drink up your milk and let’s go. We’ll be late for school.” (Drink it up!)

drop off

(separable) – to deliver

Mom drops the kids off for hockey practice, but dad picks them up and drives them home.

drop in

(inseparable) – to visit

“Why don’t you drop in on Sunday and we can go over your essay homework.”

drop out (of)

(inseparable) – to stop attending

He dropped out of college after the first semester since he wanted to get some work experience first.

eat out

(intransitive - no object) – to eat in a restaurant

If you eat out every night, you won’t be able to save any money.

eat up

(separable) – to finish a meal

“You can’t have dessert unless you eat up all your broccoli” mom told Tommy during lunch. (Eat it up!)

end up

(intransitive - no object) – to arrive

After driving around for hours, we ended up exactly where we started.


face up to

(inseparable) – to admit to

After failing the exam a few times, Jason had to face up to the fact that he would have to study more in order to pass.

fall apart (1)

(intransitive - no object) – to break down

My first computer fell apart after only two months of use so I had to get a laptop.

fall apart (2)

(intransitive - no object) – to suffer emotionally

After two deaths in the family, Mary fell apart and couldn’t work for awhile.

fall down

(intransitive - no object) – to fall to the ground

The toddler fell down many times while learning how to walk.

fall for

(inseparable) – to be attracted to something or someone

The deal was too good to refuse, so the buyer fell for the cheap offer only to find out it was a scam.

fall through

(intransitive - no object) – to not happen

Our plan fell through when Jody didn’t show up, and we couldn’t play the game with one member missing.

feel up to

(inseparable) – to feel string enough

Do you feel up to hiking that challenging trail now that it snowed all night?

fight off

(separable) – to keep something away

I’ve been trying to fight off the flu all week, but finally I got sick. (I’ve been trying to fight it off.)

figure out

(separable) – to solve a problem

I have finally figured out how my new cell-phone works even though it has too many functions. (I figured it out.)

fill in

(separable) – to complete

The easiest part of the test was filling in the blanks. (I could fill them in easily.)


fill in (on)

(separable) – to supply information

Can you fill me in on what happened in the meeting while I was away?

fill in for

(inseparable) – to substitute

Can you please fill in for me while I am away?

fill out

(separable) – to complete a form

First, you will need to fill out an application form, and then you can take the course. (You will need to fill it out.)

fill up

(separable) – to fill completely

Before the road trip, we will need to fill up the tank. (We will need to fill it up.)

find out

(inseparable) – to get information

I have just found out that we have a test tomorrow.

fit in

(intransitive - no object) – to get along

When Mary moved to the new neighbourhood, she fit in right away since everybody liked gardening.

free up

(separable) – to make something available

Can you free up some space in the closet so that I can store my winter clothes? (Can you free it up?)

get across

(separable) – to communicate clearly

The girl was so stubborn that no one was able to get the message across and change her mind.

get ahead

(intransitive - no object) – to make progress

You need to work hard in this company if you wish to get ahead and get promoted.

get along

(intransitive) – to have a good relationship

Our team members have been getting along quite well before they lost the game.

get around (1)

(inseparable) – to avoid

Jimmy got around doing homework every day by offering to volunteer after classes.

get around (2)

(intransitive - no object) – to go from place to place

Since she leaves downtown, she gets around everywhere by walking.


get at

(intransitive - no object) – to hint

What are you trying to get at? Can you be more specific and give an example?

get away

(intransitive - no object) – to escape

Finally I caught a fish, but it got away because there was a hole in the net.

get back

(intransitive - no object) – to return

Sandy always gets back late from school. She helps her team win the competition.

get by

(intransitive - no object) – to survive financially

The family of four was able to get by on just $5 a day for a whole month.

get down (to)

(intransitive - no object) – to focus

After you finish sightseeing, I’ll meet you in the boardroom and we’ll get down to business.

get down (1)

(separable) – to discourage

When I told her I wanted to attend college, she really got me down telling me my scores were not high enough.

get down (2)

(separable) – to put in writing

Who will get the minutes down during the meeting?

get in

(intransitive - no object) – to arrive

The flight got in 2 hours late last night because of the storm.

get off (1)

(inseparable) – to leave

Don’t forget your umbrella before you get off the bus.

get off (2)

(intransitive - no object) – to receive lesser punishment

After striking a pedestrian, the biker got off with only a fine instead of going to jail.

get off (3)

(separable) – to interrupt

Many schools in our city get the day off when it snows.


get out (1)

(intransitive - no object) – to spread

Word gets out very fast in our small town, so everyone knew Jack would propose to Jill.

get out (of) (2)

(inseparable) – to escape

Sam always has an excuse and gets out of having to wash the dishes.

get out (of) (3)

(inseparable) – to leave

When will we finally get out of here? I am hungry!

get over

(inseparable) – to recover

After that rigorous football practice, it took Jimmy a whole day to get over his sore muscles.

get rid of

(inseparable) – dispose of something or dismiss someone

I cannot get rid of the unpleasant burning smell from my clothes; I’ll have to dry clean them.

get through

(inseparable) – to finish

My new course is so challenging that I started doubting I’ll ever get through it.

get to (1)

(inseparable) – to annoy

The dripping faucet really got to me. I cannot sleep!

get to (2)

(inseparable) – to arrive at

What time do you usually get to work?

get together

(intransitive - no object) – to meet

We should get together for coffee during the holidays.

get up

(intransitive - no object) – to leave the bed

What time do you usually get up in the morning?

give back

(separable) – to return

Can you give me back the book I lent you a week ago?

give out

(inseparable) – to distribute

The Red Cross gives out food and various charitable donations to victims of an earthquake.




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