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  • The Phrasal Verb 'Call On' Explained

    An explanation of the different meanings of the English phrasal verb 'call on', with lots of examples in context. Hello and welcome to my website all about English phrasal verbs! Read on to learn more about the phrasal verbs 'call on' and also its variant form 'call upon'.... This post is all about the English phrasal verb 'call on', however as I am feeling generous this week, I have also included the variant form 'call upon' for you, so you get two for the price of one! In this post, I will explain all of the different meanings of 'call on' and 'call upon' and how native English speakers use them in everyday language. In the post, I use 'call (up)on' to refer to both verbs as in most cases they mean the same thing. So, without further ado, let's get started.... CALL (UP)ON: KEY INFORMATION For more explanation of the terms in the table above, click here. THE BASICS Let's begin this post by considering the different meanings of the individual words 'call', 'up' and 'upon', which all make up our phrasal verb of choice. Firstly, we have 'to call', which is a frequently used verb in English, with several distinct but related usages, such as giving someone or something a name, telephoning someone or shouting loudly to get someone's attention. Another less common usage of 'to call', which is highly relevant for the phrasal verb 'call (up)on' is 'to make a request or a demand'. Secondly, we have the prepositional particle 'on', which you will certainly be very familiar with already. 'On' can be used in a huge variety of different ways in English and functions as an adverb, a preposition and even as an adjective. When used in phrasal verb constructions, 'on' can often add the ideas of progression and continuation. Last but not least, we have the prepositional particle 'upon'. This is formed by the combination of the particles 'up' and 'on' but actually serves as a more formal synonym for 'on'. 'Upon' is an older English term that is being gradually replaced by 'on', but can still be heard today, especially in formal language and also in place names in the UK, for example Shakespeare's birthplace is the town of Stratford-upon-Avon (Avon is the name of a river). So, now that we have covered the basics, let's take a look at the meanings of call (up)on.... MEANING 1: To formally ask someone to do something The first way that the phrasal verb 'call on' and its variant 'call upon' are used in English is 'to formally request someone to do something'. This is often when the request is made publicly, either physically in front of people or broadcasted via tv, radio or the internet. Have you ever been to a wedding in an English-speaking country? If not, I'm sure as an English learner you will have certainly seen weddings on English language TV or movies. If you have, you may have heard the bride or groom say the following words during the ceremony as part of their vows.... "I call upon these persons here present to witness...." Now, the wording above probably seems strange to you and that is because it is archaic, old-fashioned English that is no longer used anymore outside of formal situations and ceremonies. What the person is actually doing is just requesting that all of the guests witness the vows that he or she is making. As weddings are traditional ceremonies, much of the language used in them has been preserved from older English and so 'call upon' tends to be used here rather than 'call on', although 'call on' is being used more and more, especially in more modern ceremonies. In addition to weddings, 'call (up)on' is often used by people who have an audience or following to ask for some type of change from a government or an organisation. As the nature of these requests can often be urgent or desperate, it is common for them to become demands or orders, depending on the level of influence that the person has. In these situations, 'call on' is perhaps used more than the more formal 'call upon', although you can still hear both. Examples of usage... I call upon all persons here present to witness that I, John Smith, take thee, Lisa Jones, to be my lawful wedded wife. The Head of the National Education Committee has called on the government to act urgently in order to resolve the matter. The councillors called on the city mayor to resign and step down, however he refused to do so. The government is calling on all doctors to reconsider their planned strike next week. MEANING 2: To invite someone to speak The next meaning of 'call (up)on' derives directly from the first usage that we have just looked at and this is 'to invite or to ask someone to speak'. This application of 'call (up)on' is again a formal usage that you tend to hear more in official and ceremonial environments, especially in a courtroom or at a ceremony, event or business meeting when someone is asked to make a speech. As this is a formal usage, you are far more likely to hear the traditional English variation 'call upon', although 'call on' is used more and more in modern English, which is a trend that I do not think will end anytime soon. For this particular usage, it is quite common for it to be used in the passive sense, i.e. to be called (up)on. Examples of usage.... I now call upon the CEO to address the board and outline the agenda for this AGM. I'd like to call upon the headteacher of the school to say a few words. The court now calls upon the witness, Mr. Steven White, to provide us with a detailed description of what he saw on the evening of the crime. During the inquest, the Prime Minister was called on to speak several times. MEANING 3: To make use of a quality that you possess Imagine that you have a superpower, such as flying or being invisible, but this superpower is not one that you use all the time, it is rather just used when you 'activate' it in times of need. To describe this activation of your superpower, you could say that you 'call (up)on it', which is kind of like saying that you request for it to work. Sadly, in reality nobody has such a superpower (that I know of), however we do all have individual talents and abilities that we can use from time to time and for this we would say that we 'call (up)on' them we need them, which is the third meaning of this phrasal verb. The talents and abilities that a person can call (up)on are generally something that a person is able to do but does not do often or has not done for a long time. As such, the range of these skills is almost limitless and can range from songwriting skills, to keeping calm in high pressure situations or speaking a foreign language. In addition to talents and abilities, 'call (up)on' can also be used in this way with strength and energy, especially in times of need. Examples of usage.... Whilst filming the movie, the actress called on her ability to improvise in the moment. Despite swearing to never do it again, the psychic decided to call on her ability to see into the future one more time. In order to pass this exam, I had to call on every last bit of my memory. Jane will need to call on every ounce of strength that she has to get through this next challenge. MEANING 4: To visit someone Our final usage of 'call (up)on' is a bit of a departure from the usages that we have considered so far as this one means 'to visit someone'. In general, this tends to be used when the visit is unplanned, short or both. This is a primarily British English usage that is commonly used in everyday spoken language and is more informal than the verb 'to visit'. Due to the 'visiting' aspect of this application, it is used most often to describe visiting someone at their home, however it can also be used for visits to see people in hospital or any other place where they are staying for a period of time. Due to the more informal nature of this meaning, 'call on' is almost always used here as 'call upon' in this situation would sound overly formal. It is also possible to use the variation 'to call in on someone' here (just to make it a bit more complicated), which means the same thing but can also imply that the visit was very short e.g. you go to someone's house to check that they are ok and leave after 5 or 10 minutes. One last thing to note here is that to 'call on' someone can often be used when talking about door to door salespeople, who visit potential customers at their houses in order to sell them something. In this sense, it is quite negative in nature. Examples of usage.... We called on my Dad on our way back from our holiday. John called on his best friend last night but nobody was at home. I am going to call in on Lisa in the hospital later to make sure that she is ok. This brings us to the end of the post, so thanks for reading. Now it is YOUR turn. Leave a comment on the blog post with your own sentence using 'call on'....don't be shy!!! 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 'call (up)on' below. I really love reading them. 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  • The Phrasal Verb 'Pull Up' Explained

