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The Phrasal Verb 'Take Over' Explained

Updated: Oct 3, 2023

An explanation of the different meanings of the English phrasal verb 'take over', with examples and exercises.

Two people shaking hands against a cityscape background

Hello and welcome to my blog all about English phrasal verbs. In this post we are looking at the phrasal verb 'to take over', which is commonly used in business English and in the workplace. There are several different meanings that we will look at in this post, however as you will see, the overall themes of this phrasal verb are replacement and control. So without further ado, let's get started....




Number of meanings




Past forms

Took over / Taken over

British or American


For more explanation of the terms in the table above, click here



Play Doh letters spelling the letters A-G

Our nominated phrasal verb this week consists of the extremely common verb 'to take' followed by the particle 'over'.

The verb 'to take' is a widely used English verb which has various meanings, but the meanings that are significant for the idiomatic meanings of the phrasal verb 'take over' are...

  • To voluntarily get or acquire possession of something.

  • To carry something from one place to another.

Like 'take', the prepositional particle 'over' also has a few different meanings in English, including to move across or above a surface (preposition / adverb) and to be finished (adjective). Both of these are relevant to the meanings of the phrasal verb, which we will look at now.


MEANING 1: Literal

​CEFR Language Level

B1 - Intermediate





Potential synonyms

To bring over, to take, to take across

The phrasal verb construction 'take over' is used regularly by English speakers in a literal sense to mean taking something or somebody from one place to another, which the speaker perceives as being across from where they are. The meaning of 'take' which applies here is the meaning 'to carry something or someone from one place to another' and the preposition 'over' then adds a directional element to mean across from where the speaker is.

Typical examples of this literal usage could be....

  • To take a document across an office to another person.

  • To give someone a lift in your car from one place to another.

  • To take something and deliver it somewhere.

The main idea here is that someone takes someone or something to another place, which is perceived by the speaker to be across or over from where they are. If the speaker perceives that the other place is below or above them (e.g. on a different floor in a building), it is more likely that they will use "take down" or "take up" instead.

When used in this way, it is very common to use it separably with the direct object between 'take' and 'over'. Also, don't forget the preposition 'to' is required to state the end destination.

Examples of usage....

John left his book here when he went back to Australia, so I said I would take it over with me the next time I go.
Can you take this file over to the CEO's office and ask her to sign it for me.
I am taking Lisa over to her mum's house today as her car isn't working.

MEANING 2: To take control

CEFR Language Level

B2 - Upper intermediate





Potential synonyms

To take charge of, to take control, to take on

The first of the idiomatic meanings of 'take over' in this post is certainly the most commonly used among native speakers and means to take or to assume control of something from another person or entity.

In the business world the phrasal verb 'take over' is commonly used to talk about when one company purchases or acquires another company and therefore takes control of it. It is also very common to use the noun 'takeover' here instead of the verb. You may have heard the term 'acquisition' before, which is a synonym of the noun 'takeover'.

Examples of usage....

Company X has recently taken over company Y and as a result the share price has gone through the roof. INTENDED MEANING: Company X has recently purchased company Y and its share price has consequently risen dramatically.
Company Z has recently been taken over and many of its employees have been made redundant. INTENDED MEANING: Company Z has recently been purchased by another company and many of its employees have lost their jobs.
Despite the shareholder's attempts to stop it, the company takeover is still going ahead this month. INTENDED MEANING The company is being taken over later this month regardless of the attempts made by its shareholders to stop it.

We also use 'take over' to talk about when one employee in a business assumes another person of authority's job role, in other words they assume a role of responsibility or control from another person. A similar phrasal verb that can be used here is "to take on", however "take over" indicates that the person's new role is one of authority and control e.g. a manager or a director. Don't forget that the preposition 'as' is required here to say what the new role is.

A third variation of how 'take over' can be used in the world of business is specifically to do with shift work. In businesses and organisations which operate around the clock (24/7) and in which employees do shift work, we can use 'take over' to talk about when one person's shift ends and another employee starts their shift and replaces them. For this usage, the preposition 'from' is required to talk about the person who you are replacing.

Roger is leaving the company next month and so Helen is taking over his role as head of Finance. INTENDED MEANING: Due to Roger's imminent departure from the company, Helen will now take his place as head of Finance.
John starts his shift at 7pm, so he will be taking over from Tim who finishes then. INTENDED MEANING: When John starts work at 7pm, he will be replacing Tim who will be finishing his shift at that time.

