Phrasal Verbs for Everyday Conversation + My Tips to Learn & Use Correctly

Lesson Overview

Lesson Summary 

Learn 10 interesting phrasal verbs for everyday conversation and learn to speak fluently! I’ll also share my tips to learn and use them correctly in everyday conversations.

We use these phrasal verbs on a daily basis: you’ll hear them on the news; read them in the paper; and hear people using them as they talk about their family, community, the pandemic, life and hope or the future.

Knowing *how* to use a phrasal verb correctly is the hardest part, so I’ll also get a little technical as I teach, to help you to understand exactly what you need to know and learn about phrasal verbs.

TRANSITIVE or INTRANSITIVE?
Phrasal Verbs that are transitive need an object. EG: (to) run out of (we need to always say WHAT we have run out of for this phrasal verb to make sense!) “We ran out of milk.”
If it’s intransitive, it can be used on its own, without an object. EG: (to) run out: “The milk ran out.”

SEPARABLE or INSEPARABLE?
Separable means that the verb and the particle are able to be separated in the sentence.
Both of these sentences are correct:
– He fought off the flu. ✅
– He fought the flu off. ✅
But (to) pass away is inseparable. We can only say “Her uncle passed away last year.”


Video Transcript
Section 1
Well hey there I’m Emma from mmmEnglish! Today I’ve got ten phrasal verbs that I want to share and practise with you. They are going to help you in general conversations, general conversations that we all seem to be having at the moment relating to the pandemic.

So the phrasal verbs we’re practising today are going to be useful in lots of different situations not just conversations about the pandemic.

They’re phrasal verbs about health, illness, financial or money problems and the way that we offer help and support to each other.

There are lots of interesting ways to expand your vocabulary in this lesson and it will certainly help you to understand more native speakers when you’re listening to podcasts or the TV and it will definitely help you to speak more fluently about these things yourself so let’s dive in!

What are phrasal verbs?

Now phrasal verbs are often informal ways of expressing ideas in English though they are really common in conversations, extremely useful for you to learn and practise today.

Before we dive in, there are a couple of things, little reminders that I want to share with you about phrasal verbs. Tips to help you to understand them and also how they function in English sentences.

So you know that phrasal verbs are a standard verb like get or go or take with one or two particles.

Particle?

A particle is just a preposition or an adverb, sometimes both and they follow the verb in a phrasal verb so we have:

  • get over
  • get away
  • get on with
  • get up to

Right? Each of these phrasal verbs has a meaning that is different from the original verb get, right? They mean something else so when you’re learning and you’re practising phrasal verbs, you need to learn them together in little chunks right and learn their different individual meanings just like you would a list of verbs right and that is exactly what we’re doing today in this lesson.

Now it is important to keep in mind that like some English verbs, lots of phrasal verbs have multiple meanings which is why learning them and practising them in context is so important.

It’s really important but also keep in mind that if you want to use a phrasal verb correctly in a sentence and I’m pretty sure you do well you need to know if it’s transitive, intransitive, separable or inseparable.

Don’t worry if all of these grammatical terms kind of have you scratching your head a bit and thinking I’m sure I’ve heard that somewhere before but I have no idea what it means.

Well they’re really important things that you need to understand as you are learning phrasal verbs. So if you’re really clear on what these things are then jump straight ahead to this timestamp 5:55. That’s where I’ll start teaching about the phrasal verbs in this lesson but if you need to go over what some of these things mean then hang out for a second.

A transitive verb is just a verb that needs an object to express its complete action so the phrasal verb look at is transitive. Now that means it needs an object, right? Without one it doesn’t make sense.

  • Hey, look at…

Look at what?

So it’s transitive, right? It needs an object to make sense.

  • Hey, look at that bird!

That makes better sense. Now intransitive verbs are the opposite. They don’t need an object to express their complete action or their thought, right?

What time did you get up? is a good example.

So get up on its own expresses a complete thought or idea without needing the object.

I don’t need to say: What time did you get up from your bed this morning?

Right the meaning is already clear in that phrasal verb. It can stand alone.

Now whether a phrasal verb is separable or inseparable will tell you exactly where you can place that object in your sentence so it will either be after the phrasal verb or between the verb and the particle.

So the phrasal verb look at is inseparable so the object must come after the particle. You can’t separate the phrasal verb.

We can’t say: Hey look that bird at!

Right it doesn’t make any sense in English but the phrasal verb take off as in take off my hat is separable which means we can separate the elements within the phrasal verb.

The object can come straight after the phrasal verb.

  • He took off his hat.

Or it can come between the verb and the particle.

  • He took his hat off.

Both of these sentences are correct. The meaning is exactly the same and really if you’re ever feeling unsure, any good English dictionary is going to tell you whether it’s transitive or separable and that kind of thing but throughout today’s lesson, I’m going to be using these symbols on the screen just to help you to learn a little bit more about the phrasal verbs that I’m sharing and make sure that you’re using them accurately.