    An explanation of the different meanings of the English phrasal verb 'pull up', with lots of examples in context. Hello and welcome to my website all about English phrasal verbs! Read on to learn more about the phrasal verb 'pull up'... In this article, we are looking at the phrasal verb 'pull up', which has a surprising number of uses and meanings in the English language. You may need to pull up if you are driving your car, doing some gardening, sitting down with a group of people or showing information on your computer screen. If you go to the gym, you may regularly do pull-ups or someone may even tell you to pull your socks up! If all of these seem strange to you, don't worry as in this post we will look at all of the different meanings of this tricky phrasal verb. So, without further ado, let's get started.... PULL UP: KEY INFORMATION For more explanation of the terms in the table above, click here. THE BASICS The phrasal verb 'pull up' is comprised of the verb 'to pull' in combination with the prepositional particle 'up' and before we look at the different meanings of this phrasal verb, let's just take a quick look at the meanings of the two individual words. The verb 'to pull' is a widely used English verb, whose main meaning is to apply a force to something in order to bring it closer to you, most commonly with your hands or arms. Less commonly, it can also be used to mean 'to make something move with you or behind you', such as a horse pulling a cart. The idea of force or exertion is often an underlying theme with this verb. 'To pull' is a frequent base verb in phrasal verb constructions, normally in situations describing movement or stopping a movement. The prepositional particle 'up' is perhaps the most commonly used particle in phrasal verb constructions and can add many different elements of meaning, depending on the context, typically ranging from the ideas of movement in an upwards direction and increases to improvement and readiness. So, now that we have covered the basics, let's take a look at the meanings of 'pull up'.... MEANING 1: Literal Having just considered the words that make up the phrasal verb 'pull up', the literal meaning of these words should be very easy for you to work out, i.e. to pull something or someone in an upwards direction. This is quite similar to the verb 'to lift' or 'to lift up', however 'to pull up' is used more specifically when you are in a higher position than the thing that you want to lift and the lifting motion is towards you. Examples of usage.... The sailor decided it was time to leave, so he pulled up the boat's anchor. After the cow fell down the slope, the farmer had to pull it up the hill using a rope. What about pull-up as a noun? If you are someone who goes to the gym regularly or who enjoys working out, you may have heard the term 'pull-up' being used in reference to an exercise. Although we do not use the phrasal verb 'to pull up' so much in this context, it has produced the name of a type of exercise called a 'pull-up', which involves using your arms to lift yourself upwards, normally towards a metal bar (like in the gif above). How many pull-ups can you do in one go? I hate doing pull-ups because they hurt my shoulders so much! MEANING 2: To uproot Before we start considering the more idiomatic meanings of the phrasal verb 'pull up', I want to consider this next application as it is very much linked to the literal meaning of 'pull up'. This usage is definitely one for the gardeners among you as it is 'to pull a plant and its roots up from the ground, so that no part of it remains in the earth'. A common expression that you may hear for this action is 'to pull a plant up by the roots'. This is similar to the synonym verb 'to uproot', however 'uproot' is often used when animals and wind cause a plant to be removed from the ground and I think 'pull up' retains the exclusive sense of being pulled in an upwards direction out of the ground by a person's hands. Examples of usage.... We've pulled up all of the weeds in the garden and now it looks so much better! He pulled up the rose plant by the roots as he wanted to move it to a different part of his garden. MEANING 3: To slow down and stop Now we have reached the part of the article where we can say goodbye to the literal and logical meanings of 'pull up', because from now on most of them are a bit more idiomatic. This includes our next meaning, which is 'to slow down and stop'. This meaning is perhaps the most commonly used and is the one that I, as a native speaker, think of first when I hear 'pull up'. With this application, we are talking solely about bringing a vehicle that is in motion to a stop, particularly with cars, buses, trains and airplanes. We do not use it to talk about people slowing down and stopping moving...however we do use it for humans in a slightly different sense, which we will look at later on in the article. Normally, this application of 'pull up' is followed by a preposition that denotes where the vehicle stops, such as on (the side of the road), at (the traffic lights), in front of, behind etc. However, sometimes you may also hear 'pull up to' something and this means to stop next to something or very close to it, as referenced in the song below.... On a grammatical note, in the table above, I have stated that this application of 'pull up' can be used separably, which is true, although I think that the majority of the time we tend to use it without a direct object (e.g. car, bus) as this is usually determined from the context. Examples of usage.... John pulled up on the side of the road when he noticed smoke coming from his car's engine. The police car pulled up to the group of teenagers. Helen arrived at the train station just as her train was pulling up. The fishermen pulled their boat up to a little island where they knew there would be a lot of fish in the water. MEANING 4: To move a chair closer If you're ever in a situation in an English-speaking environment where you ask to join a group of people who are sitting down, they may respond to you by saying 'pull up a chair', which is essentially a way of saying 'yes' to your request. The reason for this is that another usage of 'pull up' is 'to bring something closer to you or to a specific place in order to sit down on it'. As you can imagine, this application of 'pull up' is principally used with nouns for items that you typically sit on, such as chairs, stools and seats but it could feasibly be used for any object that you can move and subsequently sit on. In many cases, it often serves as a figurative form of invitation to join someone or a group and participate in what they are doing. This could be anything from a business meeting to eating a meal or watching a movie with a group of people. Another common idiomatic expression in British English that you may come across is 'pull up a pew', which again means the same thing, i.e. 'sit down and join us'. For those of you who do not know, a pew is a long seat, similar to a bench, that is specifically found in churches and places of worship. Due to their size, they are not so easy to move and are rarely found anywhere outside of a place of worship, hence the figurative sense! Examples of usage.... Hi Lisa, do you want to sit with us for lunch? Pull up a chair and join us! I want to show you something at my desk. Pull up a chair next to me and I can show it to you. Q: Is this seat free? A: Absolutely, pull up a pew! MEANING 5: To reprimand someone When someone makes a mistake in their work or does something wrong, it is likely that they will be reprimanded for their mistake, or in other words, they will be 'pulled up on it'. The reason for this is that the next meaning of 'pull up' is 'to rebuke someone when they have made a mistake', or in other words to criticise or shout at them. This is not only limited to mistakes and can also be used for people's behaviour too, especially when they break rules. For this application of 'pull up', we require an additional preposition and for this you have the choice of THREE different words to choose from: on, about and over. Don't worry, whichever of these you choose will not affect the meaning. So, the structure of this particular usage of 'pull up' is.... To pull someone up on / about / over something Note also here that this is separable and the direct object (the person who has done something wrong) always goes between 'pull' and 'up'. This usage of 'pull up' is one that you commonly hear in the workplace, schools and in dealings with the police and other authority figures. Often, this is used for small errors and less significant mistakes that do not incur severe punishments and for which a verbal warning is sufficient. At other times, an experienced or naive person may be pulled up on something to ensure that they do not do it again. Examples of usage.... Lucy's teacher pulled her up about talking too much in class. I don't think John realises that what he is doing is not permitted. I will make sure that I pull him up on that, so that he is aware. The police stopped me in my car and pulled me up as my rear brake light was not working. Thankfully, I avoided a fine! Megan's parents have pulled her up on using swearwords so many times, but she doesn't seem to listen. MEANING 6: To stop what you are doing suddenly Earlier in the article, I explained how 'pull up' can be used to mean to bring a moving vehicle to a stop and that this usage could not be applied to humans but another usage could...well this is that usage! If a person pulls up, it does not mean that they stop moving, but rather that the action that they are performing, whatever that may be, is interrupted or stopped somehow. Like the first meaning that we looked it, there can an element of motion if the person is moving or walking but it can be for any action that is in progress at the time of the interruption. It's also very important to note that the interruption or disturbance to the action is almost always surprising or a shock, which is normally implied in this application of 'pull up'. There is also a fairly common expression that derives from this usage: 'to pull someone up short', which means 'to make someone stop what they are doing suddenly or abruptly'. For those of you who love grammar, it may interest you to know that this usage of 'pull up' is ergative. This means that it can be used both transitively and intransitively (with or without a direct object), with the subject of the intransitive verb becoming the direct object in an equivalent transitive sentence.... Transitive: The beautiful scenery pulled Linda up short. Intransitive: Linda pulled up short at the sight of the beautiful scenery. Examples of usage.... The sight of my mother standing at my front door pulled me up short. The runner suddenly pulled up and fell over onto the floor, screaming in pain. MEANING 7: To show information on a screen Well done if you have made it this far...we are nearly done I promise! For this next meaning of 'pull up', we are thinking about computers, smartphones and other devices with screens as this meaning is 'to make something appear on a screen'. If you pull something up on a screen, you open a file or programme in your computer so that it appears on the monitor. If you have read my article about the phrasal verb 'bring up' (link here), this may sound familiar to you as this is actually a synonym of this particular application and both of these have exactly the same meaning. I would say however 'bring up' is perhaps more commonly used but it is nevertheless very useful to have this in your vocabulary too. Examples of usage.... Can you pull up the sales forecast spreadsheet for me so I can look at it quickly, please. I pulled up the results of the game on my screen. MEANING 8: To make an airplane move upwards The eighth and final meaning of 'pull up' that we will look at is quite a specialist niche usage for airplanes and means 'to make an airplane move in an upwards direction'. This usage is actually a shortened form of 'pulling up the nose' for when the pilot makes the nose of the plane point upwards. This is similar to the phrasal verb 'take off', but while 'take off' specifically describes when an airplane leaves the ground, 'pull up' is used to describe any time that the pilot makes the airplane go higher, whether that be during takeoff or in mid-flight. This is often used for when an airplane has to change its course or cannot land safely due to bad weather and the pilot must then pull up in order to circle around to try and land again. Example of usage.... The was not able to land the aircraft due to the strong winds and so he pulled up in order to make a second attempt. IDIOM ALERT!! Before I finish this article, I want to make you aware of a nice idiom that exists featuring the phrasal verb 'pull up', which is 'to pull your socks up'. If someone tells you to pull your socks up, it means that you are not doing well at school or, sometimes, in a job and therefore you need to make more of an effort in order to get better grades or not lose your job! John doesn't work hard in class and next year he really needs to pull his socks up if he wants to pass all of his exams. This brings us to the end of the 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 'pull up' below. I really love reading them. 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  • The Phrasal Verb 'Clean Up' Explained

