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  • The Phrasal Verb 'Keep On' Explained

    An explanation of the different meanings of the English phrasal verb 'keep on', with examples and exercises. Hello and welcome to my website all about English phrasal verbs. Each week, I take a different phrasal verb and look at how it is used by native speakers, with a focus on the different meanings that it has and the expressions and idioms that it is used in. The phrasal verb 'keep on' is a great phrasal verb to know and use in order to make your English sound more native as it is used a lot in informal, spoken English. Unlike some other phrasal verbs, there is one general theme that runs through all of the meanings of 'keep on', which is the idea of continuation. We explore all of these meanings in this post, including uses that are particular to British English, as well as a number of different idioms that it features in. So, without further ado, let's get started.... KEEP ON: KEY INFORMATION For more explanation of the terms in the table above, click here. THE BASICS Before we look at the individual meanings of the phrasal verb 'keep on', let's take a minute to examine the meanings of the individual words 'keep' and 'on'. The main verb that we are interested in for this post is the verb 'to keep', which has two key meanings in English; the first is the idea of possession and the second is the idea of continuation. As previously mentioned, the idea of continuation is the theme behind all of the meanings of 'keep on' and this is that one that we will revisit again in this post. In addition to 'keep', we have the prepositional particle 'on', which has a huge number of applications in English, however the application that we are interested in for this post is when it is used an adverb to indicate the continuation of something. So, now that we have covered the basics, let's take a look at the meanings of the phrasal verb 'keep on'.... MEANING 1: To continue to do something After reading the first part of this post, it should come as no surprise to you that the first meaning of 'keep on' is 'to continue to do something', or 'to repeatedly do something again and again'. For this usage, we are simply combining the 'continuation' meaning of the verb 'to keep' with the 'continuation' meaning of 'on', giving us a double continuation. This usage of 'keep on' can often therefore be used as a synonym for 'keep', however whilst 'keep' can be used to talk about a continuation or a repetition of both active and stative verbs*, 'keep on' tends to be used more for active verbs only e.g. eating, talking, asking etc. Normally, 'keep on' is used to by native speakers to talk about an action that they or someone else continues to do, without any positive or negative connotations. Sometimes though, it can be used to describe a repeated action that we find annoying or irritating. Alternatively, it can also be used to encourage people to continue what they are doing. Grammatically, 'keep on' is always followed by the 'ing / gerund form of another verb, unlike 'to continue' which can be followed by either an infinitive or a gerund. Examples of usage.... My business is doing really well, so I am just going to keep on running it in the same way for the moment. He keeps on asking me to go out on a date with him and he won't take 'no' for an answer. My neighbours keep on playing their music really loudly late at night and it keeps on waking me up! The bullies will keep on bullying you until you fight back. Don't give up, keep on working at it and success will be yours! *Stative verbs are verbs which state a condition or a state and not an activity. Typical examples would be to believe, to belong, to love etc. MEANING 2: To talk about something persistently For our second meaning of 'keep on', we are staying with the theme of 'continuation and repetition' as this meaning is 'to talk persistently or excessively about something'. This application of 'keep on' is, again, used to express annoyance, irritation or boredom about the way that somebody talks a lot, or persistently, about a particular subject. Normally, for this application we require the additional preposition 'about' to specify the subject in question that the person always talks about. If you have read my post about the phrasal verb 'go on' (link here), you may remember that one of its meanings was very similar to this and it can therefore often be used as a synonym of 'keep on'. The only difference is perhaps that we can use 'go on' for someone who talks a lot in general and also about a specific topic, whereas 'keep on' tends to only be used when there is a specific subject. If you really want to get native speaker points, you could also combine the two and say that 'someone keeps going on about...'. Examples of usage.... My parents went to see a show last week and now they constantly keep on about it, saying it was the best show that they have ever seen. The interviewer was trying to get the actor to talk about his new film but instead he just kept on about the latest political developments. In the run-up to the election, the winning party kept on about how it was going to make lots of changes to improve the economy but we have not seen any yet. MEANING 3: To continue to wear something Our third meaning of 'keep on' is 'to continue to wear something', such as clothes, a hat, glasses or even a wig (more to follow on this in the upcoming Bonus section). For this usage, we are taking the adverbial meaning of 'on' where it is used to mean 'to wear something' and combining with the continuation meaning of 'keep'. This particular application is used in situations where you have the choice to remove an item of clothing or something that you are wearing and you decide not to remove it. In other words, you 'keep it on'. This application of 'keep on' is separable and is normally used separably with the item of clothing going between 'keep' and 'on'. Examples of usage.... It was so cold in the house that I kept my coat and gloves on when I went inside. John kept his glasses on to go swimming and regretted it when they fell off and sank to the bottom of the pool. Are we allowed to keep our shoes on or do we need to take them off before we enter? IDIOM ALERT! This particular application of 'keep on' has given rise to a common idiom in English, which has several variations. 'Keep your wig on' and its alternative forms 'keep your hair on' and 'keep your shirt on' is an expression in English that is used to tell someone to calm down and not be so angry about something. I would certainly exercise caution when using this as if it used in the wrong situation, it could make the person even angrier and the situation even worse. Examples of usage.... Oh keep your wig on, Karen, it's really not that important! Will you please tell John to keep his shirt on and to stop overreacting! MEANING 4: To continue to employ someone The fourth meaning of 'keep on' is one that is used often in business English and that is 'to continue to employ someone'. This is normally heard when an employee reaches the end of a probationary or trial period after starting within a company and the company then makes a decision as to whether or not they wish to keep the employee on their books or not. Grammatically, this application of 'keep on' is separable and takes a direct object, with the employer being the subject and the employee being the direct object. It tends to be used much more in a separable way by native speakers, with the name of the person or the personal pronoun going between 'keep' and 'on'. Another way that this application of 'keep on' is used is with rental contracts and agreements for houses and apartments. Here, a person can choose to 'keep on' a contract and continue to rent the house or property in which they live. In contrast to the employee example, the person renting is usually the subject and the contract or house is the direct object. Examples of usage.... I thought that my company was going to dismiss me after my trial period had ended, but to my sheer amazement they kept me on! A management decision was taken yesterday that due to the increasing costs that the company is facing, we will not be keeping any of the new employees on when their temporary contracts expire. We have decided to keep the apartment on for another 3 months. MEANING 5: To nag someone The fifth and final meaning of 'keep on' requires the additional preposition 'at' and means to nag or pester someone. In other words, to continuously and persistently moan at someone about something or ask them to do something that they do not want to do. Again, this is a synonym of the phrasal verb 'go on at'. This usage is primarily a British usage but would certainly be understood elsewhere. As mentioned above, the additional preposition 'at' is required here for the person who is the victim of this negative activity. In addition, the extra prepositions 'about' and 'to' can be used here to specify the reason for the nagging or the nagger's desired result. Examples of usage.... My mother keeps going on at me about how untidy my room is but I don't think it is! Roger's wife is always going on at him to finish painting the bedroom. The teacher is always going on at her students about how they are dressed. IDIOM ALERT! We have already looked at one common idiom featuring the phrasal verb 'keep on', however there are a few others that I want to tell you about before I finish this post. To keep on the straight and narrow = This idiomatic expression means to behave in an honest and lawful way, without getting into trouble. Some people stay on the straight and narrow their whole lives, however there are others who need to be kept on the straight and narrow and I am sure you all know at least one person like this. To keep on top of something = If you keep on top of something, you remain knowledgeable or in control of something. This particular idiom is often used in the workplace to talk about being on schedule with your workload and emails. To keep someone on their toes = This idiom is used to mean that something or someone always causes you to be alert and ready for action. This could be to talk about different things, from a strict manager in the workplace to a naughty dog who you constantly need to watch. To keep on track = This final expression means to remain on schedule with something that you are doing and is again something that you will often hear in the workplace in the English speaking world. EXERCISE Re-write the following sentences using 'to keep on'.... My dog continues to bark every someone comes to the front door. Helen won't stop talking about the movie she saw last night! I am so cold, so I am not going to take my coat off. The company decided to renew Roger's contract for another 6 months. John's parents used to nag him about giving up smoking when he was younger. Despite a few setbacks, Lisa is on schedule with her current work project. The answers will be available on next week's post. EXERCISE ANSWERS FROM 'GET DOWN' (other variations may be possible) For this next yoga position, you need to GET DOWN onto the floor and lie on your front with your hands stretched out in front of you. I GET DOWN from time to time during the winter. Despite her sore throat, Helen managed to GET the soup DOWN that Roger had made for her. Ok we let's GET DOWN to business. I managed to GET DOWN all of the journalists' comments during the press conference. Lisa and Jenny are GETTING DOWN on the dance floor. The answers will be available on next week's post. 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 'keep on' below. I really love reading them. If you want to receive new blog posts directly email every week, please sign up on the form below. See you next time! James