Okay now that that’s out of the way, let’s get stuck into the lesson.

You’re going to hear me use each of the ten phrasal verbs that we’ll study today as I’m talking so right now I want you to grab a pen and a paper and write them down as you hear them or maybe type them into the comments if you don’t have one handy.

But then we’re going to go a little deeper and focus on each of these phrasal verbs and help you to use them in everyday English conversations. Are you ready?

2020. The year the world ran out of toilet paper and hand sanitiser and face masks but toilet paper shortages were just one of the more ridiculous things to happen in 2020. The first breakout of COVID-19 happened to be in China but before long people all over the world were coming down with it.

At this stage, almost two and a half million people have passed away from the virus but, incredibly, over sixty million people have successfully fought it off so far. People have lost their jobs, businesses have been impacted, all of which has created so much financial uncertainty. While some people are lucky enough to have savings to dip into in order to get by, other people have had to go without essential items just to survive.

On a positive note, we really have seen people step up and help out their local communities where they can. People have rallied around health workers offering them all kinds of support to make their daily lives easier. Collaboration between scientists and researchers has led to the development of multiple COVID-19 vaccinations. They’re rolling out in many countries right now. So be patient. Stay safe. We’ve all got our part to play in this and it’s not over yet.

Did you hear all ten of those phrasal verbs? I said:

  • run out
  • come down with
  • pass away
  • fight off
  • dip into
  • get by
  • go without
  • step up
  • rally around
  • roll out

So now let’s take a closer look at these phrasal verbs so that you can focus on how to use them accurately in your everyday sentences. So let’s start with the ones that relate to illness.

come down with

So when you come down with something, you are starting to show the signs of an illness.

  • They both came down with a terrible cold.

So it’s the same as saying catch, you know, we say to catch a cold or catch an illness. It has the same meaning.

  • They came down with a cold.
  • They caught a cold.

Same thing.

Now usually come down with is used with non-serious illnesses like a cold or the flu, a stomach bug or even just something when we’re a little unsure. We might say:

  • I feel like I’m coming down with something.

Now notice that come down with is transitive and inseparable so that means that we always need an object to complete that thought or that action right? We need that object. But it’s also inseparable which means that the object needs to go after the phrasal verb and not in between it.

You can also fight off a cold, can’t you? When you free yourself of that illness and your body overcomes that illness by fighting against it.

  • She came down with a cold but luckily she was able to fight it off quickly.

She overcame the cold quickly so the fighting here in this phrasal verb is figurative, not literally fighting a cold or punching that virus in the face. No.

It’s inside her body, her immune system is working hard to fight off that virus you know, until she’s feeling well again.

So this phrasal verb is transitive. We need an object but this time it is separable so that means that our object can either go between the verb and the particle or it can go after the phrasal verb.

  • She fought off the cold.
  • She fought the cold off.
  • She fought it off.

There is one little tip here that I want to share about separable phrasal verbs so when that object is a pronoun like in this sentence here. So we’re not saying that cold or that illness. We’re saying it. Then the object always goes between the verb and the particle.

  • She fought it off.

Not: She fought off it.

Okay? That’s something to keep in mind for separable phrasal verbs.

pass away

Now sometimes it’s not as simple as finding something off and I’m sorry to anyone who is experiencing loss at the moment. People don’t always overcome an illness, do they? They become more and more unwell until eventually, they pass away. So this is a polite and respectful way of saying to die.

Now it’s just a little bit softer and more indirect to say that someone has passed away rather than saying he’s dead or he died which sometimes it can sound quite direct and maybe a little disrespectful as well.

So be careful with your word choice when you’re talking about someone dying. Often this phrasal verb is a much better choice.

When I talk about my dad I don’t say: He died.

I say: He passed away.

Notice that this time the verb is intransitive and inseparable so we don’t actually need an object to express this idea, do we?

To pass away, we know what that means. It’s complete. And because there’s no object, it also means that we can’t separate the verb and the particle, right? So that’s kind of obvious.

Okay so let’s move along a little and talk about some phrasal verbs that relate to money and finance because this year has definitely seen a lot of disruption for many of us. Maybe your job has been affected or the local businesses around you have been struggling throughout the pandemic. Well let’s talk about it. Check out this phrasal verb here…

dip into

If you dip into something, you are spending some of your money but usually, it’s money that you are saving for a specific purpose.

  • They have dipped into their savings to pay for their renovation.

Now interestingly, the object of this phrasal verb always describes a sum of money so it’s a specific noun. It could be savings or a pension or a retirement fund for example. You get the idea. It’s a specific type of noun that you would dip into.

get by

Now maybe you’ve heard this phrasal verb in a line from a really famous Beatle’s song: with a little help from my friends, I get by with a little help from my friends.

Get by means to manage to live or to do a particular task using just the money or the knowledge that you have at that time and nothing else.

  • Even though Tim has been without work for six months, they’ve been getting by.

