Phrasal verbs are verbs that are made up of a main verb and followed by particle, usually prepositions. Most phrasal verbs are two or three words and can be quite challenging for English learners as they can be literal or figurative in meaning. In other words, sometimes it is easy to understand the meaning (such as "get up"), but in the case of figurative meanings can be quite confusing (such as "pick up"). Begin learning phrasal verbs with a limited list. The list below provides a good starting point for intermediate level English learners.
Teachers can use this introducing phrasal verbs lesson plan to help students become more familiar with phrasal verbs and start building phrasal verb vocabulary. Finally, there are a wide variety of phrasal verb resources on the site to help you learn new phrasal verbs and test your understanding with quizzes.
This ESL phrasal verb reference guide is intended for English learners. The guide contains some of the most important phrasal verbs used in everyday English. There are many, many more phrasal verbs, but I have chosen these verbs as a good starting point for English learners. Each phrasal verb is defined, has an example sentence for context, and states whether the definition is separable or inseparable, transitive or intransitive. For more information on how to use phrasal verbs, read the phrasal verb guide on this site.
Phrasal Verb Reference Pages
S = Separable IS = Inseparable T = Transitive IT - IntransitiveImportant phrasal verbs in English starting with the letter A. Includes examples and whether the phrasal verb is separable / inseparable, transitive / intransitive.
|account for||explain, be the reason for||His lack of interest accounts for his poor grades.||IS||T|
|act on||take an action||Tom acted on the information.||IS||T|
|add to||increase the size||This chair will add to the furniture we already have.||S||T|
|add up||make sense||Your guess adds up based on all the facts.||IS||IT|
|agree with||have the same opinion as someone||I agree with Tom about the need for better schools.||IS||T|
|allow something for||provide time, money, or other resource for something||You need to allow two hours for traffic.||S||T|
|answer for something||be responsible for something||The director answers for the drop in sales last quarter.||IS||T|
|argue something out||discuss all the details to come to an agreement||We argued our differences out and signed a contract.||S||T|
|arrive at something||agree upon something||We arrived at a contract last week.||IS||T|
|ask after somebody||ask how someone is doing||I asked after Kate last week and her mother told me she was doing well.||IS||T|
|attend to something||take care of something you need to do||Peter attended to preparations for the party while his wife cooked the dinner.||IS||T|
|average something out||arrive at the average figure||I average the contracts out and we'll make a profit of $250,000.||S||T|