  • The Phrasal Verb 'Get Down' Explained

    An explanation of the different meanings of the English phrasal verb 'break up', with examples and exercises. Hello and welcome to my website all about English phrasal verbs. Each week, I take a different phrasal verb and look at how it is used by native speakers, with a focus on the different meanings that it has and the expressions and idioms that it is used in. This post is all about the phrasal verb 'get down', which is great phrasal verb to have in your active vocabulary and has various different meanings that sometimes contradict one another, such as feeling depressed and dancing wildly and enjoying yourself. Read on to find out the different ways that the phrasal verb 'get down' is used in English.... GET DOWN: KEY INFORMATION For more explanation of the terms in the table above, click here. THE BASICS Let's start this post in the normal way and consider the constituent words 'get' and 'down', as this is a great way to gain some insight into some of the phrasal verb meanings that we will look at shortly. Firstly, we have the favourite verb of native English speakers, 'to get', which has an extensive number of meanings and applications in English. There is not enough time or space in this post to cover all of them, however the most relevant meanings for the phrasal verb 'get down' are the meanings 'to arrive at a place' and 'to become'. The prepositional particle 'down' is one used regularly in phrasal verb constructions and is used to denote a low or lower position, usually relative to the speaker, or movement towards a low position when used as an adverb. In addition to this meaning, 'down' can also be used in a plethora of different ways, such as to describe something negative like depression or sadness and something that is recorded in written form. Now that we have covered the basics, let's move on to the different meanings of the phrasal verb 'get down'.... MEANING 1: To move from a higher place to a lower place The first meaning of the phrasal verb 'get down' that we will look at is one that I think is closest to a literal meaning and that is 'to move from a higher position to the floor or a lower position'. This meaning is all about movement from a high place to a lower place, with the focus being on 'arriving' in the lower position. This can be used with many different nouns and typically you would hear this with words like horse, mountain, tree and roof - in other words, anything that a person or thing can go up and sit or stand on. Sometimes we also add the additional adverb 'back' between 'get' and 'down' to emphasise that the descent to the ground is a return journey. Examples of usage.... Whilst we were climbing the mountain, it started to get very foggy and we were not sure how we were going to get down. When you get down to the ground floor, please can you ask the concierge to call me. My cat climbed the tree in my garden and was so scared by how high he was that he could not get back down again. So far with this meaning, we have talked about 'get down' to mean 'to move to a lower place' without a direct object (intransitively), however we can also use it with a direct object. This is for when we want to move something from a high place to a lower place, similar to the phrasal verb 'take down' that I have recently also written about. Often, we use 'get down' instead of 'take down' when there is a level of difficulty or challenge to the action of getting something down e.g. if something is stuck in a place. Typically, this transitive use of 'get (something) down' is for when we need to move something that is stored in a high place, such as a shelf or an attic down to ground level. Examples of usage.... In the end, we had to call the fire brigade to come and get the cat down from the tree. I'm just going to go into the attic to get my suitcase down. John's kite flew away and ended up stuck in a tree and he could not get it back down again. MEANING 2: To lower oneself to the floor For the second meaning of 'get down', we are going to stay with the same idea of moving to a lower position from a high one, however this time we are talking about when you lower your body so that you are closer to the ground. This would typically be when you lower yourself from a standing position to be on your knees, to be on your hands and knees or to be in a lying down position. You may be familiar with the expression 'to get down on all fours', which means to lower your body onto your two hands and two knees. Moreover, 'get down!' can also be used in an imperative form. This could be when commanding someone to remove themselves from a high place (as per the previous section) or it can also mean to move your body closer to the floor, possibly to hide yourself or to avoid something dangerous. Examples of usage.... There was an emergency and everybody had to get down on the floor and lie flat. For this next yoga position, you will need to get down on your hands and knees. Get down! People will be able to see you if you are standing up and it will ruin the surprise! MEANING 3: To depress someone If you are familiar with the song Rainy Days & Mondays by The Carpenters, and the lyric "rainy days and Mondays always get me down", then you will already have a good idea of what this third application of 'get down' means. If not, then the meaning is to make someone feel sad, unhappy, depressed or demoralised. This usage is a direct combination of the meaning of the verb 'to get' as in 'to become' and the adjectival meaning of the word 'down' to mean 'sad'. It is mainly used by people to describe when they experience temporary periods in their life when they feel sad or low. Grammatically, we use 'get down' without a direct object when we feel sad or unhappy about something, without explicitly stating a cause. Furthermore, it is also possible for something to get you down, for example rainy days and Mondays, and in this case the sad or depressed person becomes the direct object of the sentence. Examples of usage.... I always get down in winter. I think it is something to do with the lack of sunlight. Like everyone, Helen gets down from time to time, but in general she is a happy person. If I spend too much time thinking about my relatives who have died, it gets me down. MEANING 4: To write something The fourth meaning of 'get down' is to write something down, so that it is recorded and can be referred back to at a future time. This is, in fact, a synonym of the phrasal verb 'take down' that I have also recently written about (click here to read it). With 'get down' in this sense, the meaning of 'down' that is relevant is the meaning 'to record something in written form', with the verb 'to get' adding the idea of completing the action of transferring the information to a written record. Grammatically, this meaning of 'get down' takes a direct object and can therefore be separated without changing the meaning and we tend to use the separable version more. Moreover, this application of 'get down' is often followed by the words 'on paper'. Examples of usage.... Did you get all of the key information in the speech down? I managed to get the person's telephone number down before the line cut out. The author spent half an hour getting the details of her dream down on paper as she wanted to include them in her next book. MEANING 5: To swallow food, drink or medication The fifth meaning of 'get down' is 'to swallow food, drink or medication, often when the swallowing action is performed with some difficulty. For this usage, the 'down' meaning is quite clear as it is the direction that something swallowed goes in and the function of 'to get' is to add the idea of completing the action, especially when there is some difficulty involved. This difficulty may come from the person swallowing who may have a sore throat or a medical issue, or it may come from the thing that the person is swallowing, i.e. something tough, chewy or bad tasting. An informal expression that people sometimes use, especially in British English, 'get it / this down your neck!', which is used as an encouragement or invitation to someone to eat or drink something, Examples of usage.... The tablets that I have to take are enormous and I have great difficulty getting them down. We quickly got our lunch down and then went back to work. You look really cold. Here, get this cup of tea down your neck. It will warm you up in no time. BONUS INFORMATION Whilst we are on the subject of food and drink, you should also know that we use 'get down' to talk about when we spill food and drink on our clothes or our bodies when eating and drinking. If you get something down yourself, it means that you have dropped some food or drink on your clothes and it will probably leave a stain. Example of usage.... You're such a messy eater! You've got half of your dinner down yourself. MEANING 6: To focus on something and start doing it For this sixth meaning of 'get down' we require the additional preposition 'to'. When you 'get down to something', it means that you start to focus on something and start doing it. This is normally used for activities which involve a lot of attention or concentration and so it is something that you will often tend to hear in the business world. Examples of usage.... Come on everyone, we've wasted enough time. Let's get down to work. We finally got down to talking about the recent problems that have affected our co-operation and we seem to have resolved them. Whilst we are on this meaning of 'get down', there is a very common expression that I want to make you aware that fits in nicely here.... Get down to business - I am sure many of you will already be familiar with this expression as it used a lot, both in business English and in general English.'To get down to business' means to stop making small talk and to start talking about the subject that needs to be discussed. As you can imagine, this is commonly used at the start of meetings and is regularly prefixed with the word 'let's'. Example of usage.... Ok, now that everyone is here, let's get down to business! MEANING 7: To dance Our seventh usage of 'get down' is an informal one to mean 'to dance', often in an energetic or uninhibited way'. It can also be used to mean to have fun, relax and enjoy yourself, however it is used far less in this way. This is primarily an American usage, however it is known and used in British English too, particularly since it has been featured in many pop and dance songs over the last forty years. The origins of this particular usage date back to the 1970s and is another example of a word that has entered the English language from African American slang. Examples of usage.... I saw you and your friends getting down on the dance floor last night. It looked like you were having a lot of fun. Come on everybody, let me see you all get down to this next song! IDIOM ALERT!! The idiom 'to get down to brass tacks' is an expression which means 'to start talking about the basic and most important facts about something', i.e. the things that people really want to discuss in a situation. This idiom first arose in American English in the late 1800s and has since spread across the Atlantic. Despite the strangeness of the idiom, nobody knows exactly what its origins are. Example of usage.... The diplomats didn't spend long making small talk in the meeting and quickly got down to brass tacks. A COUPLE OF FINAL MEANINGS... Ok, so before I finish this post, there is one more meaning of 'get down' that I want to tell you about. ' To get something down' is an idiomatic expression that is becoming more and more common in modern English vernacular and means 'to master something and be able to do it very well or perfectly'. If you've got something down, it means that you are skilled at doing something. Examples of usage.... I was terrible at this computer game when I first started playing it but now I've got it down! Wow, you're amazing at that, you've got it down! EXERCISE Re-write the following sentences using 'to get down'.... For this next yoga position, you need to lower yourself onto the floor and lie on your front with your hands stretched out in front of you. I feel depressed from time to time during the winter. Despite her sore throat, Helen managed to eat the soup that Roger had made for her. Ok we let's start to focus on the subject in question and start work. I managed to write down all of the journalists' comments during the press conference. Lisa and Jenny are dancing madly on the dance floor. The answers will be available on next week's post. EXERCISE ANSWERS FROM 'RIP OFF' (other variations may be possible) It was December 1, so I RIPPED the November page OFF my calendar. Sometimes you just have to grit your teeth and RIP OFF the band aid. The two boys ran into the clothes shop and RIPPED OFF $100 worth of shirts. John realised that he had been RIPPED OFF when buying his new television when he learned that Roger had bought the same model at half the price. The singer has obviously RIPPED OFF the other singer's song but refused to admit it when they were asked about it. I am not paying that much! That is a RIPOFF! 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 'get down' below. I really love reading them. If you want to receive new blog posts directly email every week, please sign up on the form below. See you next time! James

  • The Phrasal Verb 'Rip Off' Explained

    An explanation of the different meanings of the English phrasal verb 'Rip Off', with examples and exercises. Hello and welcome to my website all about English phrasal verbs. Each week, I take a different phrasal verb and look at how it is used by native speakers, with a focus on the different meanings that it has and the expressions and idioms that it is used in. 'Rip off' is an informal and relatively modern phrasal verb, whose roots ultimately go back to American prisons at the beginning of the twentieth century. Aside from its literal meaning, it has several idiomatic meanings that all derive from one central idea, which we will examine in this post. So, without further ado, let's get started.... RIP OFF: KEY INFORMATION For more explanation of the terms in the table above, click here. THE BASICS Before we look at the individual phrasal verb meanings of 'rip off', let's first take a quick look at the meanings of the individual words 'rip' and 'off'. 'To rip' is a verb with several meanings, but the main meaning that most of you are likely to be familiar with already is 'to pull something apart by using force, often in a quick and careless manner' and is similar in meaning to the verb 'to tear'. It is used primarily when referring to thin materials that can be split or pulled apart, such as paper, clothes and plastic bags and is usually a form of damage. Furthermore, 'to rip' also started being used in American prisons at the beginning of the twentieth century to mean 'to steal' and this usage is one that features heavily in the phrasal verb meanings of 'rip off'. We then have the prepositional particle 'off', which functions as the opposite of the preposition 'on' and has many different applications in English. When used as an adverb, 'off' can refer to something that is no longer contacting or touching a surface, or is no longer attached to something. So, now that we have covered the basics, let's move on to the different meanings of the phrasal verb 'rip off'.... MEANING 1: To remove by violently tearing The first meaning of 'rip off' is the literal meaning of the combination of the words 'rip' and 'off' that we have just looked at and is therefore 'to remove something in a violent manner, so that it is no longer attached'. As with the main meaning of the verb 'to rip', the action of 'ripping off' is usually done in a quick and violent manner. However, in contrast to the meaning of the verb 'to rip', the action of 'ripping off' is often done in an intentional way, with the sole desire of removing or detaching something and it does not always mean that the item is damaged as a result. That being said, it can also be used to describe when something has been damaged and the result is that a part of an item has been ripped off. Another way that 'rip off' is used in this way is in relation to a person's clothes. We can use 'rip off' with clothes when an item of clothing is pulled so much that it rips and is no longer able to be worn (think of the Incredible Hulk or Hulk Hogan). Alternatively, we can also use 'rip off' to describe when a person removes their clothes (or someone else's) in a quick and hasty way, normally without damaging the clothes. Examples of usage.... John ripped off a bit of paper towel to use to soak up the coffee that he had spilled. My new sweater doesn't fit me and I can't return it to the shop as I have ripped off the label! Roger and Helen ripped off each others' clothes in a moment of passion. IDIOM ALERT! As you can probably imagine, this first meaning of 'rip off' can be used with band aids (plasters in UK) for when we need to remove one from our skin as quickly as possible so as not to prolong the pain and unpleasant feeling that removing a band aid can cause. However, 'ripping off the band aid' has also developed to become an idiomatic expression to describe when we carry out a horrible but necessary action in a quick way, so that the pain and fear surrounding it is as short as possible. In other words, we do something necessary, yet unpleasant, as quickly as possible so it is out of the way. Example of usage.... It will be horrible confessing to your wife that you have lost your wedding ring but you just need to rip off the bandaid and get it over with! MEANING 2: To steal something The second meaning of 'rip off' is to steal something. This is perhaps the rarest of the meanings of this phrasal verb that we will cover, however it provides the basis for the others that will follow and so logically it works better here. As you may recall from earlier in the post, the verb 'to rip' has been used in American prison slang to mean 'to steal' since the early twentieth century. The phrasal verb form 'rip off' then developed and evolved from this during the 1960s in African American vernacular to mean to steal from, or also to swindle or cheat, someone. For this usage, we use 'rip off' with a direct object, which is the item that is stolen, and this can go either between 'rip' and 'off' or after them without changing the meaning. Examples of usage.... John has just ripped off a couple of cans of lager from the local store. The seasoned criminals casually went into the boutique and ripped a pair of designer shoes off without the staff noticing. MEANING 3: To overcharge someone The third meaning of the phrasal verb 'rip off' is an informal usage that means 'to charge someone too much money for a product or service'. The idea behind this meaning links back to the previous one of theft that we have just looked at, however it develops this idea further to encapsulate the concepts of 'cheating' or 'swindling' someone by fraudulent methods. In modern English, when we say that someone has been 'ripped off', we mean that the person has paid too much money for a product or service and therefore they have been cheated or exploited by the vendor. Another way that this can be used is not when a person has been charged too much money for a product, but rather when the product that has been sold is broken or damaged in some way, thus continuing this central idea of cheating the buyer. Grammatically, when we use 'rip off' in this way, the victim of the cheating activity is the direct object and can go between or after 'rip' and 'off' as a proper noun or between them only as a pronoun. Examples of usage.... How much did you pay?! You've been well and truly ripped off! If you pay more than $5 for a loaf of bread, then you are being ripped off. The taxi driver rips tourists off all the time as they do not know their way around the city. I bought a new car last week but I think I have been ripped off as it has a lot of problems and faults that the seller did not tell me about. MEANING 4: To copy someone's work Our fourth and final usage of 'rip off' is to 'copy someone's work', generally with the intention of presenting it as your own work. This can be in the form of written words, ideas, concepts or designs, however regardless of the form that it takes, the general concept is that one person's work has been imitated or copied, normally without their permission. Again, this takes us back to the root concept of 'theft', as this is essentially one person or company stealing the ideas and work from somebody else. Examples of usage.... As soon as I heard this new song, I could tell that the artist had ripped off an older song and didn't think that anyone would notice! Hey! Stop ripping off my work and think for yourself for a change! BONUS INFORMATION Before finishing this post, I want to make you aware of the uses that the noun 'rip-off' or 'ripoff' has in modern everyday English. Perhaps the most commonly used meaning of the noun 'ripoff' is used when referring to the price of something that is unreasonably highly priced, especially in comparison to the actual perceived worth or value of the item. $4 dollar a gallon of gas for your car is an absolute ripoff! You can buy it for $3 a gallon at the gas station down the road. A second usage of 'ripoff' as a noun is used for goods, products or work that are either stolen or are copies of other, more superior, work. While some people appreciate this painting, others are convinced that it is a ripoff of a painting by Cezanne. Lastly, we can also use 'rip off' in adjectival form and the adjective 'ripped-off' can be used to describe goods or products that are stolen or, less commonly, counterfeit or copies of something else. My brother's friends is selling some ripped off smartphones at a really good price. Let me know if you are interested! EXERCISE Re-write the following sentences using 'to rip off'.... It was December 1, so I tore the November page from my calendar. Sometimes you just have to grit your teeth and get the horrible thing over and done with. The two boys ran into the clothes shop and stole $100 worth of shirts. John realised that he had paid too much for his new television when he learned that Roger had bought the same model at half the price. The singer has obviously copied the melody of the other singer's song but refused to admit it when they were asked about it. I am not paying that much! That is far too much! EXERCISE ANSWERS FROM 'BREAK UP' (other variations may be possible) BREAK the chocolate bar UP into individual squares and add it to the mixture. John and Helen BROKE UP last week and they are no longer together. The meeting BROKE UP at 4pm sharp and everyone went back to their desks. I can't hear you properly, the line is BREAKING UP. Lisa's children BREAK UP tomorrow for the summer holidays. We all BROKE UP laughing when we saw what Roger had done. The answers will be available on next week's post. 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 'rip off' below. I really love reading them. If you want to receive new blog posts directly email every week, please sign up on the form below. See you next time! James