They don’t have as much money as they usually do but they manage to live with what they have. They don’t need anything else to survive. They’re getting by.

go without

But if you go without that means that you know, you’re living without the things that you need or you’d like to have.

If you think about the storms in Texas a couple of days ago, people have been going without power for five days or more. There was no power. They just had to find a way to live without that power. They went without power for five days.

I’m sure you can think of a time when you went without something for a little while. Did you go without sugar? Did you go without a break? Did you go without…

Hey I’m not going to finish that sentence for you. See if you can write your own sentence down in the comments below. I’ll be down to check them.

step up

So next I want to talk about some phrasal verbs that express ideas of support. So when you’re taking care of someone or you’re doing something for someone else. I’m sure you can probably think of a few. Can you think of any phrasal verbs that express these ideas?

I’m sure you can but I don’t know if this one would be the first one that you’d think of, to step up. So when somebody steps up, they’re taking action and succeeding in meeting a challenge or improving their performance in some way.

In the context that we’re using step up today, the community offered their help or their services when they saw that someone needed it, right?

  • We have really seen people step up and help out their local communities.

So in this example, step up is intransitive but when I use this verb transitively so when I use it with an object, actually the meaning changes.

  • The people stepped up their fundraising efforts.

So here the meaning’s a little different. It means to increase. They increased their fundraising efforts so this is common. Some phrasal verbs have multiple meanings but to step something up means to increase something but to step up means to come forward and to offer help or a service.

So you can really see how important it is to understand what these symbols mean but also you know, how you can accurately use that phrasal verb depending on the meaning.

You’ve got to pay attention to these things. It can change the structure of a sentence but it can also change the meaning of a phrasal verb as well and that is where things can get a little bit confusing if you’re using your phrasal verb in the wrong way.

rally around

Hey so now let’s talk about rally around. It’s an interesting phrasal verb. It’s a little more general. When you rally around someone you help or you support them.

  • When her husband passed away, the neighbours rallied around her.

Okay so maybe those really kind neighbours of hers brought food so she didn’t need to cook or they offered moral support or just spend some time with that lady showing her that she cared.

So when you’re rallying around someone, there isn’t necessarily an exchange of labour or money or anything like that. It could just be that you showed someone that you care about them or you let them know that you were there for them.

And there are a couple of last phrasal verbs now that are a bit more general. They don’t really fit into these categories and just by chance, they actually both have the particle out.

run out

So we say run out if the supply of something runs out or it’s finished.

  • We’ve run out of milk.

The milk’s finished, there’s no more milk. We’ve run out of milk.

Now you might be thinking that one’s a little easy but there is a couple of things that I want to explain further because with the preposition of, run out is transitive. We run out of something.

Okay so we need an object to express that complete thought.

  • We’ve run out of milk.
  • We’ve run out of toilet paper.
  • We’ve run out of power (Energy)
  • The hot water ran out while I was washing my hair.

So it’s really just a matter of what you want to highlight in the sentence. You can say:

  • I ran out of hot water.

So I’m highlighting that the action happened to me. But if we look at that sentence in a slightly different way.

  • The hot water ran out.

So we’re highlighting the action that happened. The hot water running out is the most important thing in this sentence. It doesn’t matter that it happened to me.

roll out

So the last phrasal verb that I’m going to share with you today, I hope it’s a new one, is to roll out.

To roll something out, it means that you’re making something new, maybe like a product or a service or a system. So to make that new thing available for the first time. It’s like launching or introducing something new or starting it for the first time.

  • The train company is currently rolling out a new ticketing system.

So they’re launching this new ticketing system or introducing it. And you know, you can use this phrasal verb in that way to, it’s quite useful to talk about a process that is happening over a period of time. It’s not instant.

  • They’re rolling it out over a period of time.

Now to make that even more relevant. Lately, we have been hearing a lot in the news about governments rolling out the virus vaccine. Right? It’s not instant. It’s a process. In fact, you may have also heard if you’ve been listening to English-speaking news that governments have been talking a lot about their vaccine rollout all right? It can also be used as a very specific noun in this way.

So to roll out is the phrasal verb but a rollout is the noun that we use to talk about exactly what that thing is.


So you just learnt ten phrasal verbs that will help you to talk about the pandemic and the various ways that it’s been impacting our lives.

Hopefully, you’ve taken lots of notes as you’ve been watching through the lesson. I have one final challenge for you. I want you to write a comment down below that uses a lot of these new phrasal verbs that you’ve learned today in a paragraph. Specifically, we’ve been thinking about how they relate to the pandemic so maybe that’s the easiest way to get started here but to talk about your experience or what’s happening in your country using some of these phrasal verbs.

I’ll be down there to check out your answers over the weekend.

Make sure you’ve subscribed to the mmmEnglish channel if you haven’t already – just down there. Turn on notifications because we’ve got some awesome speaking practice imitation lessons and a phrasal verb quiz coming up over the next couple of weeks so I’m looking forward to doing some more practice with you using phrasal verbs.

See you soon!

Links mentioned in the video

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