    An explanation of the different meanings of the English phrasal verb 'clean up', with lots of examples in context. Hello and welcome to my website all about English phrasal verbs! Read on to learn more about the phrasal verb 'clean up'... Cleaning up can be done at home, it can be done at work, it can be done in a city, you can clean up at an awards shows and even whole country or planet can be cleaned up, but it doesn't always mean the same thing. Depending on the context in which it is used, the phrasal verb 'clean up' can have a variety of different meanings and in this post we will look at all of these applications, with lots of examples to help your understanding. So, without further ado, let's get started.... CLEAN UP : KEY INFORMATION For more explanation of the terms in the table above, click here. THE BASICS Before we dive into the different meanings of the phrasal verb 'clean up', let's quickly consider the individual words 'clean' and 'up' and what they mean on their own. The verb 'to clean' is a fairly common verb in the English language that means 'to make something free from dirt' or 'to make something clean'. Unlike many more common verbs, it's meanings are rather more limited. Generally speaking, the verb 'to clean' is a very positive verb that is used to describe good things. The prepositional particle 'up' is an extremely common feature in phrasal verb constructions. It's central idea is movement away from the ground, to a higher position or an increase of some sort and these meanings can often be carried across into phrasal verbs. Aside from these, when used in phrasal verbs, the particle 'up' can add the ideas of completion, readiness or improvement. So, now that we have covered the basics, let's take a look at the meanings of 'clean up'.... MEANING 1: To make somewhere clean and tidy Let's start things off with a nice easy meaning that should be quite evident now that we have considered the meanings of the individual words 'clean' and 'up': 'to make somewhere clean and tidy'. We tend to use this application of 'clean up' a lot when there has been some sort of event or action that results in a lot of dirt or mess. This could typically range from something small, such as someone spilling some food or drink onto the floor, to something large like the mess created following a wild party or social gathering. This usage takes the meaning of 'clean', as in 'to remove the dirt from something' and combines it with the idea of 'completion' that the particle 'up' often adds to phrasal verbs. Thus, it literally means here to clean somewhere until it is completely clean once more, so that it looks nice and presentable. In addition to the idea of removing dirt, this application of 'clean up' also includes the idea of tidying a space or a room and making it neat again. Invariably, when you clean somewhere up like a room, it will not look good if it is clean but still untidy and so this application of 'clean up' very much incorporates the ideas of tidiness and neatness too. Examples of usage.... Look at the mess in this room! I want this cleaned up now! We've tried our best to clean up the stains from the party last night but you can still see some of them. My dog has just vomited all over my new carpet! I need to clean it up straight away. Whilst I was cleaning up the garage, I came across these old photographs. THE NOUN CLEAN-UP We can also use 'clean-up' as a noun to refer to the action of cleaning something up, normally following an event or incident. It also exists as an adjective, in which case it is often found in collocation with the noun 'efforts', specifically when talking about the attempts of people to clean a place or an area up following something destructive, like an accident or a natural disaster. Examples of usage.... As soon as the clean-up had begun, another storm blew in from the ocean, causing it to stop again. The clean-up efforts are well underway and we expect to have the area re-opened again by lunchtime tomorrow. MEANING 2: To make yourself clean Of course, rooms and spaces are not the only things that get dirty or messy and subsequently require cleaning up and it may or may not surprise you to know that this phrasal verb can also be applied to people. Typically, this application of 'clean up' is heard when someone is dirty, sweaty or even a bit smelly, perhaps after doing some physical activity or after a hard day at work. The idea of 'clean up' here is that the person goes and washes and makes themselves look presentable (and probably also smell nice). Grammatically speaking, unlike the first meaning, we don't normally tend to separate this usage of 'clean up', except for when we add a reflexive (-self) pronoun. I would say that this usage of 'clean up' is possibly more American, whilst in British English we tend to use the passive form 'to get cleaned up' a bit more. Moreover, it is also possible for one person to clean another person and "clean them up", in which case it is normally used separably, with the person being cleaned as the direct object of the phrasal verb. Please note that we would only use 'clean someone (else) up' when they are particularly dirty or bloody. Examples of usage.... I've just got home from the gym, so give me 10 minutes to go and clean up and I'll be ready. Look at the state of you! You are covered in mud! Go and clean yourself up before dinner. Helen's just gone to get cleaned up and she will be joining us as soon as she is ready. You've cut your leg and your bleeding. Come here and let me clean you up. Our dog had been playing in the mud, so we had to clean him up before we let him go back in the house. MEANING 3: To restore order to a place In addition to dirt, there are of course many other things that most (normal) people do not want to have in and around their living environments, such as crime and corruption. Additionally, the phrasal verb 'clean up' can also be used to describe the removal of these negative actions and behaviour from an organisation, city or even a country. In other words, this third meaning of 'clean up' is 'to restore law and order to somewhere, with the objective of making it a more pleasant place to be and to live'. The central idea here is that criminal and dishonest activities are viewed by many people similarly to dirt and therefore desire its removal from their environment. Aside from being used to describe the removal of illegal and corrupt behaviour, 'clean up' can also be used to talk about reducing and eradicating pollution, whether that be within a small geographical area or on a global scale. You are, in fact, just as likely to hear someone speaking about cleaning up a local forest as you are to hear prominent public figures talking about cleaning up the world's oceans. Examples of usage.... The police and local council have worked well together to clean up this town over the last twenty years. The pressure is growing on the government to take steps to clean up the corruption that permeates all areas of society. We have been cleaning up the world's oceans for the past 10 years but a lot work remains to be done. Here are some guidelines that we can all follow to help clean up our polluted environment. MEANING 4: To make a big profit Now let's forget about the idea of cleaning for our meaning and think instead about money! In business, if someone is lucky enough to make a lot of money in a transaction or a lot of profit on some work that they have carried out, you could say that they have 'cleaned up'. The reason for this is that an informal usage of the phrasal verb 'clean up' is 'to make a big profit or, alternatively, to win a lot of money', for example in a competition or through gambling. This application of 'clean up' is not separable and tends to be followed either by the place where the money was won e.g. 'at the horse races', or how it was earned e.g. 'on this business deal'. Examples of usage.... John cleaned up at the bookmaker's today and he is taking everyone out to dinner. We cleaned up on this business transaction and our profits are very high. MEANING 5: To win all the prizes in a competition This fifth and final meaning of 'clean up' is very similar to the previous one as it continues the theme of winning. This usage, in particular, is used when someone wins all, or the majority, of the awards or prizes in a competition. Typically, you see this in award ceremonies for films or music, when one person, movie or song is very successful and wins a large number of the available awards. Furthermore, you may also hear about this with sports teams and sportspeople, or in fact anyone who could potentially win a large number of prizes at one time. In any of these cases, you could say that he or she 'cleaned up'. Examples of usage.... The movie Parasite cleaned up at the 2019 Oscar awards ceremony. This song is expected to clean up at this year's national music awards, having been nominated in 11 out of 12 categories. IDIOM ALERT!! Before finishing this post, it would be neglectful of me to not let you know about a great idiom that exists with the phrasal verb 'clean up': 'to clean up your act'. This idiom means to start behaving in a better and more responsible way, often involving stopping drinking alcohol, taking drugs or committing crimes. It is separable and both 'clean your act up' and 'clean up your act' are completely fine to use. Examples of usage.... When my baby was born I decided that I had to clean my act up and start behaving more responsibly. Roger has cleaned his act up since leaving prison and he is now like a new man. This brings us to the end of the 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 'clean up' below. I really love reading them. 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  • The Phrasal Verb 'Get On' Explained

    An explanation of the different meanings of the English phrasal verb 'get on', with examples and exercises. Hello and welcome to my website all about English phrasal verbs! Read on to learn more about the phrasal verb 'get on'... The phrasal verb 'get on' is one that you are sure to be familiar with, especially if you have ever used public transport in an English speaking country. In this article, we will look at six different ways that it is used by native speakers and also some of the most used idioms that it features in. So, without further ado, let's get started.... GET ON : KEY INFORMATION For more explanation of the terms in the table above, click here. THE BASICS As you will know, the meanings of phrasal verbs often differ wildly from the meanings of the individual words that make them up, so before we take a look at the meanings of the phrasal verb 'get on', let's first consider the individual words 'get' and 'on'. The verb 'to get' is a great verb in English as it is extremely versatile and can be used in many different ways with vastly different meanings. This, in turn, makes it a nightmare for English learners. We won't go into detail about all of the different meanings of 'to get' in this article but I just want to highlight here the meanings that are relevant for the phrasal verb 'get on'. The first is 'to move to a particular place or into a specified position' and the other relevant meaning is 'to become', both of which are in frequent use in everyday English. Next, we have the prepositional particle 'on', which is a regular feature in phrasal verb constructions. As a preposition and adverb, its main meaning is 'to be in contact and supported by a surface', although it does have many other meanings and uses. In phrasal verb constructions, it often adds the ideas of continuation and progress. Now that we have covered the basics, let's move on to the meanings of 'get on'.... MEANING 1: To physically move on to something Let's start the meanings of 'get on' with one that you are sure to have heard and used before: 'to physically move on to something'. This is the