  • The Phrasal Verb 'Break Up' explained

    An explanation of the different meanings of the English phrasal verb 'break up', with examples and exercises. Hello and welcome to my website all about English phrasal verbs. Each week, I take a different phrasal verb and look at how it is used by native speakers, with a focus on the different meanings that it has and the expressions and idioms that it is used in. The phrasal verb 'break up' is used frequently in English and has several common meanings, as well as some less common, regional meanings. A common theme among many of the meanings that it has is the idea of 'ending' or 'finishing' and that something no longer exists as a whole unit anymore, however there are some other different meanings in addition to this. So, without further ado, let's take a look at them.... BREAK UP: KEY INFORMATION For more explanation of the terms in the table above, click here. THE BASICS To begin, let's first take a look at the meanings of the individual words 'break' and 'up' as these may provide some insight into the phrasal verb meanings of 'break up'. The verb 'to break' is a commonly used verb in English with a variety of meanings. Perhaps the most frequently used meaning is to cause something to stop working by damaging it, by using force either to separate it into separate pieces or to stop it functioning somehow. In addition to this meaning, 'to break' as a verb can also be used to mean 'to briefly interrupt or stop something' and 'to bring something to an end', among other meanings. The prepositional particle 'up' will be no stranger to any regular readers of this blog (or to any learner of English) and is primarily used to talk about movement to a higher place or away from the ground. So, now what we have covered the basics, let's move on to the meanings of 'break up'.... MEANING 1: To separate into smaller pieces The first meaning of 'break up' that we will cover in this post is 'to divide or separate into smaller pieces'. This meaning can be used both transitively, with a direct object, and intransitively, without one. Firstly, let's look at the transitive use, where 'break up' takes a direct object, as I think that this is the more commonly used of the two variations. When we 'break something up', it means that we separate it into smaller pieces, so that it no longer exists as a complete unit. This is usually done by applying some force to the object that needs to be 'broken up' and this can either be done in an intentional way, where something needs to be separated into pieces as part of a process, or it can be in a purely destructive way. If you have read my post about the phrasal verb 'break down', you may remember that we also use this to mean 'to separate something into smaller pieces'. While these two phrasal verbs can be used as synonyms in certain situations, there is a small difference. We tend to use 'break down' with items that can be separated and dismantled into separate parts to be put back together again in the future e.g. furniture, and these items are not truly broken as they will function again in the future. On the other hand, the particle 'up' in phrasal verb constructions often carries the meaning of a permanent end and and we would therefore use 'break up' more for separating something into pieces permanently, e.g. bread or a chocolate bar, with the idea that something is truly broken and will not function in the same way again. Although we often tend to use 'break up' in this way with objects that we can break using our hands, it can be used with any items that we cause to break into separate, often many, pieces. As this form takes a direct object, it can be used separably and the placement of the direct object does not affect the meaning. We often use the words 'into pieces" or "into bits" after this usage of 'break up' to describe the end result of the 'breaking up' action. Examples of usage.... John broke the bar of chocolate up into small pieces in order to make his favourite dessert. He broke up the bread and passed it around to the others in the group. The old picture frame was too large to fit into the car, so Helen had to break it up into smaller pieces in order to take it to the rubbish tip. Now let's look at the intransitive use of this meaning of 'break up', where there is no direct object. If we say that something 'breaks up' then we mean that something separates into smaller parts by itself, i.e. without direct intervention from a person. This can also be used to mean when things disintegrate or disperse. Examples of nouns that this intransitive form is used with are things like clouds, items that fall from space through the atmosphere and icebergs. However, it can also be used for any objects that can break into separate pieces without any specified human intervention to cause it. Interestingly too, we can say that when countries separate into smaller parts that they also 'break up' without a direct object. Examples of usage.... Luckily, the meteor broke up in the Earth's atmosphere and only tiny fragments of it fell to the ground. The clouds broke up at just the right time for the people to be able to see the solar eclipse. When the civil war ended in 1876, the country broke up into three smaller independent states. MEANING 2: To end a romantic relationship The second meaning of 'break up' is another hugely common one and means 'to end a romantic relationship'. If a couple 'breaks up', then it means that their romantic relationship has ended, although this does not necessarily mean that the split is permanent and many people can and do get back together or 'make up' again after breaking up. The signification of 'break up' here again links back to the idea that something no longer exists as a complete unit, as the couple becomes separated into two separate parts. While we do predominantly use 'break up' in an intransitive way without a direct object, it can also be used with a direct object when another person, be it a family member or another interested person, tries to cause the couple to separate. Thankfully, as most people are good and decent people, this usage with a direct object is rarer, but still very much in use when needed. Examples of usage.... Roger and Lisa have broken up! I can't believe it, I thought that they would stay together forever! If you break up with your partner, it can be an extremely painful and sad time. The couple broke up for a short period last year and got back together again when they realised how much they missed each other. Helen has always loved John and she has been trying to break his relationship with Lucy up for years now. Luckily for Lucy he doesn't feel the same way about her! MEANING 3: To end a meeting or a gathering Meaning number three of 'break up' is used principally with groups of people and means 'to end a meeting or gathering'. This application of 'break up' is used in the business world in reference to meetings, specifically when talking about when a meeting ends and the attendees are free to leave. Once again, this meaning carries the idea of something ending (the meeting) and no longer existing as a complete unit. Outside of the business world, and arguably more common, is the usage of 'break up' to mean 'to end a social gathering, 'generally a party'. Typically, a person who breaks up a party would be an authority figure such as a police officer or a parent. Alternatively at smaller, more intimate parties, the first people to leave would be the ones accused of 'breaking it up'. One other way that this application of 'break up' can be used is when talking about a physical fight and someone intervenes to stop it or 'break it up'. Examples of usage.... The meeting broke up at 4pm exactly and all of the attendees went their separate ways. The police came and broke up the house party after several of the neighbours had complained. I'm sorry to have to break up the party, but I need to get off now as I have work early in the morning. The schoolboys got into a fight on the playground and the headteacher had to intervene and break it up. MEANING 4: To be interrupted (signal) Our fourth meaning of 'break up' is to interrupt a signal, typically of a phone or video call. For this meaning we are moving away from the idea of ceasing to exist as a complete unit and instead linking back to the meaning of the verb 'to break' as in of 'interference'. This usage of 'break up' is used almost exclusively with communication signals for telephone and video calls and is used when it is not consistent, therefore causing problems for someone to hear what the other person is saying or only hearing some of the words. It is typically used when one of the people is in a place with bad or patchy reception. 'Break up' in this sense is used intransitively and is not separable as there is not normally a person or thing intentionally causing the interference on the line. We often tend to use this application of 'break up' with continuous verb forms and often with the verb 'to keep'. Examples of usage..... I called my parents from my hotel on holiday but the line was so bad and it just kept breaking up, so I couldn't hear half of what they were saying. I can't hear you, the signal keeps breaking up! The phone signal is really bad up the mountain and it breaks up constantly when you try and call someone. MEANING 5: To finish for holidays Meaning number five of 'break up' is a really good one if you live in the UK as it is a British usage to mean 'to finish school or work for a holiday or vacation'. This is very commonly used for schools and educational institutions and is used to refer to the last day of the term or semester before the holidays begin. Aside from this, it is also used by workers to refer to the last day that they work before having time off or going on vacation somewhere. You should note, however, that 'break up' is not used when leaving a school or employment permanently or before taking time off for illness or bereavement - only for a holiday break. 'Break up' in this way is always used without a direct object and native speakers typically just use the words "break up" along with a day or date to specify when their last day will be. We often use the additional preposition 'for' to specify the reason or duration of the holiday. Examples of usage.... My drive to work was so quick this morning as the kids have broken up for the summer holidays now and the roads are really quiet. When do the schools break up for Christmas? I break up today for two weeks, so I need to get all of these emails done and finish this report for my boss. MEANING 6: To start laughing or crying uncontrollably For our sixth and final meaning, we are going to switch sides of the Atlantic Ocean and talk about an American usage of 'break up', which is 'to begin to laugh or cry uncontrollably'. We can use this form of 'break up' intransitively when people start laughing or crying or we can use it with a direct object when something causes the person to laugh or cry. Interestingly, 'break down' can also be used a synonym here, in both British and American English, for when someone becomes emotional or starts crying. For those interested in a British alternative to the uncontrolled laughter, 'crack up' would be a good alternative here. Examples of usage.... John expected everyone to break up laughing when he told his best joke, but nobody did! She broke up in tears when she told me that she had broken up with her boyfriend! BONUS INFORMATION Before I finish the post, I just want to give you some extra information on the different ways that the noun 'breakup' or 'break-up' can be used. Typically and most commonly, breakup as a noun is used to describe the ending of a romantic relationship however it can also be used to talk about when familial relationships are cut and members of a family no longer see each other. Strangely, we do not tend to use the phrasal verb form for these familial relationships though. Aside from the ending of a relationship, we also use 'breakup' as a noun to describe when countries and empires separate into smaller nations, as well as other items that can be separated into smaller parts, similar to Meaning 1 at the beginning of the post. Examples of usage.... Sue is still getting over the breakup with her partner last year. It hit her hard! Breakups can be difficult for people to deal with. The breakup of the Austro-Hungarian empire occurred with the onset of the First World War. EXERCISE Re-write the following sentences using 'to break up'.... Separate the chocolate bar into individual squares and add it to the mixture. John and Helen separated last week and they are no longer together. The meeting finished at 4pm sharp and everyone went back to their desks. I can't hear you properly, there is interference on the line. Lisa's children finish school tomorrow for the summer holidays. We all burst into fits of laughter when we saw what Roger had done. The answers will be available on next week's post. EXERCISE ANSWERS FROM 'TAKE DOWN' (other variations may be possible) Can you reach up to the top shelf and TAKE DOWN a loaf of bread for me? The billboard advertisement was TAKEN DOWN after a complaint from a member of the public. TAKE DOWN the patriarchy now! Despite having poor eyesight, John managed to TAKE DOWN the car's registration plate. Roger was a sore loser and told Helen in a threatening way that he would TAKE her DOWN the next time that they played golf. He is so conceited and arrogant, someone is going to TAKE HIM DOWN A PEG OR TWO one day. 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 'break up' below. I really love reading them. If you want to receive new blog posts directly email every week, please sign up on the form below. See you next time! James