Away from the business world, 'take over' is also used in other contexts and situations to mean to take control of something. Examples could include when one country invades another country and takes control of it or when a person's emotions become too intense and they can no longer control themselves from breaking down or crying.

Example of usage....

After the accident I was so scared but then my adrenaline took over and I did what I had to do to make sure that everyone was safe. INTENDED MEANING: Following the accident the adrenaline stopped me feeling scared and enabled me to do what was necessary to ensure everyone's safety.

In addition to the usage above, we can also use 'take over' to mean that something or someone becomes dominant in a situation. Good examples of this would be when someone dominates a conversation or when a bossy person starts to give out orders and take control in a situation. This gives us a nice segue into the third meaning, which is very similar.

Example of usage....

As soon as Helen joined the conversation, she completely took over and nobody else was able to say anything! INTENDED MEANING: From the moment that Helen entered into the conversation, she began to dominate it by talking too much.

MEANING 3: To become the most important or dominant

CEFR Language Level

B2 - Upper Intermediate





Potential synonyms

To dominate, to become dominant

So, we have already considered how 'take over' is commonly used to mean 'to take control' and this second meaning is actually very similar to it. Here, 'take over' means to become the most important or dominant in a given category or group.

This usage is often seen when talking about lists of the best, worst, biggest, smallest, richest etc and can therefore be seen across many different subject areas as diverse as sport, music and business. 'Take over' is used specifically to talk about when there is a change and someone or something new is in first position, effectively taking over first place in the list. Again, the prepositions 'as' and 'from' are required here in the same way as the first usage above.

India will soon take over from Japan as the world's third largest economy. INTENDED MEANING: India will soon replace Japan as the third biggest economy in the world.
I remember when Manchester United took over as the top football team in the country. INTENDED MEANING: I can remember when Manchester United started to become the best football team in the country.
Melbourne has recently taken over Sydney as Australia's most populous city. INTENDED MEANING: In recent times Melbourne's population has increased to more than that of Sydney's and it is now the Australian city with the highest population.

The word 'tips' spelt out using wooden blocks


An alternative synonym to this second meaning of 'take over' is the verb 'to overtake'. One of the main uses of this verb is to talk about when something takes over something else to become the first in its category, as discussed above. Unlike 'take over' though, when we use 'overtake' we need to have a direct object to state who or what was previously in front and has now been overtaken. The preposition 'as' is still required here but 'from' is not required as we have a direct object.

Examples of usage....

India will soon overtake Japan as the world's third largest economy.
Melbourne has recently overtaken Sydney as Australia's most populous city.

The second main use of 'overtake' is used when driving and means to move past a car that is in front of you by driving around it, normally because it is going too slowly. Again, this carries the same meaning as the third meaning of 'take over' i.e. to move past something and be in front of it.

Examples of usage....

The car in front was driving very slowly, so I decided to overtake it.
The rules of overtaking in Formula 1 racing are being reviewed.

Question marks on different coloured backgrounds

EXERCISE Re-write the following sentences using 'to take over'....

  1. My brother is going to drive me to my friend's birthday party tonight.

  2. His company was acquired by another bigger company last year.

  3. I can't stop crying at weddings, my emotions just get control over me.

  4. New Harbour has recently surpassed Old Harbour as the city's busiest port.

  5. Whenever my wife and I cook together, she always dominates and tells me what to do.

  6. The accident was caused when the car tried to go past another on a dangerous bend.


EXERCISE ANSWERS FROM 'TURN DOWN' (other variations may be possible)

  1. That oven temperature is too hot, you need to turn it down!

  2. John turned down Roger's offer to buy his company.

  3. I really hope that my job application does not get turned down this time!

  4. The birth rate turned down during the 1970s.

  5. Turn the corner of your test page down so that it covers your answers.

  6. You need to turn down the second road on the right.


That is the end of today's post. Thank you so much for taking the time to read it and I sincerely hope that it has helped you a little bit further on your English learning journey.

If you found the post useful, please like and share it on social media, so together we can help as many English learners as possible to understand and master these tricky phrasal verbs.

Also, please leave any comments, questions, suggestions or examples of 'take over' below. I really love reading them. See you next time! James

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