most literal of the meanings that we will consider in this article and takes the meaning of the verb 'to get' as in 'to move to a particular place' and combines it with the spatial element of being 'on' a specified surface. In other words, a movement on to something. This usage of 'get on' can be used for any nouns to describe something that a person or thing can be 'on' and therefore there are many potential words that you may hear this being used with. Commonly, you will definitely hear this with forms of public transport, as well as bicycles and horses (not cars though as we travel 'in' them, weirdly). Other examples could be getting on a roof to replace some tiles or getting on a fairground ride like a big wheel or a roller coaster. An odd one to note is 'to get on the floor, which has two meanings and can either mean to lie down on the floor or to move to a dance floor at a party or in a night club in order to dance....English is strange sometimes! The exact opposite of this usage of 'get on' is 'get off' and you can find a link to my page all about that here. Examples of usage.... When I got on the bus this morning, the driver did not ask me to pay. John got on his bike and went to work. The painter had to get on the table so that he could reach the roof and paint it. Helen was getting on her horse when a big clap of thunder made it jump, causing her to fall off. In case of an earthquake, everybody should get on the floor in a safe place. BONUS Whilst we are on this subject, I also wanted to make you aware of another slightly different usage of 'get on' that is relevant here. In English, it is quite common to use 'get on' whilst referring to a body part that supports your body weight, in particular when you change your position so that another part of your body supports you on the ground. Typically, if someone tells you to 'get on your feet', they want you to stand up, if you 'get on your back', it means that you lie down with your face looking upwards and if you 'get on your hands and knees', you adopt a crawling position. To start this this yoga class, I want you all to get on your stomachs with your arms stretched out to the sides. I got on my knees and prayed for it to all end peacefully. My dog always gets on his back when he wants his stomach to be rubbed. MEANING 2: To have a friendly relationship with someone The second meaning of the phrasal verb 'get on' is a predominantly British usage but is nonetheless used very frequently in everyday English in the UK and it means 'to have a friendly relationship with someone. Moreover, it is used to talk about any harmonious and good relationship between two or more people. For this usage, we need to enlist the additional preposition 'with'. If you 'get on with someone', it means that your relationship with them is good, there is friendly communication and there are no arguments or tension. For those of you interested in American English, the synonym phrasal verb 'get along' is used for this instead. I must say though that, apart from these two phrasal verbs, I cannot think of another synonym to express this concept in natural, everyday language, so if you don't use these already, I would strongly recommend doing so. On the flip side, when the relationship between two or more people is not good, we simply say that they 'do not get on (with each other)'. IDIOM ALERT! In order to intensify this usage of 'get on', adverbs such as 'well' and 'brilliantly' are often used, as well as 'famously'. For two people who have a particularly good relationship with one another, you can use the idiom that they 'get on like a house on fire'. Examples of usage.... I get on with my husband's parents and I enjoy spending time with them. Roger gets on very well with all of his colleagues and he loves going to work every day to see them. I tend to get on with most people. I wasn't sure if Lucy and Laura would get on but they ended up getting on famously and now they're best friends. Whatever you do, don't sit Lisa and Helen next to each other at the wedding as they don't get on. It was so lovely to meet your brother yesterday. We got on like a house on fire! MEANING 3: To deal with a situation Imagine that you have recently moved to a new house and one of your friends telephones you to see how you are settling in. If your friend is an English speaker, one of the questions that he or she will probably ask you is "how are you getting on in your new home". The reason for this is that 'get on' can be used to mean 'to deal with or to handle a life situation'. Generally, we use this application of 'get on' when we are talking about new changes or new situations in a person's life that are either permanent or will last for a long period of time. For this reason, we tend to use this application with progressive ('ing) tenses. I would also say that this form of 'get on' is often expressed as a question to the person who is experiencing the new situation. It is also perhaps used more when there is an element of success. Another way that this usage of 'get on' is sometimes used is when you want to know how difficult someone is finding something. For example, if a student is reading a complicated scientific book, his or her teacher may ask them, 'how are you getting on with the book?'. Examples of usage.... How are you getting on in your new job? My son, Jake, is getting on really well at university and is having a great time. Now class, is everyone getting on ok with the preparation for their class presentations next week or do any of you need help? MEANING 4: To progress with something This next meaning of the phrasal verb 'get on' is a logical continuation from the last one, which is perfect as this next meaning is 'to progress with something' or 'to continue doing something'. This is often used following a small break or pause. Although the general meaning of this usage is to continue or progress, it does differ slightly from these verbs as 'get on' implies an idea of urgency or determination. For example, if you say that you need "to get on with your work", it implies that you need to start focussing all of your attention on the work so that you can make progress with it and it feels like there is more of an urgency. Likewise, it is very common for teachers and authority figures to tell students or members of staff to 'get on with what they are doing', implying that they need to stop talking and start concentrating on their work. Indeed, this application of 'get on' is used frequently in the imperative form in English to make people work harder or faster. Aside from continuing with something, this usage of 'get on' is also frequently used to mean 'to start doing something', again often carrying the same idea of urgency or hurriedness. Examples of usage.... Can you two please stop talking and get on with what you are supposed to be doing. I don't mean to be rude but I really need to get on with this work or else I will not finish it in before the deadline. Get on with your work please. There will be plenty of time to talk afterwards! Look how dirty this kitchen is. We'd better get on with the cleaning if we want it to be ready for when Mum and Dad come home. MEANING 5: To succeed in a career When people are ambitious, motivated and have a tendency to get on with their work and not be lazy, they are very likely to get on in their chosen career. The reason for that is because another meaning of 'get on' is 'to succeed' or 'to excel' when talking about a person's career or within a field of employment. This is a bit of a rarer usage, however it is nevertheless very good to know and be able to use. In addition to getting on in a career, you may also hear people say that they 'get on well in life', which is very much the same meaning but rather talks about being successful in life in general e.g. having a good job, a nice house etc...of course this is very generalised and not everybody's idea of success is the same. Examples of usage.... It is very difficult to get on in this industry if you do not know the right people. If you want to get on in your career, you should accept every opportunity that comes your way. Getting on in life is all about working hard, looking after your health and treating people with respect. MEANING 6: To be old For those of us who are lucky enough, a fact of life is that we will get old, our hair will go grey, our faces will develop wrinkles, and you know the rest! Now the final usage of the phrasal verb 'get on' in today's article is all about this aging process and means 'to be old' or 'to be getting old'. To clarify here, when I refer to 'old' I mean someone who is past retirement age and who is near the end of their life, with all of the associated characteristics. If you refer to someone as 'getting on', you are essentially saying that the person is old or is getting older and is therefore losing the characteristics and good health that we associate with younger people. Often, it is said in an almost euphemistic way to say that a person now needs more care and attention or will not be alive for much longer. This is a very informal and colloquial usage but one that I hear often enough to consider worthy of a place in this article. Often, the expression 'getting on a bit' is used here, with the addition of the words 'a bit' sometimes being applied to soften the idea and make it sound less harsh. On a grammatical note, this is another usage of 'get on' that is always used in the progressive ('ing) form. Examples of usage.... My Dad is getting on these days and he needs one of us to go to his house every day and make sure he is ok. Wow, how old is he now? He must be getting on a bit! John's Dad was getting on so they decided that he should go into an old person's home. IDIOMS ALERT!!! The phrasal verb 'get on' is found in a large number of different idiomatic expressions and so before I finish this post, I want to make you aware of some really common ones that you are likely to come across in English... It's getting on - This little four-word idiom is used to mean that it is getting late, normally with the idea that you will need to leave soon. It's getting on, we'd better leave now before it gets dark outside. To get on someone's nerves - This is a super common idiom that German speakers will certainly already be familiar with and it means to annoy or to irritate someone. This can either be a person or a thing and is usually caused by something that happens over a period of time or is repeated. An alternative to this is 'to get on someone's wick'. This song really gets on my nerves. Every radio station that I listen to plays it all the time. To get on your high horse - This idiom means to express an opinion about something in an arrogant way, with the idea that you know better than other people - you are definitely right and everybody else is wrong. It comes from medieval times when rich and powerful people rode on large horses to emphasise how much bigger and more important they were than the common, poorer people. The politician got on his high horse and made his opinion on the matter very clear. To get on your soapbox - This is a little similar to the previous 'high horse' idiom as if you get on your soapbox, you also express your opinion about a given subject. However when you get on your soapbox, you tend to give your opinion forcefully and often in great detail, i.e. you spend a long time expressing your opinion on a subject. Sorry to get on my soapbox but I feel very strongly about this. To get on top of someone - Lastly, if something gets on top of someone, it becomes too much for them to deal with. This is often used when talking about emotions, feelings and stress. It all just got on top of me at the funeral and I started crying uncontrollably. This brings us to the end of the 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 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.