  • The Phrasal Verb 'Take Down' Explained

    An explanation of the different meanings of the English phrasal verb 'Take Down', with examples and exercises. Hello and welcome to my website all about English phrasal verbs. Each week, I take a different phrasal verb and look at how it is used by native speakers, with a focus on the different meanings that it has and the expressions and idioms that it is used in. In this post, we are looking at the English phrasal verb 'take down' and all of the different meanings that it has, as well some of its other applications, including its uses as a noun. You may already be familiar with some of its meanings, however I'm sure that one or two will be new to you. So, without further ado, let's get started.... TAKE DOWN: KEY INFORMATION For more explanation of the terms in the table above, click here. THE BASICS Before we examine the different uses of 'take down' as a phrasal verb, let's first of all break it down into its constituent parts, as this can often provide a bit of logic when applied to the seemingly illogical phrasal verb meanings. Firstly we have the common English verb 'to take', which you will certainly be very familiar with as it is one of the ten most common verbs in the English language. The general idea behind the verb 'to take' is 'to remove something from a place', but it can also be used to express the ideas of movement, acceptance and endurance, among others. Next, we have the prepositional particle 'down', which is a common feature in phrasal verb constructions and generally means a lower position, or movement towards to a lower position when used adverbially. As with almost all prepositions in English, it is used in many diverse and different ways, however it is worth mentioning here that one of its uses as an adverb means 'to be recorded in writing or in written form'..... - I have all of the details down on paper, so I can refer back to them if I need to. So, now that we have got all of the basics covered, let's move on to the different phrasal verb meanings of 'take down'.... MEANING 1: To remove something from a high place The first meaning of 'take down' that we will look at is more or less a literal meaning as it is 'to remove something from its position in a high place, so that it ends up in a lower place'. This can be used for things which are positioned in a physically high place such as a high shelf (like in the picture above) or on top of a wardrobe, however it can also be used for items that are suspended above the ground, such as decorative lights, or affixed to walls in an elevated position, such a as poster or a notice. If you have read my recent post about the phrasal verb 'put up', you may recall that the third meaning of 'put up' that I covered was 'to place something on display'. Moreover, as I also mentioned, 'put' and 'take' are often used in English for opposite actions, especially in phrasal verb constructions, and 'take down' is no exception to that rule as it is used to remove something that has been placed on display. Grammatically speaking, this meaning of 'take down' does take a direct object and is separable. You can put the object between or after the phrasal verb, without changing the meaning or intonation. Another variation of this meaning that I want to mention here is one that is predominantly used in American English and means to 'lower something without removing it' and the prime example of this would be trousers / pants. In British English, we may also say 'take down' here or the alternative 'pull down'. Examples of usage Could you help that lady and reach up there and take down a bag of flour for her from the top shelf as she can't reach it. We are having our living room painted today, so I have had to take down all the pictures and photos from the wall. Helen gets sad and depressed when she has to take her Christmas decorations and lights down. Could you take down your trousers please, so that the doctor can see the wound on your leg. MEANING 2: To dismantle a structure The second meaning of 'take down' is to dismantle an upright structure. In other words, this is removing each part of the structure until it is no longer standing and only the constituent parts remain. Once again, this action in direct contrast to one of the meanings of 'put up' that I recently posted about (i.e. to build a structure). Much like its opposite, it can be used to talk about buildings, tents, fences and any other standing structures that can be dismantled and removed. Furthermore, this usage of 'take down' can also be used to talk about dismantling non-physical structures such as social systems and governments. For this however, it tends to be used by activists and people with strong opinions and is therefore used much more forcefully and negatively. Examples of usage The crew took down the enormous building, steel beam by steel beam. The local council has taken down the tired old road signs in the city and has put up new modern ones in their place. Our neighbour has put up a huge fence between our gardens and we have asked him to take it down and replace it with a shorter one. Cries of "take down the government" could be heard during the rally. MEANING 3: To write something The third meaning of 'take down' is a commonly used one in the world of business English and means 'to write something down so that there is a written record of it'. If you remember from earlier on in the post, I mentioned that one of the meanings of 'down' as an adverb is to be recorded in written form and this phrasal verb meaning is simply an extension of that meaning. If we take something down, we note it on paper, or in word processed form, so that we can refer back to it at a later time or date. As such, this application is often used when there is a degree of seriousness to the situation, such as 'taking down' the registration number of a car involved in an accident or 'taking down' all of the details regarding a customer complaint so that you can look into it later. Examples of usage John has taken down my address and has promised to send me hard copies of the photos from today's workshop in the post. A car just drove into my car when I was reversing and damaged the back. It sped off again so quickly afterwards that I did not have a chance to take down the registration number. Lisa is going to take down all of the minutes of today's meeting and she will send you all a copy by email once she has written them up. MEANING 4: To defeat someone The fourth and final meaning of 'take down' means 'to defeat someone', usually in a convincing or conclusive way. Furthermore, in some, more extreme, cases it can also mean to kill someone or destroy something. I believe that this particular application of 'take down' can be traced back to combat sports, in particular wrestling, as when a person is defeated, they are often 'down' on the floor. This usage of 'take down' is still very much used in combat sports but has spread to become acceptable for all sports or competition. It is definitely more of an informal usage and can often be used as a threat to someone, either of physical violence towards them or simply that they will be defeated. This meaning is separable and tends to be used much more commonly with the pronoun for the defeated person (me, you, him etc.) or thing (it) being placed between 'take' and 'down'. If you are using the name of the person or thing that is defeated, then you are fine to place this either between or after the phrasal verb, however if you are using a pronoun, then it needs to go between 'take' and 'down'. Examples of usage Many people have tried to take down Roger but no one has succeeded yet! You'd better be worried because I am going to take you down next time! The boxing world champion has threatened to take down his next opponent before the end of the first round at their match this coming Saturday. IDIOM ALERT! Before we take a look at the bonus material, I just want to make you aware of an English idiom that features the phrasal verb 'take down'. To take someone down a peg or two is an expression that means 'to show someone that they are not as important as they think they are'. This is often reserved for arrogant and self-important people who think they are better than other people. When we take them down a peg or two, we do or say something that stops them acting in that superior way. A couple of alternatives to this idiom also exist. One of these is 'to take someone down a notch' and the other is 'to bring someone down a peg or two'. Examples of usage She thinks she is so much better than everyone else and one of these days someone is going to take her down a peg or two. The arrogant footballer was taken down a peg or two when he started playing football for a professional team and he realised that he was no longer the best in his team. BONUS: TAKE DOWN AS A NOUN As I mentioned at the very beginning of the post, the phrasal verb 'take down' also has a noun derivative 'takedown' (or 'take-down'), which has several different meanings: The first of these links back to wrestling and refers to when a fighter is knocked or wrestled to the ground by their opponent. Alternatively, this could also be used for the act of successfully taking someone down a peg or two. The next use of the noun 'takedown' can be used to describe when something is harshly criticised in great detail in writing, in a speech or on a tv show. The last use of 'takedown' as a noun is to describe when the police arrest multiple people at the same time. EXERCISE Re-write the following sentences using 'to take down'.... Can you reach up to the top shelf and get the loaf of bread down for me? The billboard advertisement was removed after a complaint from a member of the public. Dismantle the patriarchy now! Despite having poor eyesight, John managed to make a note of the car's registration plate. Roger was a sore loser and told Helen in a threatening way that he would beat her the next time that they played golf. He is so conceited and arrogant, someone is going to put him in his place and show him that he's not as important as he thinks one day. The answers will be available on next week's post. EXERCISE ANSWERS FROM 'GIVE OUT' (other variations may be possible) The local restaurant was GIVING OUT passers-by free samples of their food earlier. These new speakers that I have bought GIVE OUT a high quality sound. John was lifting a heavy box when his back GAVE OUT, meaning that he had to take a month off work. The farmer estimates that he has about a week until his grain stock GIVES OUT. The local aid agency is GIVING OUT information about how to help with the rescue efforts. Lisa's teacher was always GIVING OUT to her for being late to class. 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 down' below. I really love reading them. If you want to receive new blog posts directly email every week, please sign up on the form below. See you next time! James

  • The Phrasal Verb 'Give Out' Explained

    An explanation of the different meanings of the English phrasal verb 'Give Out', with examples and exercises. Hello and welcome to my blog all about English phrasal verbs. Each week, I take a different phrasal verb and look at how it is used by native speakers, with a focus on the different meanings that it has and the expressions and idioms that it is used in. Are you already familiar with the phrasal verb 'give out'? Even if you are, it may surprise you that it can be used in English in no less than 6 different ways! In this post, we will examine the different ways to use it in English, from commonly meanings such as distributing something by hand to the less common and regional meaning of reprimanding someone. So, without further ado, let's get started.... GIVE OUT: KEY INFORMATION For more explanation of the terms in the table above, click here. THE BASICS Before we look at the different meanings of 'give out', it is a good idea to familiarise ourselves with the constituent words 'give' and 'out', as this can often apply some much needed logic to the phrasal verb's meanings. The verb 'to give' is one that you will definitely know already and primarily means to freely and willingly transfer the possession of something to another person. This is not the only meaning of 'to give' however and another of its meanings is 'to yield under pressure', which was historically used for people who owed money and only paid it back after being pressured (or threatened). Nowadays though it tends to be used more for the physical world around us for things that can bend or break when pressure is applied to them. Furthermore, another much less common meaning of 'to give' that is relevant for 'give out' is 'to produce a sound, especially from your mouth e.g. a cough or a sigh'. We then have the prepositional particle 'out', which is the natural opposite of the preposition 'in' and is used for external spaces and movement towards an external space from an internal one. Moreover, we can also use it to describe movement away from the speaker or the subject of the conversation. Aside from these key meanings, 'out' is a very diverse word and can be used as an adverb, adjective and verb for different purposes. So, now we have looked at the meanings of its component words, let's take a look at the different meanings of the phrasal verb 'give out'... MEANING 1: To distribute by hand The first meaning of 'give out' is to distribute something by hand and is normally used when talking about giving items to a group of people rather than to an individual. This first meaning is perhaps the closest to a literal meaning of 'give out' that we have as it describes the action of giving objects away other to people, with the idea that the items in question move away from the speaker as they are passed into the hands of the recipients. It is worth noting that the usage of 'give out' in this sense is more much specific than that of 'to give' as we only use 'give out' when we talk about passing items to people by hand. Also, in contrast to the verb 'to give', 'give out' does not necessarily mean that the recipient will own the new item as it may be just temporary, for example when safety glasses are given out to people on a factory visit. This application of 'give out' is frequently used with identical or similar items that are duplicated or mass produced for many people to use or consume, including paper documents, things to eat or drink or items of clothing. Another time that you will hear 'give out' used in this way in English is around Christmas when people talk about Santa Claus giving out presents to well-behaved children (in this case not by hand). With this meaning, the item that is given out to people is a direct object and can therefore be inserted between 'give' and 'out' or after them. Examples of usage.... At the beginning of the exam, the teacher gave out the wrong exam papers to the students. John, could you please give the textbooks out to the rest of the class. Free cakes are being given out outside the bakery. You'd best hurry though as they are almost all gone! BONUS INFORMATION Another way that you may hear 'give out' in this sense is when talking about the issuing of punishments, penalties and fines. Although we often do not physically hand objects directly to people in this instance, 'give out' is still used to describe when these punitive sanctions are issued by an authority. Example of usage.... The judge gave out a sentence of life imprisonment to the convicted felon. Teachers should only give out punishment when the student really deserves it. MEANING 2: To emit The second meaning of 'give out' that we will look at means 'to emit' and is used primarily with non-physical nouns that are detected by our senses, such as sound, light and smell. As a general rule, I would say that this meaning of 'give out' is used most commonly in everyday language to describe noises that we make with our voices such as screams, sighs and cries. Aside from this, we do also use 'give out' for other noises, smells, lights and gases that are emitted and produced and due to their nature, these can often feature in more conversations about more scientific and technical topics. As with most phrasal verbs though, 'give out' is slightly informal and so for very formal documents and scientific papers you are more likely to come across a synonym such as 'to emit'. On a grammatical note, 'give out' in this sense is separable, however we naturally do not tend to separate it very much. Examples of usage.... Helen gave out a squeal of joy when she realised that Roger had bought her a puppy for her birthday. The sun gives out an enormous amount of light, heat and energy every second. I bought a cheap pair of earbuds last week and I was really pleasantly surprised to discover that the sound that they give out is brilliant quality. Plants take in carbon dioxide and give out oxygen. MEANING 3: To stop functioning The third meaning of 'give out' is 'to stop functioning' and can be used for both people and equipment alike. When talking about equipment and devices, we can use 'give out' to mean that something has stopped working and this is often (but not always) used when the malfunction is permanent and the equipment will not work again, for example because it is old or overused. You may hear this being used with such items as an engine, batteries and household devices. As I mentioned above, we can also use 'give out' in this way for people, however it is not used to talk about an entire person, but rather a specific body part such as internal organs or legs. In some cases, such as a heart or a liver, we will say that the internal organ 'gave out' and we infer directly from this that the person died as a result. When talking about other parts of the body e.g. legs, we know that the person probably didn't die as a consequence, but it may nevertheless have had some other negative ramification for them. This form of 'give out' is not separable and does not take a direct object and the device or body part in question is the subject. Examples of usage.... I had my car for 22 years before the engine finally gave out and I had to replace it. The batteries are about to give out on our remote control and will need changing soon. The doctor says that my grandfather doesn't have much time left until his heart gives out, but he refuses to accept it and carries on like he did before. John's legs gave out just before the finishing line of the 10km race and his friends had to help him finish. MEANING 4: To be completely used up The fourth meaning of 'give out' is used to describe supplies of something and means 'to be completely used up or exhausted'. This sense is very similar to that of the phrasal verb 'run out' and if you want to refresh your memory on that, click here. As I mentioned above, this is used for supplies of something and so therefore is typically reserved for nouns for objects that we store and which can be depleted over time until we have none left such as grain, food, fresh water and gas. This is not the a particularly commonly used meaning of 'give out', however it does still exist in everyday English and therefore you may come across it somewhere. Examples of usage.... After three days of trekking through the jungle, our food gave out and we had to hunt for our own food for the remainder of the trip. The farmer doesn't expect his grain supplies to give out any time soon, but he always buys extra just in case. MEANING 5: To broadcast For the last two meanings of 'give out', we are going to be focusing on usages that are more specific to the British Isles and this fifth one, meaning 'to broadcast', is one that is primarily used in British English. In addition to this usage being localised to British English, it is also quite old-fashioned, however I want to make you aware of it as there are still some vestiges of it that continue to exist in modern English. So, the construction 'to give out that...' is a slightly archaic construction to mean 'to make something public' but we do not really use it much in that way anymore. We still do use 'give out' with nouns such as 'news' and 'information' though as a way of saying that they were communicated to people and in this sense this meaning still lives on in modern British English. Examples of usage.... Cheers of joy could be heard from every corner of the city when it was given out that the war had ended. I had to give out the terrible news that jobs were being cut in the business and that there would be redundancies. MEANING 6: To reprimand someone The sixth and final meaning of 'give out' that we will look at in this post is an informal Irish usage and means to reprimand, scold, criticise or complain to someone. As you can probably work out from the different meanings, it is generally associated with being angry or annoyed with another person and is frequently accompanied by the additional preposition 'to' when specifying the recipient of the person's anger. Examples of usage.... My schoolteacher used to give out to me all the time for talking in class. Lisa's teenage daughter got home later last night and so she's been giving out to her about it all day. EXERCISE Re-write the following sentences using 'to give out'.... The local restaurant was offering passers-by free samples of their food earlier. These new speakers that I have bought emit a high quality sound. John was lifting a heavy box and he strained his back, meaning that he had to take a month off work. The farmer estimates that he has about a week until his grain stock is used up. The local aid agency is providing information about how to help with the rescue efforts. Lisa's teacher was always scolding her for being late to class. The answers will be available on next week's post. EXERCISE ANSWERS FROM 'PUT UP' (other variations may be possible) Have you ever PUT UP a tent? The company has PUT adverts UP around the city as part of their new marketing campaign. Roger will not PUT UP WITH his children being cheeky for long. The house is going to be PUT ON the market in the next week. I am PUTTING my friend UP until his apartment is ready to live in. We PUT our prices UP on 1st April this year. 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 'give out' below. I really love reading them. If you want to receive new blog posts directly email every week, please sign up on the form below. See you next time! James