  • The Phrasal Verb 'Take Up' Explained

    An explanation of the different meanings of the English phrasal verb 'take up', with lots of examples in context. Hello and welcome to my website all about English phrasal verbs! Read on to learn more about the phrasal verb 'take up'... The English phrasal verb 'take up' is one that every English learner needs to have in their active vocabulary as it has a large number of different meanings and uses. In this post, I will teach you about 10 different ways that it is used in the English language by native speakers, with lots of examples and even an idiom included too. So, without further ado, let's get started.... TAKE UP: KEY INFORMATION For more explanation of the terms in the table above, click here. THE BASICS Let's start by considering the meanings of the individual words 'take' and 'up', as this may give us some valuable insight into the meanings of the phrasal verb 'take up'. The verb 'to take' is one of the 10 most common verbs in the English language and so you should be very familiar with it already. One of the main meanings of the verb 'to take' is 'to move something from one place to another place and it should be noted here that the destination of the thing is usually a different location from where the speaker is at the time of speaking. In other words, we use 'take' for movement of something away from the speaker. This is often confused with the verb 'to bring' by English learners, which is where something is moved towards where the speaker is or will be. Additionally, some other key meanings of the verb 'to take' include 'to use your hands to remove something from a place', 'to accept something' and to talk about the time required in order to do something. The prepositional particle 'up' is a much used feature in phrasal verb constructions and can often give the idea of movement in an upwards direction or an increase of some sort. Aside from this, it can also add the ideas of improving something and making something ready. So, now that we have covered the basics, let's proceed with the meanings of the phrasal verb 'take up'.... MEANING 1: Literal Before we look at the more figurative usages of the phrasal verb 'take up', I first want to talk about its literal meaning as it is used relatively often by native speakers and it is good to be aware of it. In its literal sense, 'take up' is applied to mean 'to move an object from one place to a higher place', such as from the ground floor to a higher floor in a building. Another example of this is with plants, which 'take up' water and nutrients from the ground as a means of food and sustenance. In addition to moving something in an upwards direction, we also commonly use it to mean 'to take something to a place in front of us or to a person directly'. Remember, with all of these uses, the movement is always away from where the speaker is. Examples of usage.... Your Dad is still in bed. Can you take him up this cup of coffee? I had to collect all of the finished exam papers and take them all up to the teacher. Plants take up all of their nutrients from the soil. MEANING 2: To start a hobby or regular activity So, now let's start with the reason that you are probably here, i.e. the idiomatic, non-sensical and confusing meanings of the phrasal verb 'take up'.... The first one that we will look at is 'to start doing a regular activity, such as a hobby or pursuit'. This could be anything from learning a language, rock climbing and fishing to smoking cigarettes. Regardless of the type of activity, 'take up' can be used to signify the beginning of something repeated or consistent in a person's life, or even a habit. 'Take up' is not only used for completely new hobbies and activities in a person's life, as it can also be used when somebody starts doing something again, after previously stopping. For this, we just need the additional adverb 'again'. Aside from hobbies and activities, this usage of 'take up' can also be used to talk about embarking on a new career in a particular field or industry, often when it is a very different one to the one the person currently has. On a grammatical level, this usage of the phrasal verb 'take up' is separable, however it is heard more commonly in its inseparable form. When the activity that the person starts is stated as a verb, it should always be in the gerund ('ing / progressive) form. Examples of usage.... John has recently taken up cycling, so he hasn't been at home at weekends for the past few weeks as he's been going out on his bike. You need something to help reduce your stress. Why don't you take up a new hobby? Helen's New Year's resolution for this year is to take up outdoor swimming. I took up smoking when I was 15 years old and I gave up in my early twenties but I took it up again a few years later. How can I take up a career as a nurse? Roger has moved to America in order to take up a career in the tech industry. MEANING 3: To start a job In the last section, we talked about how 'take up' can be used to mean 'starting a career in a new industry or field', however you should know that it can also mean 'to start a job'. For this usage, it is not necessarily a job within a different sector or field, but rather just a new job that you start working at, so this could be delivering newspapers, working in a supermarket, starting a new teaching role or even a cabinet role in government...you get the idea I'm sure. This application is similar in meaning to the phrasal verb 'take on' (link here). You are likely to hear this usage of 'take up' with such nouns as 'job', 'role', 'position' and 'post'. Examples of usage.... I am very pleased to announce that Lisa has taken up the role of office supervisor, effective from today. Tim's personality changed as soon as he took up the Director's position in the company. After moving to the USA to work in the tech industry, Roger took up a job as an Analytics Manager in a big multinational firm. MEANING 4: To accept an offer or challenge I want to remain with the idea of a new job role for a little while longer as it is very much linked to this next application of 'take up'. When someone takes up a new position of employment, they must first be offered a job role and must then accept it, which is exactly what the fourth meaning of 'take up' is: 'to accept an offer or challenge'. We can use 'take up' to mean 'to accept something that is offered to us. Whilst theoretically we could accept any offer that we receive with 'take up', it tends to be used more for offers of a substantial nature, which are usually offers of help or assistance with something. We don't tend to use it for small offers such as offering salt and pepper at dinner or an offer to make someone a drink as this might sound a bit unnatural and strange. For this application of the phrasal verb 'take up', we can say that we 'take up' an offer, however there is also a particular word order that you should be aware of when we want to include the offerer and this requires the additional preposition 'on'... 'To take someone up on an offer' If you take someone up on an offer, it is another way of saying that you accept his or her offer. This construction is very commonplace in everyday spoken English and if you can use it, it will give you lots of native speaker points 💯 Moreover, in addition to an offer or proposal, 'take up' is also commonly used when accepting a challenge from someone. Examples of usage.... John has taken up my offer to come and stay with me. He is coming here next month. Does that offer to help me paint my house still stand? I'd like to take you up on it if it does! I didn't expect her to take me up on my proposal but she has! After careful consideration, Diane decided to take Ross up on his challenge. MEANING 5: To occupy space or time Let's now move away from from the idea of accepting jobs and offers and instead think more about time and space. This is not time and space in the Einstein and physics sense, but rather the hours and minutes of our daily lives and the physical space of the world in which we live. Now, where does the phrasal verb 'take up' fit with these concepts? Firstly, let's consider 'space', or more specifically 'taking up space'. When something 'takes up space', it occupies or it fills a specific area. This is often used in a slightly negative way when something is very large and does not leave as much room as somebody wants, or alternatively doesn't leave enough room for much else. Secondly, let's consider 'taking up time'. When something takes up a person's time, it means that the person in question spends a lot of time doing one thing and therefore does not have much time for other things. It is also common to hear a native speaker say that something 'took up their day or morning etc., meaning that he or she spent the entire of the specified time period doing that one thing only. As with 'space', this can often be said with an aspect of negativity or irritation. Grammatically, this application of 'take up' is separable but the majority of the time we do not tend to use it in a separable way. Examples of usage.... I really want to sort out my attic. There are so many boxes up there just taking up space. I always have to ask my husband to move over in bed as he always takes up all the space and I find it difficult to sleep! There are a lot of unused programmes on Laura's computer's hard drive, which take up a lot of space. This job has taken up my entire morning! I thought it would only take an hour and I have still not finished. Working three jobs takes up a lot of my time, so I don't often get a chance to watch much TV. MEANING 6: To discuss something with a manager or authority Have you ever been in a situation where you have received poor service in a restaurant and have asked to speak to the manager? If you have, then this next usage of 'take up' could have been very useful as it means exactly that. Well, not specifically speaking to a manager in a restaurant, but If you 'take something up with someone', it means that you discuss a subject or a matter that you are not happy about with any manager or authority figure, in order to resolve it. This is often after you have already spoken about it to at least one other person but you need to speak to a person higher up in the hierarchy in order to find a resolution. Aside from in restaurants, cafés and bars, this application of 'take up' is also used in settings as diverse as hotels, within businesses, and committees, officials and ombudsmen of industries and authorities within a country. The thing that they all have in common is that they all have the power to resolve an issue or problem. On a grammatical note, you may have noticed from the example given above that this application requires the additional preposition 'with' to specify the higher power with whom you need to speak. Additionally, this usage is separable and is generally always separated, normally with either the word 'it' or 'this' inserted between 'take' and 'up'. Examples of usage.... I'm sorry but I can't help you with this. You will need to take it up with the head of department who can assist you further. Luke is really annoyed with the situation and has vowed to take it up with the authorities. I'd like to take this up with the manager, please. MEANING 7: To continue after a pause This next usage of 'take up' is slightly rarer than the others so far in terms of usage, however it can still be heard in spoken English and means 'to continue something after a pause or an interruption'. Typically, this is used for conversations and stories when the person speaking has been interrupted and the speaker then must then 'take up', what they were saying and continue. This is especially true if a different person continues what was being said following the disruption. Along with spoken stories and conversations, it is also possible, but rarer, to use this application of 'take up' for jobs and tasks, especially if a different person continues the action. IDIOM ALERT!! This usage of the phrasal verb 'take up' has given rise to the idiom "to take up (from) where you left off", which means to continue from the place or point that something was stopped. An alternative form "pick up where we left off" also exists and is perhaps more commonly used than the 'take up' version. Examples of usage.... Lisa went quiet and the story was taken up by Helen. John's manager no longer wanted to finish the project, so John decided to take up the task himself. Ok ,shall we just take up where we left off? MEANING 8: To get into a position Well done if you have managed to make it this far! We are nearly finished with the different usages of 'take up' and we only have a couple of shorter applications remaining 😀 The next meaning of 'take up' is 'get into a position' or 'to assume a position'. Normally, this is a planned position or place that someone has been instructed to go to in order to be ready for something. Typically, you may come across this when talking about military personnel, sports players or actors on a stage, all of whom are given positions that they need to be in, or 'take up', ready to start their work. Examples of usage.... All of the actors took up position on the stage just before the curtain came down and the performance began. Two soldiers took up their posts outside of the parliament building and were poised for action. As the players were taking up their positions for the start of the game, a loud noise could be heard coming from outside the stadium. MEANING 9: To shorten a garment If any of you have read my post about the phrasal verb 'let down' (link here), you may well remember that one of its meanings is 'to make an item of clothing longer'. Well, this meaning of 'take up' is the exact opposite meaning to that and means 'to make an item of clothing shorter'. Typically, this is used for garments for the lower half of the body that can be too long, such as trousers (pants) or skirts, however it can also be used for curtains and other items consisting of large pieces of material. Taking up clothes is normally done by folding the bottom of the garment upwards and sewing it, thus making it permanently shorter. Examples of usage.... These trousers are too long, so my Grandmother is going to take them up for me. Taking up skirts is a very simple job for a seamstress to do. MEANING 10: To remove a ground covering This final meaning is one for anybody who is interested in DIY, construction or gardening as it can be used in any of these areas. It is a rarer meaning that you will only ever hear when these topics are being discussed and it means 'to remove a ground covering such as a floor, lawn or carpet'. If you 'take up' a floor, you remove the top layer of it such as the tiles, the wooden planks or the concrete, exposing the ground beneath. Likewise, if you 'take up' a lawn, you remove the grassy surface in a garden and if you 'take up' a pavement (sidewalk in America), you remove the top layer that people normally walk on. 'Taking up' ground coverings is usually only ever done as part of larger work or in order to access the space beneath the covering such as pipes or cables and so this is quite a rare usage that you may never come across. Examples of usage.... In order to gain access to the blocked sewer pipe, we had to take up the kitchen floor as it was above the access point. We decided to take up the lawn in our garden and replace it with a patio. EXERCISE ANSWERS FROM 'FILL IN' (Other variations may be possible) I've FILLED IN the application form to be on the TV show and I am now just waiting to hear back from them. The gardeners have promised to FILL IN in the holes that they dug in the garden. Once you have coloured in all of the most detailed parts of the painting, just FILL IN remaining blank parts in grey. Can someone please FILL me IN on what has been happening since I have been away? Mrs Jones is not going to be teaching for the rest of the school year as she is having a baby, so Mr Hill is going to be FILLING IN until she comes back. Can you give me some tips on what I can do to FILL IN a couple of hours in London next Saturday whilst I am waiting for my train. This brings us to the end of the 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 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.