  • The Phrasal Verb 'Put Up' Explained

    An explanation of the different meanings of the English phrasal verb 'Put Up', with examples and exercises. Hello and welcome to my website all about English phrasal verbs. Each week, I take a different phrasal verb and look at how it is used by native speakers, with a focus on the different meanings that it has and the expressions and idioms that it is used in. 'Put up' is a common phrasal verb in English that is used in many different areas of life, ranging from things as diverse as construction to resistance. It has a broad variety of different uses, many of which are used for quite specific situations and I will do my best to cover all of these in this post. So, without further ado, let's get started.... PUT UP: KEY INFORMATION For more explanation of the terms in the table above, click here. THE BASICS Before we look at the different phrasal verb meanings of 'put up', let's break down its component words to see if they can offer us any clues to the phrasal verb meanings that we will look at shortly. Firstly we have 'to put', which is certainly one of the favourite verbs of English native speakers as it is in frequent use in everyday English. The general idea behind it it is to move or place something into a position, but it does also have other meanings, such as causing emotions or states to change and expressing something with words. The prepositional particle 'up' is one that features in many phrasal verb constructions and is generally used to refer to movement to a higher place or position. Furthermore, it can also be used for increases in numbers, rates and percentages etc. Now we have covered the basics, let's dive into the different phrasal verb meanings.... MEANING 1: Literal Before we look at the idiomatic meanings of 'put up', I want to begin with the literal meaning, which you may well be aware of. When we combine 'put' and 'up' in the literal sense, we are talking about placing something in a position that we perceive to be in a higher position than us e.g. a high shelf or a storage space near the ceiling. Moreover, this is used when there is a movement upwards and into a space, such as the little boy in the picture who has put his finger up his nose. Examples of usage.... I've had to put the ball of string up on the top shelf to stop the cats playing with it. John discretely tried to put his finger up his nose but to no avail as all of his colleagues saw him. MEANING 2: To construct something If you are familiar with a certain well-known Joni Mitchell song, you will know the lyrics "they paved paradise and put up a parking lot" and the usage of 'put up' here is our second meaning, which is 'to construct something, so that it is in an erect or an upright position'. This is commonly used with nouns such as buildings and walls, for which there is a building process and at the end of it there is an upright standing structure. This application is for both permanent and temporary structures and thus can also be used with other nouns such as tents, barriers and police cordons. Additionally, we can use it for imaginary walls and barriers, such as emotional walls that people 'put up' to stop themselves being emotionally hurt. Grammatically, this form of 'put up' takes a direct object and can therefore be separated, although we tend to place the object at the end a bit more, however placing the object between 'put' and 'up' is fine to do and not wrong. Examples of usage.... They demolished the old church and put up an apartment block in its place. We managed to put the tent up in less than 20 minutes! Police have put up a cordon around the crime scene whilst the investigation takes place. Lisa put up an emotional wall after her divorce to avoid getting hurt like that again. MEANING 3: To place something on display The third meaning of 'put up' is to place something somewhere so that is it on display for people to see. This is normally used with things that are hung on walls such as pictures, posters, notices or mirrors. However, it can also be used for signs, cameras and anything that can be placed in a suspended position above the ground. The idea behind this meaning is to put something in a position where it is visible to people. Logically this would need to be somewhere high for optimised visibility, which is why the particle 'up' is required. Notably, this application is also used for decorations, in particular party decorations and Christmas decorations and lights, as these are normally suspended. Strangely, we do also use this for a Christmas tree, even though it is placed on the ground and not suspended from anything. On a grammatical note, this usage of 'put up' is separable and takes a direct object, which is the item that is suspended. One extra thing to note here is that the opposite of 'to put' in phrasal verb constructions is often the verb 'to take' and therefore the phrasal verb to express the opposite action of this meaning of 'put up' is 'take down' and not 'put down'. Examples of usage.... The local council have put up a network of CCTV cameras around the city to improve public safety. Our cat went missing a week ago. We've put posters up all over the neighbourhood and are hoping that someone finds him soon. We put up our Christmas decorations on 12th December every year and take them down again on 6th January. MEANING 4: To tolerate This fourth meaning of 'put up' is a really common one that you may already be familiar with and means 'to tolerate'. For this usage we require the additional preposition 'with'. If you 'put up with something', you accept and live with a situation that you do not like, you do not agree with or is not ideal. It is in regular use in English, especially in spoken English, and is more commonly used and informal than its synonym 'to tolerate'. On a grammatical note, you cannot separate this usage of 'put up' and the indirect object always has to come after the word 'with'. If the direct object is a verb action, it needs to be in the gerund ('ing) form. Examples of usage.... I don't think I can put up with this for much longer! Lisa only puts up with Roger's snoring because she loves him. Nobody should have to put up with being bullied at work. MEANING 5: To provide money (as financial support) Our fifth meaning of 'put up' is to provide money in order to support someone or something financially. If you propose to 'put up money' for something, you are essentially offering to provide the finance for something, such as a project, a business startup or an event in order to make it possible. As you can imagine, this application is used a lot in the world of finance and investment as companies and trust funds are often looking for investors to put up funds in order for them to grow and expand. Aside from the finance sector however, this usage of 'put up' can also be used to describe any time a business or a person is provided with the money to undertake a project of venture. It is not really used for personal lending or borrowing for non-business purposes though, as the words 'lend' or 'loan' would normally be used more naturally here. Examples of usage.... The company is doing so well that it is now looking for investors who are willing to put up the capital to enable it to expand into overseas markets. We have asked the bank to put up the money and we are waiting for their decision. Helen's rich grandfather put up the money for her to buy a new premises for her shop. MEANING 6: To make something available for sale Meaning number six of 'put up' is 'to place something onto the market in order to be sold'. Here, the additional words 'for sale' are normally used. You may already be familiar with the expression 'to put something on the market' and this form with 'put up' is a synonym of this. The most common example of this that you are likely to hear is with houses as when someone decides to sell their house, they put it up for sale. It can equally be used to talk about placing anything on the market to be sold though. Another variation of 'put up for sale' is 'to put something up for auction', i.e. when you decide to sell something via a public sale to the highest bidder. A further possibility here is 'to put something up for rent', when you decide to rent it out, normally on a long term basis, rather than sell something. Examples of usage.... After a long period of deliberation, we have decided to put our house up for sale. The apartment was put up for rent by the new owners not long after they had completed the purchase. I've sorted out all of my old clothes and put the best ones up for sale. MEANING 7: To propose someone for election The seventh meaning of 'put up' is one that you often hear around the time of a political election as it means 'to propose a candidate for election'. This is used when a political party has decided the person who will represent them in the election and they would say that they "are putting up this candidate for election", therefore formally naming the person that they have chosen. Another similar usage to this, albeit in a very different area of life, is used when parents decide that, for whatever reason, they cannot look after their child and so opt to put it up for adoption. I guess we use 'put up' in this sense as by doing so, the child is being made available to the public so that the most suitable people can adopt and take care of it. Examples of usage.... The Green Party have announced the candidate that they are putting up for election in this constituency. My parents put me up for adoption when I was a baby, so I have no memory of them. MEANING 8: To accommodate someone temporarily The eighth meaning of 'put up' is to accommodate another person in your house on a temporary basis. This is normally used when a friend or a member of your family finds themselves in a situation where they have nowhere to live or stay and so they stay at your house temporarily. In other words, if you put someone up, you provide them with a place to sleep for a short period of time. Grammatically, this application of 'put up' is only used in a separable way with the person who is temporarily staying at the other person's house always going between 'put' and 'up'. Moreover, this usage of 'put up' is used equally commonly in both an active and a passive way, depending on if the person speaking is the person staying at the other's house (passive) or is the person who is letting their friend sleep at theirs (active). Examples of usage.... I am having a new kitchen fitted at my house, so my brother is putting me up for a couple of nights whilst the work is carried out. My brother is having a new kitchen fitted, so we are temporarily putting him up until it is completed. Can you put me up for a few days until I make up with my wife? MEANING 9: To resist something For the ninth meaning of 'put up', we are thinking about the idea of resistance as here we often combine 'put up' with nouns such 'fight' or 'resistance' to give the idea that something is opposed, fought or resisted in some way. With this usage, we do not tend to separate the words 'put' and 'up' and place the appropriate noun after the phrasal verb. Examples of usage.... There is no way that the local residents are going to accept this without putting up a fight. The army put up little resistance when the neighbouring countries' troops invaded. MEANING 10: To increase a price Our final meaning of 'put up' is more of a British usage that unfortunately has been used a lot over the last few years and that is 'to increase a price'. For this usage, we are talking specifically about when a decision is made by a company or a business to increase prices, rather than prices increasing in general. In fact, normally companies are forced to put up their prices due to a rise in general prices such as wholesale and overhead costs. This usage is separable and is fine to use in both a separable and inseparable way, without affecting the meaning. Examples of usage.... Due to an increase in our overheads, we have had to put up our prices to ensure that we still make a profit. We are putting up our prices on 1st January, so please check out our website in the coming weeks as the new prices will be published on there. Before we finish this post, I want to make you aware of some other expressions and specific uses that the phrasal verb 'put up' is featured in. Put up or shut up - This is an idiomatic expression that we use when we want to tell someone to either justify what they said, or else keep quiet. To put your hand up - This is something that is used very commonly in classrooms and, to a lesser extent, business meetings and other group activities and is simply when someone puts their hand in an elevated position above their head to signify that they know the answer to a question or want to speak. To put your hands up - The plural form is very different to the singular and is used to express when a person puts both hands in an elevated position in front of their face to show that they are surrendering. This is normally to the police when they are being arrested for a crime. Moreover, 'put your hands up' is also used in many modern pop songs in a different way as a call to start dancing or show appreciation. To put your feet up - This final expression means 'to sit down and relax' and is normally used after a period of hard work. EXERCISE Re-write the following sentences using 'to put up'.... Have you ever constructed a tent? The company has placed adverts around the city as part of their new marketing campaign. Roger will not tolerate his children being cheeky for long. The house is going to be placed on the market in the next week. My friend is staying at my house until his apartment is ready to live in. We increased our prices on 1st April this year. The answers will be available on next week's post. EXERCISE ANSWERS FROM 'WORK OUT' (other variations may be possible) I normally WORK OUT at the gym at least four times a week. Scientists have been trying to WORK OUT what dark matter is for many years. Can you WORK this sum OUT without using a calculator? The electoral committee are currently trying to WORK OUT a procedure for future elections. Despite their best efforts, things in their relationship didn't WORK OUT. Lisa tendered her resignation at her company and agreed to WORK OUT her notice period. 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 'put up' below. I really love reading them. If you want to receive new blog posts directly email every week, please sign up on the form below. See you next time! James

  • The Phrasal Verb 'Work Out' Explained

    An explanation of the different meanings of the English phrasal verb 'Work Out', with examples and exercises. Hello and welcome to my blog all about English phrasal verbs. Each week, I take a different phrasal verb and look at how it is used by native speakers, with a focus on the different meanings that it has and the expressions and idioms that it is used in. The phrasal verb 'work out' is a well known phrasal verb with a number of different meanings in English. I am sure that you will be familiar with at least some of them, especially as one or two have featured in popular songs in recent years. So, without further ado, let's take a look at them.... WORK OUT: KEY INFORMATION For more explanation of the terms in the table above, click here. THE BASICS Let's make a start by examining the constituent words of 'work out', as this can offer some understanding of the different phrasal verb meanings that it has. The verb 'to work' is a verb that I'm sure everybody will know as it is used multiple times by most English speakers daily and is a verb which is used with both love and hate in equal measure. 'To work' actually has a variety of different meanings in English, however the main two meanings are 'to engage in physical or mental activity in order to accomplish a job (often for financial reward)' and 'to function properly'. The prepositional particle 'out' is generally used to talk about movement away from an inside, enclosed or central place or space. In addition, 'out' has many other uses as a preposition, , adjective, adverb and even a verb, but behind many of its meanings there is an underlying idea of completion or conclusion, which is relevant for some of the meanings of 'work out' that we will cover shortly. So, now that we have covered the basics, let's take a look at the meanings of 'work out'.... MEANING 1: To do physical activity The first meaning of 'work out' that we will look at is probably the most well known of all of its different meanings and means 'to engage in physical activity'. Typically this is by doing some form of vigorous exercise such as going running, swimming a dance class and perhaps most commonly, training in the gym. Generally when we use 'work out' in this way, we are referring to doing solo activity rather than participating in a team sport. The general idea is that we complete a session of exercise, normally for the benefit of our health and well being. Grammatically, this meaning of 'work out' does not take a direct object and cannot be separated. As an alternative to the verb, it is worth noting that the noun 'workout' is used equally as much as the phrasal verb form, if not even more so. For this, the constructions 'to have a workout' or 'to do a workout' are normally used in the appropriate tense. Examples of usage.... I usually work out seven days a week and rarely have a rest day. John was working out in the gym when his wife called him to tell him that they had won the lottery. I've already done a workout today and don't intend to do another one. Lisa had such a stressful day at work and so decided to have a good workout in the gym to try and forget all about it. MEANING 2: To find the answer to something Now for the second meaning of 'work out' and for this we are moving away from physical activity and focusing instead on mental activity as the meaning is 'to find the answer to something by using your brain'. This is the first in a series of meanings which are all to do with engaging in mental activity to in order to determine some information. For this second meaning, the idea is to undergo a mental process in order to find the answer to a question. As such, we do not use it to talk about answering questions that we already know the answer to as there is no process involved with this - we know the information already and can recall it. 'Work out' here is rather all about the mental activity required to arrive at an answer by using the available clues or information that we have. Typically, 'work out' can be used for for things like crossword clues, sudoku, riddles, puzzles and complex quiz questions. Furthermore, it also frequently used to talk about when people attempt to understand the reasons why something happens or has happened, e.g scientists conducting experiments to understand phenomena or emergency service employees attempting to understand how a car accident has happened. In all of these cases, someone is trying to find out the answer to something by using the clues or evidence that they have. Grammatically, this usage of 'work out' does take a direct object and is therefore separable. It is worth noting however that often instead of a direct object, we often rephrase the question that we are trying to answer as a statement (invert the verb and the object), e.g. 'how did the accident happen?' becomes 'work out how the accident happened'. Alternatively, we can just use the question word on its own. In these cases 'work' and 'out' cannot be separated. Examples of usage.... I've almost finished this crossword. I just can't work out this last clue!! For years, scientists have been trying to work out how to stop volcanoes erupting but are no closer to achieving their goal. The police have managed to work out that the murder suspect was in the area when the crime was committed but they do not have any evidence to convict her yet. My cat has been acting very strangely and nobody in the family can work out why. Helen was fascinated by the magician at the party and was not able to work out how he performed his illusions. MEANING 3: To solve a mathematical sum The third meaning of 'work out' is a continuation of the theme of finding the answer to something and means specifically 'to solve a mathematical sum'. In other words, this meaning of 'work out' is to determine the numerical amount of something by using addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, or a combination of these. Again, in a similar fashion to the previous meaning, this also involves the process of calculation to arrive at the answer to something, this time a sum. In addition, we can also use 'work out' here to give the answer of a sum once the calculation process has ended. For this we use the construction 'works out at...', with the additional preposition 'at' required before the answer to the sum. We can also use the construction 'works out to be' here in some cases. Examples of usage.... The students were asked to work out some mathematical equations during the exam. What is 129 x 75? Can you work out the answer without using a calculator? I've looked at the costs for our family holiday this year and it it works out at just over £2000.00. Roger has started buying his groceries online as it works out to be $50 cheaper a week than when he goes to the supermarket. MEANING 4: To understand someone's character Meaning number four of 'work out' is the third and final one to do with finding the answer to something and it means specifically 'to understand someone's character'. Unlike the previous two meanings, we often tend to use this version of 'work out' in negative sentences often with 'can't' when we are unable to understand someone's character. This is normally because they act in a strange way or exhibit some unconventional personality traits and we do not understand why they act and behave the way that they do. This meaning of 'work out' tends to be used in a negative way, especially if there is a romantic element involved. Aside from just one person, you can also use this application of 'work out' to talk about groups of people. Again, this would almost always be in the negative sense, with the idea being that it is impossible to understand them and we will never be able to. Examples of usage.... His behaviour is very erratic, I just can't work him out. Helen thought she had worked Roger out, but she quickly changed her mind when he Lisa's has never really had much success with romance. She just can't work men out. MEANING 5: To plan something in detail The fifth meaning of 'work out' is 'to plan something in detail' and this is a meaning that you are likely to come across in the business world if you need to use English in your job. For this meaning of 'work out', we are mainly concerned with plans, systems, procedures and processes as these are all things that require a process of mental work and time to complete. The idea here is that the thing that you are planning is complex and involves many details, so a lot of thought needs to be given to it in order to plan and create it effectively. 'Work out' in this sense can be used for just one person's efforts or a collaborative effort between different people. This form of 'work out' takes a direct object and is separable. The direct object is always the thing that you are planning. Examples of usage.... We sat down this morning to try and work out a contingency plan for an economic recession. When our first child was born we were completely disorganised and didn't know what to do but within a few days we had worked out a system between us of feeding the baby and making sure we both got enough sleep. Did you manage to work out a procedure for resolving invoice queries in a timely manner? MEANING 6: To have a good result Our sixth meaning of 'work out' is 'to have a good result', or alternatively, 'to have the desired result'. For this meaning, as you can guess, we are entirely focused on the results of something and if we say that 'something worked out', then it means that the end result was good or was what we wanted it to be. This can be used across a broad spectrum of situations, from romantic relationships to the execution of plans. When 'work out' is used in this way, we often use additional collocational words such as 'in the end', 'for the best' and 'well'. On a grammatical note, this meaning of 'work out' does not take a direct object and is not normally separable. However, there is one instance where we can use it separably with the reflexive pronoun 'itself'. When we say that something 'works itself out', we mean that a complicated or undesired situation is resolved naturally with minimal intervention. Examples of usage.... We were worried that something would go wrong on our wedding day but thankfully everything worked out well! I was so certain that my business would go bankrupt but at the last minute an investor stepped in and everything worked out in the end. We had a really complicated legal issue at work last week but miraculously it worked itself out after a few days. MEANING 7: To work your notice This seventh and final meaning of 'work out' is a rare meaning that is only used in very specific circumstances, but I wanted to make you aware of it nonetheless. The meaning of this seventh usage is 'to work your period of notice in a job after you have tendered your resignation'. In other words, when you decide to leave your job within a company, there is normally a period of notice that contractually must be worked before you can leave e.g. one month. We use 'work out' here to say that a person will 'work out their notice' and stay at the company until the time when they are permitted to leave. Examples of usage.... I'm leaving Phrasal Verbs Ltd and I am going to work out my notice as agreed with my manager. He left the company last week. He stormed out after an argument with a co-worker and is refusing to come back or work his notice period out. EXERCISE Re-write the following sentences using 'to work out'.... I normally exercise at the gym at least four times a week. Scientists have been trying to understand what dark matter is for many years. Can you solve this sum without using a calculator? The electoral committee are currently trying to establish a procedure for future elections. Despite their best efforts, things in their relationship didn't improve and they separated. Lisa tendered her resignation at her company and agreed to stay until the end of her notice period. The answers will be available on next week's post. EXERCISE ANSWERS FROM 'GET BACK' (other variations may be possible) What time did Roger GET BACK from the airport last night? I don't ever want things to GET BACK to normal again. We need to GET BACK to the main subject of the discussion. John leant his Dad some money and he wants to know when he will GET it BACK. Lisa threatened Helen and promised to GET her BACK for what she did. I am not sure what the answer is. Can I find out and GET BACK to you? 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 'work out' below. I really love reading them. If you want to receive new blog posts directly email every week, please sign up on the form below. See you next time! James