  • The Phrasal Verb 'Fill In' Explained

    An explanation of the different meanings of the English phrasal verb 'Fill In', with examples and exercises. Hello and welcome to my website all about English phrasal verbs! Read on to learn more about the phrasal verb 'fill in'.... 'Fill in' is an English phrasal verb with a variety of meanings that all, in some way, mean to fill a kind of empty space, whether that be a physical hole or a gap in a person's knowledge of a situation. In this post, I will look at all of these meanings and how they are used in English by native speakers, with plenty of examples to aid your understanding. So, without further ado, let's get started.... FILL IN: KEY INFORMATION For more explanation of the terms in the table above, click here. THE BASICS In order to better understand the meanings of the phrasal verb 'fill in', let's first take a look at the meanings of the individual words 'fill' and 'in'. The verb 'to fill' is a fairly common verb in English, which carries a general meaning of causing something that is empty, or partially empty, to become full. In addition to this, the verb 'to fill' is used a lot in different phrasal verb constructions such as 'fill out', 'fill up' and 'fill in'. Unlike many other English verbs, 'to fill' does not have multiple, diverse meanings and most of the time the idea it conveys is 'to make something full', The prepositional particle 'in' is a common feature in phrasal verbs and has a general meaning of being in an internal space when used as a preposition and movement towards an internal space when used as an adverb. This adverbial usage of motion towards an internal space is often transferred into phrasal verb constructions and meanings. So, now that we have covered the basics, let's take a look at the meanings of 'fill in'... MEANING 1: To complete a form If you have ever gone to an English speaking country for a period of time, it is likely that you will have completed a document or a form with your information. Furthermore, if you were coming to the UK, it is likely that you have may have been asked to 'fill in' this document. That is because 'to fill in' means to complete a form or document by giving the requested information in the necessary gaps. The idea of this first usage can be linked directly back to the meaning of 'to fill' as it literally means to make the gaps (or empty spaces) on the form or document full by writing 'in' the details. Fill in or Fill out? Confusingly, in English the phrasal verb 'fill out' also means the exact same thing and is interchangeable with the phrasal verb 'fill in'. Whilst there is no real difference in the meanings between these two, you should know that 'fill out' is the version that is favoured in American English and 'fill in' is more of a British usage. With that being said however, 'fill out' sounds perfectly natural to my ears as a native speaker of British English and it is also used here all the time. As you can imagine, 'fill in' is commonly used with such nouns as 'form', 'document', 'application' and 'section', i.e. words for documents that require informational input. Grammatically, it is separable and the direct object (e.g. form or document) can happily go in the middle of the phrasal verb or after it with no discernible change of meaning. Examples of usage.... Before you reach British passport control in the airport, you need to fill this form in. If you haven't filled in the survey on our website yet, please go online before your next appointment and do so. John realised that he had filled in all of the wrong sections of his tax return form and had to start it again. Fill in this job application and send it to the company by Monday. MEANING 2: To fill a hole or gap In the last section, we looked at how 'fill in' is used to talk about completing the blank spaces on a form or document and for this second meaning we are keeping to the same idea, however this time we need to substitute the idea of blank spaces on paper with empty physical spaces such as holes, cracks and gaps. For this usage of the phrasal verb 'fill in', we are therefore talking about moving material into a physical space to make it full or complete, often with the objective of having a level surface at the end of it. Typical examples of this would be filling in a hole in the ground with soil to make it even and filling in cracks in a wall with plaster to make it smooth. As you can probably guess, this usage of 'fill in' is used a lot when talking about DIY, building and physical work. Like the previous usage, this meaning of 'fill in' is separable and the direct object (hole, gap etc.) can be placed between or after the phrasal verb. I would say however that native speakers naturally tend to place the object afterwards more often. Examples of usage.... We removed a pond from our garden and filled in the hole with soil and compost. After the earthquake there was a huge crack in my wall, which I have temporarily filled in with plaster whilst I decide what to do about it. What is the best way to fill in drill holes in sheet metal? MEANING 3: To fill empty spaces with colour This next usage of 'fill in' is definitely one that you may have come across if you are a painter or artist of some sort. Again, for this third usage of 'fill in' we are staying with the idea of filling an empty space and this time it is not with written words or physical material but with colour. With this meaning, if you have a drawing, painting or design and you fill an uncoloured part of it with colour, you 'fill it in', so that the part in question is no longer the same colour as the canvas or paper, but rather the colour that the artist has chosen as part of the artwork. Outside of the artistic world, this can also be used for home decorating or, in fact, for anything where you add a colour to hitherto blank space. Interestingly, this is also common for tattoos and make-up, especially with lipstick for lips when you add lip liner around the edge of the lips and then fill in the rest with lipstick...I'm no expert in putting on make-up but I believe that this is the procedure. Either way, 'fill in' is definitely used with lipstick! Examples of usage.... In order to draw the ladybird's wings, I drew black spots on them and filled the rest in with red. Helen applied the lip liner around the outside of lips and then filled them in with lipstick. For your tattoo, you will need to have two separate appointments with the tattoo artist; the first to draw the outline of the picture and the second to fill it in with colour. MEANING 4: To give someone missing information If you have ever been in a situation where you do not have all of the information about it, you will probably need someone to 'fill you in'. This means that they give you the information that you are missing, so that you are fully informed about the situation at hand. With this fourth meaning of 'fill in', we are still talking about making something full or complete but this time it is people, or more specifically, the gaps in people's knowledge about a specific matter. It is normally always used in dynamic situations where things change and develop, whether this be social or professional, and if a person is not present when these developments occur, they will not be aware of the latest information, for example when you go on holiday and take time off work. They will therefore have gaps in their knowledge and these will then need to be 'filled in'. The additional preposition 'on' is often also required with this usage to specify the situation or circumstance in question (see the examples below). The preposition 'about' can also be used instead of 'on' but this is used slightly less. Grammatically, this usage is separable and this is how I believe it is used the majority of the time by native speakers. Examples of usage.... John has just filled me in on everything that has happened since I went away on holiday. I can't believe it! Has anyone told you the latest information or do you need me to fill you in? Let's go out for a coffee and I can fill you in on the latest developments with my family. Somebody needs to fill the manager in about what happened in the meeting yesterday when he was at the conference. MEANING 5: To be a substitute for someone I am sure that you can all remember back to your school days when your normal teacher was sick or was not able to work and another temporary teacher was appointed to teach your class instead. You can say that this temporary teacher was 'filling in' for your regular teacher whilst he or she was absent and this is exactly the meaning of this next usage of the phrasal verb 'fill in'. In a professional sense, if you 'fill in' for another person, it means that you do their job on a temporary basis as they are not able to do it for some reason. As with the example above, this is often used with substitute teachers but it can also be used for any type of job role where one person does another person's work for a short-term period. Here, we have the recurrent idea of filling a gap, which this time is a job role, albeit ad interim. Grammatically, this usage of 'fill in' requires the additional preposition 'for' to specify the person or colleague who will temporarily be absent and replaced. Also, unlike the previous usages of 'fill in' that we have looked at, this one is not separable. Examples of usage.... Roger is going on vacation next week, so I have to fill in for him and teach his senior classes. Does anyone want to volunteer to fill in for Lisa whilst she is out of the office next week? Martin is unfortunately off sick today, however Laura is filling in for him, so please contact her and she will assist you in his absence. MEANING 6: To occupy your spare time You may have realised by now that every single usage of 'fill in' that we have covered so far contains an idea of filling something that is empty.....and this final usage is no different! 😜 This last meaning of 'fill in' is 'to occupy your spare time by doing something unimportant or trivial'. Moreover, this is normally whilst you are waiting for something else to happen. For example, if you finish work at 5pm and have planned to meet a friend for a drink at 7pm, you will need to do something to occupy yourself for the two hours that you wait and we call this 'filling in' time. As you have probably guessed from the example, the empty thing that requires filling in with this usage is time. Examples of usage.... My train arrives at 3pm this afternoon and my connecting train doesn't leave until 6pm, so I'll need to find something to do to fill in the time whilst I am waiting. I had nothing to do until the evening, so I filled in the day playing computer games and drinking coffee. TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE Re-write the following sentences using 'to fill in'.... I've completed the application form to be on the TV show and I am now just waiting to hear back from them. The gardeners have promised to put the soil back in the holes that they dug in the garden. Once you have coloured in all of the most detailed parts of the painting, just colour the remaining blank parts in grey. Can someone please tell me what has been happening since I have been away? Mrs Jones is not going to be teaching for the rest of the school year as she is having a baby, so Mr Hill is going to be teaching us until she comes back. Can you give me some tips on what I can do to pass a couple of hours in London next Saturday whilst I am waiting for my train. The answers will be available on next week's post EXERCISE ANSWERS FROM 'SET OFF' (Other variations may be possible) The astronauts SET OFF on their journey to the moon on 3rd January. One of the school pupils SET OFF the fire alarm as he wanted some time out from his lesson. Every time my Dad watches this movie, it SETS him OFF crying. The argument between the politicians SET OFF a chain of events that led to a new election. The blue paint and sofa SET the room OFF. The deposit payment will be SET OFF against the final invoice. This brings us to the end of the 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 'fill in' 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.