  • The Phrasal Verb 'Get Back' Explained

    An explanation of the different meanings of the English phrasal verb 'Get Back', with examples and exercises. Hello and welcome to my website all about English phrasal verbs. Each week, I take a different phrasal verb and look at how it is used by native speakers, with a focus on the different meanings that it has and the expressions and idioms that it is used in. The phrasal verb 'get back' is a commonplace phrasal verb in English, with several meanings, which we will cover in this post. You may also be familiar with it as it is the title of a hit song by the ultimate British music band, The Beatles. Read on to find out more about this useful phrasal verb and all the ways that you can use it effectively to communicate in English. So, without any further ado, let's make a start... GET BACK: KEY INFORMATION For more explanation of the terms in the table above, click here. THE BASICS As is customary, let's start by taking a look at the component words that make up our phrasal verb of choice, as these often give valuable clues to their meanings. Firstly, we have the verb 'to get', which as I have stated before is perhaps the most beloved of verbs by English speakers because it can be used in so many ways (however, this also makes it a nightmare for English learners!). To make it simpler for the purposes of this post, the meaning of 'to get' that is relevant for the phrasal verb 'get back' is the meaning 'to arrive'. The preposition 'back' is a frequently used word in English, although it is perhaps not one of the most common prepositions used in phrasal verb constructions. Luckily, 'back' has relatively few meanings compared with most other prepositions and the general idea of it is 'to return'. So, now we have covered the basics, let's move on to the meanings of 'get back'.... MEANING 1: To return to a place The first three meanings of 'get back' that we will look at are all about 'returning' in some way and this first meaning is 'to return to a place', after having been somewhere else. This meaning is taken directly from the meaning of 'to get' as in 'to arrive', in combination with the idea of 'returning' that we get from the preposition 'back'. One of the most common ways that this is used is to describe when we return home. This could be after a quick trip to the shop, a day at work or a two-week holiday. The general idea is that we use 'get back' to describe the moment that we arrive at home. Aside from home, we can use 'get back' to talk about the moment that we return to a place after leaving it for a period of time. Due to the nature of this, we tend to use it mainly for places in which we habitually spend a lot of time e.g. work, however we can use it for a starting point for a small journey or trip of some kind too. On a grammatical level, this form of 'get back' is not separable and does not take a direct object. The extra preposition 'to' is required to specify the place that you are returning to, except for with the noun 'home' as we do not use 'to' with this noun. Examples of usage.... I went to the Ed Sheeran concert last night and I didn't get back until 2am. I am so tired! Our flight home later has been delayed so we won't get back to the UK now until midday. The first team to get back to the starting point will win the orienteering competition. John's doctor's appointment was only supposed to be 10 minutes but he was gone for more than an hour and didn't get back to work until 4pm. EXTRA INFORMATION TO SOUND LIKE A NATIVE SPEAKER If we want a person to return from somewhere, it is very normal in everyday English to use 'get back here!' as an imperative to demand that they come back from where they are. This could be when the person is physically and geographically in a different place, however it is often heard by parents with young children and dog owners who shout 'get back here!' to their children or dogs who have run away from them but are still visible or in hearing distance. MEANING 2: To return to a previous state For this second meaning of 'get back', we are staying with the general theme of 'returning' but rather than returning to a physical place, we are instead talking about returning to a previous state of being or existence. I would definitely say that the most frequent usage of this application of 'get back' is to talk about the general situation in our daily lives. When things in our lives change and we no longer have the normality that we previously did, we can say that we want things 'to get back to normal'. Or, when normality resumes, we can instead say 'things have got back to normal'. A prime example of when this usage of 'get back' was said all the time was during the Covid-19 pandemic and thankfully things have got back to normal now 😀 In addition to 'get back to normal', some other similar expressions that you may hear are 'get back to how things were' and 'get back to before'. Furthermore, we don't just use 'get back' in this way to talk about a return to normality; we can use it to talk about a return to previous conditions and previous levels e.g. in the economic or scientific fields. Examples of usage.... I really hate the end of year holidays! I can't wait for things to get back to normal after the new year. It took a while but family life has finally got back to how it was before. Scientists think that it may take many years for carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere to get back to pre-industrial levels. MEANING 3: To return to a subject The third meaning of 'get back' is another variation on the theme of 'returning' and this time means 'to return to a subject or topic'. This is often used during a conversation or discussion when the subject of the conversation goes off topic, in other words moves away from the original subject. Somebody usually then says that we need 'to get back to the subject or matter' that was originally meant to be discussed. Examples of usage.... Guys, can we please get back to the subject in question. I have another meeting shortly. I had a lovely chat with the careers advisor about my future career plans, although at one point we did go off topic and started talking about food but we soon got back to the topic. MEANING 4: To have something again The fourth meaning of 'get back' is 'to have something again', meaning that you are in possession of something again after a period of not being in possession of it. Again, this usage of 'get back' carries the same central idea of 'returning' as the idea here is that something is returned to you, so that you have it once again. Usually, this application is used for physical items such as a car or a book, but it can also be used for anything that we possess and that is ours, whether that be a skill that we lost and gained again, a relative who was away for some time and returned or a feeling such as confidence, that we temporarily lost and regained. Unlike the first three meanings in the post, this usage of 'get back' does take a direct object and is separable. Although, it is possible to place the direct object after 'get back', I would recommend putting it between 'get' and 'back' as it sounds much more natural. Examples of usage.... My car has been at the garage all day and I am waiting for them to call me to let me know when I can get it back. John's luggage got left in the airport when we was coming home from his holiday and it took almost one week for him to get it back. I need to get my cellphone back from my friend who borrowed it an hour ago! My disease is finally cured and I am grateful to have got my health back! MEANING 5: To take revenge on someone Meaning number five of 'get back' is to take revenge on someone or to do something harmful to them because they have wronged you in some way. In other words, if you 'get someone back' for something, you are trying to hurt them in such a way that is equal to (or perhaps worse than) how they hurt you. This usage of 'get back' is different from the previous ones that we have looked at in this post so far because the idea of 'returning' is not the central idea. The main idea of this usage of 'get back' is rather linked to a different, informal meaning of the verb 'to get', which is to catch someone and punish or hurt them in some way. This is a meaning of 'to get' that people often use in a playful way e.g. when playing with and chasing children, however it can be very serious and threatening in tone when used among adults. Grammatically, this usage of 'get back' takes a direct object, which always goes between 'get' and 'back'. There is also a second variation of this usage of 'get back' that you should know, which is 'to get back at someone'. This carries the same meaning as the first variation, however often with this one we need to specify why we want to take revenge and for this the additional preposition 'for' is required. For British English enthusiasts, we also have the variant 'to get your own back on someone', which again means the same thing ands is in common usage. Examples of usage.... Oh I am going to get you back for this! I played a practical joke on my best friend and embarrassed him in front of all our other friends and he has been trying to get me back for it ever since. In an attempt to get back at his neighbour for playing loud music all night, John started doing some loud drilling work early the next work. MEANING 6 : To respond to someone with information The sixth and final meaning of 'get back' is 'to respond to someone with information or an answer to a question'. This is a commonly used application of this phrasal verb, especially in business English. With this meaning, we are back to the idea of 'returning' again, as the idea here is that when someone asks you for information that you do not have, you need to go away and return once you have the information in question. Alternatively, this could be used if you have not decided something and you need some more time to make your decision. For this usage, the construction is 'to get back to someone' and we therefore require the extra prepositional particle 'to'. Examples of usage.... The representative at the water company is going to get back to me with an explanation of why my water bill is so high. I'm not about that to be honest. Can I go away and check with our accounts team and get back to you? They finally got back to me to let me know that they couldn't attend the wedding. BONUS You may remember earlier in the post, I mentioned about using 'get back here' as an imperative to request that someone returns to where you are. There is another way that 'get back' is used as an imperative and that is simply 'get back!', which is normally used a demand to people to move backwards or away from something that is potentially dangerous or hazardous. As a consequence, this is likely to be said by people in the emergency services such as police officers and firefighters. EXERCISE Re-write the following sentences using 'to get back'.... What time did Roger arrive home from the airport last night? I don't ever want things to return to normal again. We need to return to the main subject of the discussion. John leant his Dad some money and he wants to know when he will be repaid. Lisa threatened Helen and promised to take revenge for what Helen did. I am not sure what the answer is. Can I find out and let you know? The answers will be available on next week's post. EXERCISE ANSWERS FROM 'BLOW UP' (other variations may be possible) My cigarette was left in direct sunlight and has just BLOWN UP. There are 100 balloons that need BLOWING UP before the party tonight. John suddenly BLEW UP at Roger. I can't read this text very well, is there any way that you can BLOW it UP? Yesterday morning the weather was calm but then in the afternoon a storm BLEW UP. The media have BLOWN this STORY up. Before I finish the post, for anyone is interested, here is a link to the track 'Get Back' by The Beatles...can you tell which meaning of 'get back' they are using in the song? 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 'get back' below. I really love reading them. If you want to receive new blog posts directly email every week, please sign up on the form below. See you next time! James