  • The Phrasal Verb 'Set Off' Explained

    An explanation of the different meanings of the English phrasal verb 'set 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. 'Set off' is a common English phrasal verb that is used by people in many different areas of modern life, ranging from holidaymakers to accountants and even fashion designers. In this post, I will take you through all of its different applications in English and tell you how you should use them, with lots of examples to help your understanding. So, without further ado, let's get started.... SET OFF: KEY INFORMATION For more explanation of the terms in the table above, click here. THE BASICS Before we delve into the different meanings of 'set off', let's take a moment to consider the individual meanings of the words 'set' and 'off'. It may surprise you to know that the word 'set' is the word with the highest number of meanings in the English language, with a total of 430 different meanings and senses! That is a crazy amount and I highly doubt that most English native speakers know them all and are able to use them. When used as a verb, 'set', unsurprisingly, has a large number of meanings, however the one that is most relevant for the purposes of the phrasal verb 'set off' is 'to cause something to be in a specified condition' e.g. "he set the house on fire". In this example sentence 'to set' is the causing action and the condition is 'on fire'. The prepositional particle 'off', like most prepositions in English, has a wide variety of different meanings and uses. When used in phrasal verb constructions it can often provide ideas of separation, departure and finishing, among many others. One meaning of 'off' to note here is that when used as an adjective, it can describe someone that has is about to start, or has just started on a journey, for example if you hear "the horses are off", it means that the horses in a race have just started running. In another example, if someone says 'I'm off to work", it means that they are about to leave the house to go to work in the next minute. Now that we have covered the basics, let's have a look at the different meanings of 'set off'... MEANING 1: To begin a journey The first meaning of 'set off' that we will look at is 'to begin a journey', or alternatively 'to depart' or 'to leave'. This usage of 'set off' is a very common in spoken English and is slightly informal in register. For this application of 'set off', we combine the sense of the verb to 'to set', meaning 'to cause something to be in a specified condition, with the adverbial meaning of the particle 'off', meaning 'to be moving away from a place'. Therefore, when we use 'set off' in this way, we are saying that we are going to move away from a place, or in other words depart or leave. This usage is very similar to the phrasal verb 'set out' (link here) and perhaps slightly more commonly used. Grammatically, this application of 'set off' is inseparable and does not take a direct object. 'Set off' is often followed by additional prepositions 'on' or 'for'; 'on' is used to specify the type of journey and 'for' is used to specify the destination. Examples of usage.... What time are you setting off tomorrow morning? I'm sorry, you've just missed John. He set off for work five minutes ago. When I set off on this hike earlier this morning, it was freezing cold. Look at the time! We'd better set off for the airport soon or we will be late for the flight. MEANING 2: To activate something The second meaning of 'set off' is 'to activate' something and is used specifically with certain nouns such as 'bomb' and 'alarm'. Like with the previous examples, this application of 'set off' links back to the meaning of the verb 'to set' that is 'to cause something to be in a specified condition' and the specified condition this time is 'activation mode'. In simple terms, 'to set off' is to cause something to activate. As I mentioned above, 'set off' is used with specific nouns, which are all generally devices or equipment that are inoperative for most of the time and need to be activated in some way in order to become operative. These typically include fire alarms, smoke alarms, burglar alarms, metal detectors, bombs and guns, all of which must be triggered or 'set off' in order to fulfil their function. If you have read my post on the similar phrasal verb 'go off' (link here), you may remember that these are very similar in meaning. It is worth noting however that 'set off' is used when there is some kind of known intervention, often human, and in sentences the person who activates the alarm is the subject, whilst the activated device is the object. On the other hand, we use 'go off' to describe when these devices are activated without human intervention or we do not know what caused the device to be activated. In 'go off' clauses therefore the activated device is the subject. Examples of usage.... Someone set the fire alarm off in our building at 3am this morning, so we all had to get up and wait outside until the fire department had checked everything was ok. Make sure you remove your belt when you go through security at the airport or you will set off the metal detector. The hunter accidentally set off his gun whilst he was cleaning it, but luckily the bullet did not hit anything. MEANING 3: To cause someone to react The third meaning of 'set off' is to cause someone to react in a certain manner, which is usually emotional in nature and lasts for a period of time. This meaning is actually very similar to the previous meaning that we have just looked at but rather than a device, the thing that is being activated is a person's emotion or reaction. This application is most commonly used with crying, laughter or making someone angry. For example, if you watch a sad movie that makes you cry, you can say that it '"sets you off crying". Alternatively, if someone makes you laugh uncontrollably, you can say that they "set you off laughing". As you can see from these examples, the gerund ('ing) form of the verb is normally used after 'set off', but this is not always necessary if the action is already clear from the context or situation. In addition to laughing and crying, 'set off' in this sense can be used to describe a human action that is activated or triggered and continues for a period of time such as coughing, singing, sneezing or talking. Grammatically, this application of 'set off' is separable. As this always refers to the actions or emotions of a person, we tend to mostly use this with indirect personal pronouns (me, him, her etc.) and these must always be placed between 'set' and 'off'. Examples of usage.... Helen watches this movie all the time even though she knows that it will set her off crying at the end. All of the smoke in the bar set me off coughing and I had to leave. Don't set me off again! I've only just stopped laughing from last time. Why did you have to bring that subject up?! You've set him off now, he won't stop talking about this for ages. MEANING 4: To start a chain of events The fourth meaning of 'set off' is really just another sub-meaning of the ones that we have already covered. As per the previous two meanings, it also means 'to trigger' something and in this case it is an event or, perhaps more commonly, a series of events. This usage is really all about the principle of cause and effect as if something makes an event or a chain of events happen, we can say that it "sets if off". It is likely that you will come across (link here) this particular application in the news and in current affairs in English. Grammatically, this application of 'set off' is separable, with the triggered event serving as the direct object. I think in terms of usage however, we tend to place the direct object after the phrasal verb more often. Examples of usage.... When the Prime Minister refused to authorise the new law, it set off a chain of events, which eventually led to his resignation. The decision by the judge to release the murderer set off a large number of riots all over the country. A discovery of a few old coins in the car park set off a series of events that culminated in a buried treasure being found underneath it. MEANING 5: To embellish the appearance of something For this fifth meaning of 'set off', we are moving away from the 'triggering' sense of the last few usages as this one means 'to embellish the appearance of something'. In other words, 'to make something look more attractive or beautiful by adding decorative elements to it'. It is worth noting here that this embellishment is normally done by adding some form of contrasting colour or object. When something 'sets something else off', it makes it more attractive or appealing to the eye and can even make the item or colour seem more evident or outstanding. As you can probably imagine, this application of 'set off' is used a large amount in the worlds of interior design, art, fashion and the hair & beauty industry where making something look attractive to people is the prime objective. Although I've written here that this usage of 'set off' is to make something appear more visually attractive, it can also be used with flavour in food, where one ingredient can be added to a dish that has a very different taste and yet complements the taste of the original dish. Examples of usage... The artist's decision to add a hint of purple to the picture was a very smart one as it sets the green off wonderfully. That hat really sets off the colour of your hair, you should buy it! The lace around the rim of the hat really sets if off. It's amazing how just a small amount of cinnamon in this apple tart really sets off the flavour of the apples. MEANING 6: To balance one thing against another The sixth and final meaning of 'set off' that we will cover in this post is 'to balance one thing against another, often so that the effect of the first thing is reduced or eliminated'. To get an idea of this, you should imagine a weighing scale (like in the gif above), on one side of which is a heavy weight. In order to reduce the effects of this heavy weight (the imbalance), a weight must be added to the other side to either lessen or remove the imbalance. This principle is known as 'setting off one thing against another'. While this of weighing scale is used less and less in the modern world, this application of 'set off' continues to be used in modern life, particularly when talking about money and finance. You may also be familiar with the verb 'offset', which is derived from this application of 'set off' and is probably now more widely used than its phrasal verb synonym. Grammatically, this usage of 'set off' is separable, however it tends to be more frequently used inseparably. The additional preposition against is usually used. Examples of usage.... Any future debts will be set off against the profits of the company. If you rent your property out, the money that you spend on maintenance and repairs should be set off against your rental income. TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE Re-write the following sentences using 'to set off'.... The astronauts started their journey to the moon on 3rd January. One of the school pupils triggered the fire alarm as he wanted some time out from his lesson. Every time my Dad watches this movie, it makes him cry. The argument between the politicians triggered a chain of events that led to a new election. The blue paint and sofa make the room look really beautiful. The deposit payment will be allocated against the final invoice. The answers will be available in next week's post. EXERCISE ANSWERS FROM 'LET DOWN' (Other variations may be possible) I am relying on you to get this right. Please don't LET me DOWN. Roger feels like he has LET his parents DOWN by not going to university. The caver was slowly LET DOWN into the cave by a rope. I love the car, however the only thing that LETS it DOWN is that it is yellow. My new pair of trousers didn't fit me, so my mother LET them DOWN for me. Your tyres are too full of air, you need to LET them DOWN a bit. This brings us to the end of the 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 'set 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.

  • The Phrasal Verb 'Let Down' Explained

    An explanation of the different meanings of the English phrasal verb 'Let 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, focussing on the different meanings that it has and the expressions and idioms that it is used in. 'Let down' is a phrasal verb with several meanings that can be applied to very different areas of life. You may already be familiar with its most common meaning, 'to disappoint someone', which we will look at in detail in this post, as well as the other meanings of let down'. So, without further ado, let's get started.... LET DOWN: KEY INFORMATION For more explanation of the terms in the table above, click here. THE BASICS Before we look at 'let down's different meanings, let's first consider the meanings of the individual words 'let' and 'down'. 'To let' is an irregular English verb and primarily means 'to allow or permit something', or 'to not prevent something from happening'. It is used in a wide number of common expressions and therefore will be a verb that I'm sure many of you will be very familiar with. The prepositional particle 'down' is the natural opposite of the particle 'up' and is most frequently used to refer to something in a lower position relative to the speaker, or to describe movement towards this lower position. As such, in phrasal verb constructions 'down' can often add the ideas of moving downwards or decreasing. If you have read my post about the phrasal verb 'let up' (link here), you may remember that it can be used literally to mean 'to allow someone to go up to a higher place'. We can also apply this same logic to 'let down' and it can mean 'to allow someone to go down from a high to a lower place', e.g. down some stairs or to a lower part of a building, however this usage is quite rare and so I only just wanted to briefly mention it here. So, now that we have covered the basics, let's look at the meanings of 'let down'.... MEANING 1: To disappoint someone The first meaning of 'let down' is to disappoint someone and is a common usage that you may hear in many popular songs and on popular TV shows. Although 'to let down' does mean 'to disappoint' and most of the time can be used interchangeably with it, there are some subtle differences in meaning and usage.... If you let someone down', you fail to do something that people expect you to do or hope that you do. This could be anything from just a small unfulfilled promise to not choosing the career that your parents hoped that you would. The verb 'to disappoint' could also be used in most of these cases, however 'to disappoint' refers more to a person's sad feeling when something doesn't go their way. So, in a nutshell 'let down' is more a failure to do something that was promised or expected and 'disappoint' is more to describe how you feel emotionally after someone lets you down. On a grammatical level, 'let down' is separable and can be used both ways, however it must always be used separably with indirect object pronouns (me, him, her, them etc.). Lastly, a common collocation that exists is 'to let someone down gently', which means to give a person bad news in a nice, gentle or kind way. Examples of usage.... Are you able to babysit my children tonight? My usual babysitter has let me down and I don't know who else to ask. I feel like I have let my parents down by not going to university. The company's supplier let us down at the last minute, so they had to try and find someone else who could supply the goods. We are not able to to go to John's party tonight. I know he really wants us to be there, so we will let him down gently. In addition to the phrasal verb 'let down', there is also the noun 'letdown', which is used to describe the action of letting someone down or disappointing them and is a synonym of the noun 'disappointment'. The noun is usually used to refer to a disappointing situation, but it can also be used to describe a person, although this can often be a little insulting. Examples of usage.... We tried out the new Italian restaurant in town last night but it was a letdown. We won't go back there again! Roger thinks that he is a letdown in his parents' eyes but it's not true; they are very proud of him. MEANING 2: To lower something The next meaning of 'let down' is to lower something from a high position to low position or to the ground, usually in a slow and careful manner'. In other words, this is to move something towards the ground or in a downwards direction. Often, with this sense of 'let down', the subject is the person who is carrying out the action and the item being lowered or 'let down' is the object. As I wrote, this application of 'let down' is normally used to describe the act of slowly and carefully lowering something or someone and as such, it is often used in situations with ropes and some types of machinery. In addition to the this, 'let down' can also be used to talk about when something that is restricted, bound or tied in a high place is untied or released. Typical examples of this are 'letting sails on a boat down' and 'letting your hair down'. Again, this application of 'let down' is separable and is fine to use both separably and inseparably, however I think that we tend to use it more in an inseparable way. Examples of usage.... The firemen arrived and carefully let the cat down from the tree in a basket tied to a rope. The rock climber got stuck halfway up the mountain and asked the crew to let him down. As the wind was increasing, the sailors decided to let down the sails. IDIOM ALERT One of the examples that I gave for this meaning of 'let down' was to untie your hair, so that it is free to hang down around your face. While this is used in everyday speech, 'to let your hair down' has also become a very popular idiom meaning 'to relax and have fun'. For this idiom, only the separable usage works. Examples of usage.... Lisa is determined to forget about work and let her hair down this weekend. You need to stop stressing and go out and let your hair down for a change. MEANING 3: To be a reason for something to fail The next meaning is a primarily British usage of 'let down' and is used to give a reason for why something fails or, less commonly, does not do as well as expected'. This is a similar kind of idea to the first meaning of disappointment that we looked at, however in this sense there is no element of disappointment, but rather the idea that one thing causes something to fail or not be as good or successful as it was expected to be. This can be used to describe anything for which there is an element of judgment or evaluation from other people, so therefore it could be as diverse as a painting, a candidate for a job, an outfit or the decor of a building. Often, we use this application of 'let down' separably, however sometimes we can use the unseparated construction "something is let down by something" - see below. Examples of usage.... He is a really good looking guy but unfortunately his personality lets him down. The house itself was perfect and the only thing that let it down and stopped us from buying it was that there was no garden. If there is one that thing that this car model is let down by, it is the high petrol consumption. MEANING 4: To make an item of clothing longer The fourth meaning of 'let down' is a useful one for anyone who enjoys sewing and needlework as it means 'to make a garment or item of clothing longer'. This is normally done by unfolding the excess material of a garment that is normally folded over at the bottom of it. It is often used with trousers and skirts that are not long enough. As with the other meanings of 'let down', this application can be used both separably and inseparably and with this one, I would say that both are equally as common as the other. Examples of usage.... I need to let these new trousers down as they are too short. That skirt is far too short, it needs letting down! MEANING 5: To deflate This fifth and final usage is another primarily British usage of 'let down' and it means 'to deflate something'. The idea behind this meaning comes from another phrasal verb, namely 'to blow up' (check it out here), one of the meanings of which is to 'inflate something'. The opposite of 'up' is of course 'down' and rather than 'blow down' (which doesn't exist), we use 'let down'. We can only use 'let down' for when something deflates with human intervention or action, rather than bursting and this is why the verb 'let' is used as this often implies an idea of intentionally allowing something to deflate and making it happen. Grammatically, this is no different to the other applications of 'let down' and can be used both in a separable and an inseparable way. Examples of usage.... Someone has let the tyres down on my bike! How am I going to get to work now?! We need to let down the airbed and put it away before the guests arrive. TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE Re-write the following sentences using 'to let down'.... I am relying on you to get this right. Please don't disappoint me. Roger feels like he has failed his parents by not going to university. The caver was slowly lowered into the cave by a rope. I love the car, however the only problem with it is that it is yellow. My new pair of trousers didn't fit me, so my mother made them longer for me. Your tyres are too full of air, you need to deflate them a bit. The answers will be available on next week's post EXERCISE ANSWERS FROM 'HANG UP' Other variations may be possible You can HANG your coat and hat UP in the cloakroom. Please HANG UP and dial our new telephone number. John has just HUNG UP on me! At the age of 40, the boxer decided to HANG UP his boxing gloves. I really like Emma but I get the impression that she is still HUNG UP on her ex-boyfriend. John is going bald and he has some serious HANG-UPS about it. This brings us to the end of the 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 'let 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.