  • The Phrasal Verb 'Blow Up' Explained

    An explanation of the different meanings of the English phrasal verb 'Blow Up', with examples and exercises. Hello and welcome to my blog all about English phrasal verbs. Each week, I take a different phrasal verb and look at how it is used by native speakers, with a focus on the different meanings that it has and the expressions and idioms that it is used in. The English phrasal verb 'blow up' is one that many of you may be familiar with as it has some very commonly used meanings. However, did you know that there are in fact at least eight ways that English native speakers use 'blow up', two of which are extremely new additions to the language. In this post, we will look at all eight of these meanings as well as a nice idiom that you can use to impress your fellow English learners. So, without further ado, let's get started.... BLOW UP: KEY INFORMATION For more explanation of the terms in the table above, click here. THE BASICS As per usual, let's start by taking a look at the component words that make up our phrasal verb of choice, as these often can often provide valuable clues to its meanings. The verb 'to blow' is a fairly common verb in English that is primarily used to talk about the movement of air. It does however have some other uses in English, such as to describe a violent outburst of activity or an electrical fuse that stops working due to a too much electrical current. Additionally, 'to blow' also has a number of unrelated informal meanings and uses in English. The prepositional particle 'up' is one of the most commonly used prepositions in phrasal verb constructions and is used to refer to a higher place, level or value, often in relation to the speaker. Moreover, used as an adverb, it is generally used to describe movement towards a higher place or level. So, now we have covered the basics, let's take a look at the meanings of the phrasal verb 'blow up'.... MEANING 1: To explode We are going to start the meanings of 'blow up' with a bang, or perhaps more aptly an explosion, as this first meaning is 'to explode'. This is most commonly used with nouns such as bombs, buildings, cars and engines, but it can be used with anything that could potentially explode. As you can probably imagine, when something explodes it is normally with a lot of power or force and usually the item that 'blows up' is almost always destroyed in the process. As a consequence of this, we have also come to use 'blow up' to describe something that has been destroyed due to an explosion. Examples of usage.... A bomb blew up in the centre of the city but luckily nobody was injured or killed. If this canister blows up, we will be seriously injured! A supernova is the name used to describe when a star blows up. Now we are not quite finished with this meaning of 'blow up', as there is another variation that you should be aware of. So far, we have considered 'blow up' from the aspect that something explodes without any human intervention, however we also have the variation 'to blow something up' when a person intentionally makes something explode in some way. This 'intentional' form of 'blow up' takes a direct object, which can either go between 'blow' and 'up' or after them. When talking about the destructive results of an explosion that a person has caused, we tend to use the passive form 'blown up' to describe the destroyed or damaged object. Sadly, this could also be used to talk about a person who is killed by an explosion, but this is a happy, positive blog, so let's move on quickly from that.. Scientists at NASA are working on plans to blow up any life threatening asteroids which may hit the Earth. On the 5th November every year in the UK we celebrate Guy Fawkes night, which commemorates the failed attempt by Guy Fawkes to blow up the houses of parliament in London in the year 1605. The monument was accidentally blown up by the government last year and is now in ruins. MEANING 2: To inflate The second meaning of 'blow up' is directly linked to the air movement that characterises the verb 'to blow', as it means 'to inflate', or in other words to fill something with gas or air. Typical nouns that we use with this application of 'blow up' are balloons, tyres, airbeds, inflatables for swimming pools and sports balls. Essentially, it used for anything that we fill with air or gas, normally to make it function. Grammatically, this form of 'blow up' takes a direct object and is separable, with the direct object going either between 'blow' and 'up' or after them. Examples of usage.... Lisa felt tired and breathless after blowing up 50 balloons for her birthday party. This airbed is not fully inflated, it needs blowing up a bit more, otherwise I will not be able to sleep on it. My Dad forgot to bring the foot pump to the beach today, so I had to blow up the dinghy myself and it took so long. MEANING 3: To lose your temper The next meaning of 'blow up' is to lose your temper and become very angry, normally in a sudden or quick manner (a little like an explosion). This is a relatively informal usage of 'blow up', but nevertheless it is one that is used fairly commonly among native speakers. It is worth noting that if we want to specify the person to whom the anger is directed, then we require the additional preposition 'at'. As such, 'to blow up at someone' is a common expression that native speakers use for to describe these angry outbursts and to say to whom the anger was directed. Examples of usage.... My husband is normally a very calm and composed man but he does sometimes blow up if something irritates him. My teacher blew up at me in the classroom today for no reason at all! I think she was having a bad day. MEANING 4: To enlarge The fourth meaning of 'blow up' is to enlarge something (make it bigger), in order to be able to see it more clearly or in more detail. Most commonly, this application of 'blow up' is used in relation to photos and text, where the details are not always visible at the standard size. We can also use the past particle 'blown up' as an adjective here, to describe a photo or text that has been enlarged or magnified. Again, this is a transitive usage, so you can insert the direct object between 'blow' and 'up'. Examples of usage.... I can't read the writing on this document very well. Is there any way that we can blow it up? At normal size the picture does not seem very interesting but when you blow it up, some very curious details are revealed. The police are examining a blown up image of the crowd at the football game to see if they can identify the hooligans who caused the trouble. MEANING 5: To become stormy or windy The fifth meaning of 'blow up' that we will look at in this post is to 'become windy or stormy'. This is typically used when we know that a storm or period of windy weather is going to develop very soon, or is even beginning to develop in the present. However, we can also use it to refer to the past when talking about a time when a storm or windy weather was starting. As standard, we would normally say that "a wind or a storm blows up". There is however a second possible variation, which is more common in American English and this is 'to blow up a storm" or "to blow up a gale*". This second variation means the same thing. On a grammatical note, unlike the other meaning that we have considered so far, this usage of 'blow up' is not separable and it does not take a direct object. Examples of usage.... Come on guys, I think we should go home now as there is a storm blowing up and I think it will be a strong one. It was a calm, sunny morning and I was getting on with my work on the farm when suddenly a strong wind blew up, which was then shortly followed by heavy rain. * The noun 'gale' is a term for a very strong gust of wind. BONUS In addition to weather storms, it should be noted that we also use this meaning of 'blow up' to talk about scandals and political storms that become public and well-known. Examples of usage.... A political storm blew up last week in the UK when politicians were accused of wasting taxpayers' money. MEANING 6: To exaggerate The sixth meaning of 'blow up' is one that I am sure that most people have done at some point in their lives and that is 'to exaggerate something'. If something is 'blown up', then it is made to sound bigger, more important or more serious than it really is. Sometimes, when we use 'blow up' in this way, we add some additional information such as the end result of the exaggeration and for this we can use the additional preposition 'into' - see the examples below. Moreover, a commonly used phrase for this that you may come across is to 'blow things up out of (all) proportion', which essentially means to overreact to something and therefore make it seem more important or serious than it really is. Examples of usage.... This story about the politicians wasting taxpayers' money has been completely blown up. It involves maybe just one or two politicians and they haven't wasted too much money! The press completely blew the story up out of all proportion. It was so unnecessary! The violence last night in the city has been blown up into some kind of civil war. It really was not as bad as everyone is claiming! MEANING 7: To inundate with calls and messages This seventh meaning of 'blow up' is a very new addition to the English language and means to inundate someone with phone calls and messages. This usage of English first started being used around the beginning of the 21st century as mobile phones and the internet became widespread among many people in the USA, which is where this usage originated. If someone 'blows up' your phone, they are not making it explode, but rather they are sending you lots of messages and / or calling you repeatedly. It is not just limited to phones though as it can be used to describe excessive communication attempts with any communication device. As you can imagine, due to its recent introduction into English, this usage is mainly used by young people and from my perspective still seems and sounds very American, although that will probably change as time passes. Examples of usage.... My boss has been blowing up my phone all morning because I haven't gone to work today. Helen's friends have been blowing up her phone all morning since she announced that she and Roger are going to get married. MEANING 8: To go viral This eighth and final meaning of 'blow up' is another one that has come into existence in the modern internet era and it means 'to go viral online'. If something 'blows up the internet', it goes viral, meaning that it spreads quickly and widely among internet users, normally via social media and is therefore seen and reacted to by a large number of people. Another slight variation of this is 'to blow up on the internet', which essentially means the same thing. Examples of usage.... This new story about Taylor Swift has blown up the internet this week. I really want my social media posts to go viral and blow up on the internet someday. BONUS Before I finish this post, I just want to make you aware of an idiom featuring 'blow up' that can be heard in everyday English.... To blow up in someone's face - I know this idiom sounds quite violent and painful but thankfully it does not imply any real physical danger. If something blows up in someone's face, it means that something goes wrong, such as a plan or some action that is being undertaken, and this then harms or creates a problem for the person who is carrying out the action or plan. Example of usage.... John was so desperate to get a pay rise at work that he agreed to take on more hours but it blew up in his face when he became sick from exhaustion and had to leave the company. EXERCISE Re-write the following sentences using 'to blow up'.... My cigarette was left in direct sunlight and has just exploded. There are 100 balloons that need inflating before the party tonight. John suddenly lost his temper with Roger and started shouting at him. I can't read this text very well, is there any way that you can enlarge it? Yesterday morning the weather was calm but then in the afternoon a storm developed. The media have made this news story sound far more serious and important than it really is. The answers will be available on next week's post. EXERCISE ANSWERS FROM 'CALL IN' (other variations may be possible) We couldn't fix the water pipe issue, so we had to CALL IN a plumber. I'm sorry I can't come today as I've been CALLED IN to work by my boss and I have to go. Helen CALLED IN to Lisa's house on her way back from work. Roger CALLED his kids IN for dinner at 7pm. The bank has decided to CALL IN my loan. John won't be in the office today. He has CALLED IN sick. 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 'blow up' below. I really love reading them. If you want to receive new blog posts directly email every week, please sign up on the form below. See you next time! James

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