  • The Phrasal Verb 'Hang Up' Explained

    An explanation of the different meanings of the English phrasal verb 'hang 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. 'Hang up' is an English phrasal verb that you will probably have heard before if you have ever had a telephone conversation with an English speaker. In this post, we consider this telephonic usage of 'hung up' and how the meaning can change, depending on the construction. In addition to that, we will also look at its other meanings and how they are used in everyday English by native speakers. Read on to find out more.... HANG UP: KEY INFORMATION For more explanation of the terms in the table above, click here. THE BASICS Before we get started with the meanings of the phrasal verb 'hang up', let's take a moment to consider the meanings of the individual words 'hang' and 'up'. 'To hang' is a reasonably common verb that means 'to be suspended from a high or elevated place, with the bottom part of the suspended thing being unsupported', much like the flowers in this image. Aside from this meaning, the verb 'to hang' can be found in different phrasal verb constructions and also has a second meaning involving a rather unpleasant way to die, which was often used as a punishment for crimes (thankfully) in the past. Interestingly, the verb 'to hang' has different past participles depending on which of these meanings you intend. The standard past participle that is necessary for this phrasal verb 'hang up' is 'hung', whereas for 'to hang' in the killing sense, the past participle is 'hanged'....this is something that even many native speakers do not get right. The prepositional particle 'up' is one of the most commonly used particles in phrasal verb constructions and can add different elements to the meaning, depending on the context. These can range from the idea of completion or readiness to the idea of being in an elevated position, which is certainly appropriate for this phrasal verb. So, now that we have considered the basics, let's look at the meanings of 'hang up'.... MEANING 1: To hang something from a hook The first meaning of 'hang up' is 'to hang something on a hook' and is more or less a literal combination of the verb 'to hang', with the particle 'up' adding the idea of the item being suspended in an elevated place (as hooks tend to be). As you would expect, this application of 'hang up' is used with nouns for items that can be hung on hooks and typically includes clothes, coats, umbrellas, pictures and hats. Aside from hooks, we also use 'hang up' for when we hang clothes on hangers or anywhere else where they can be hung in an elevated position. This application of 'hang up' is separable and therefore it is possible to say that you "hang your coat up" or "you hang up your coat", without changing the meaning. Examples of usage.... Give me your jacket, I'll go and hang it up in the study. The first thing that John does when he gets home is hang his hat and coat up by the front door. We hung up the wet clothes on hangers in the spare room and left them to dry. Lisa decided to hang her favourite painting up on the wall by her bed. MEANING 2: To end a phone call The second meaning of 'hang up' is perhaps the most commonly used of all its meanings and means 'to end a telephone call'. This usage may not seem obvious or logical at first, however it becomes clearer when you consider that this application has been in use since the time when telephones were first invented and people had to literally hang the phone's receiver* on the telephone in order to end a call. Despite the fact that our telephones have changed dramatically over time and we no longer have to physically hang up a receiver to finish a call, this application continues to be used extensively in modern English. *receiver = the part of the telephone that you speak into and sound comes out of. In addition to just ending a phone call, 'hang up' develops a more negative connotation when the additional preposition 'on' is used with it. If you hang up on someone, it means that you end a call abruptly, usually without saying goodbye and without the other person expecting it. This is often done out of anger or frustration with the person to whom the speaker is talking and can also be considered rude or insulting by the person who has been hung up on. Grammatically speaking, it is possible to use this application of 'hang up' separably, however it is more common for native speakers to say "hang up the phone" than "hang the phone up". This is even more the case with the additional 'hang up on variant'. Examples of usage.... This number is not recognised. Please hang up the phone and try again. I need to speak to you, please don't hang up! How rude! John has just hung up on me in the middle of our conversation. Sorry, I didn't mean to hang up on you. MEANING 3: To stop doing an activity The third meaning of 'hang up' is an informal one that means 'to retire from, or stop doing, an activity that you do regularly'. This usage is typical for talking about sports or physical activities that someone regularly does and for the meaning to be realised, the word for a garment or accessory that is associated with the sport or activity in question is required after 'hang up'. For example, if a football player goes into retirement, you can say that "he or she has hung up their football boots". The same can be said for dancing shoes for ballerinas, boxing gloves for boxers and wetsuits for surfers. The idea here is that the person who is retiring hangs up the accessory for the last time (presumably on a hook) and will not use it again. Examples of usage.... After a successful career spanning more than 30 years, the jockey has decided to hang up his riding boots. The drummer hung up his drumsticks a few years ago as he wanted to concentrate on different things. I don't think Helen will ever hang up her nurses uniform. She just loves being a nurse too much. MEANING 4: To have emotional problems The fourth and final meaning of 'hang up' means 'to have an emotional or psychological preoccupation with something'. For this usage, we need the passive construction 'to be hung up on something', with the additional preposition 'on'. If you are 'hung up on something', it means that you spend a lot of time worrying or thinking about a certain thing, usually in a negative way. It is also possible to be hung up on someone and this is normally always romantic or sexual in nature. An alternative to 'to be hung up on something' is 'to be hung up about something'. Examples of usage.... John is completely hung up on perfection and getting every detail correct. Don't get hung up on the future. Whatever happens will happen. I went out on a date with Helen last night, but it appears that she is still hung up on her ex. If you are hung up on or about a certain thing and have worries about it, it can also be said that you have a 'hang-up' about it. A hang-up is an informal noun to describe when you have a preoccupation or problem that makes you feel embarrassed, stressed or worried about a certain thing. It is also used in the plural form 'hang-ups' and this can either mean that the person has one recurring problem or several. Examples of usage.... Roger has a severe hang-up about his age. He's worried that he's getting too old to be a parent. Why do you have so many hang-ups about your body? You look really good! ANOTHER BONUS Lastly, before I finish the post, here is a song that you may know by Madonna that features a couple of different ways to use 'hang up'....can you identify them? EXERCISE Re-write the following sentences using 'to hang up'.... You can suspend your coat and hat in the cloakroom. Please end this call and dial our new telephone number. John has just put the phone down on me! At the age of 40, the boxer decided to retire from the sport. I really like Emma but I get the impression that she is still interested in her ex-boyfriend. John is going bald and he has some serious issues about it. The answers will be available on next week's post. EXERCISE ANSWERS FROM 'GO OUT' (other variations may be possible) I need to GO OUT shortly, so please be quick. Suddenly, all of the lights in the room WENT OUT The England football team WENT OUT of the competition in the first round. They have been GOING OUT for several weeks. This WENT OUT at the turn of the century. The tide is in at the moment, so we need to wait for it to GO OUT again. This brings us to the end of the 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 'hang 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.

  • The Phrasal Verb 'Go Out' Explained

    An explanation of the different meanings of the English phrasal verb 'go out', 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. AS THIS IS MY FINAL POST OF 2023, I WANT TO WISH ALL OF MY READERS A HAPPY NEW YEAR. MANY THANKS FOR ALL OF YOUR SUPPORT THIS YEAR. The phrasal verb 'go out' is a commonly used phrasal verb with a varied range of meanings, some of which you are more likely to hear at this time of year. In this post, we will look at seven different meanings that it has in English, as well as some common idioms that it features in. So, without further ado, let's get started.... GO 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 the phrasal verb 'go out', let's first examine the meanings of the constituent words 'go' and 'out'. The verb 'to go' is one of the most common English verbs and is primarily used to talk about movement or travel from one place to another, but it also has a number of different meanings, including 'to become' and 'to function'.'Going to' is also used a way of expressing the future tense in English. The prepositional particle 'out', like most prepositions in English, has a multitude of different meanings and uses and can function as a number of different classes of word (adverb, adjective etc.). First and foremost, it is used as the opposite of 'in' and refers to movement towards the exterior of something or being situated on the outside of something. As an adjective, it can be used to mean 'not at home', 'no longer in a competition or group' or 'extinguished (of a power source)' among many other things. Now that we have covered the basics, let's move on to the different meanings of 'go out'.... MEANING 1: To leave your house The first meaning of 'go out' is to leave your house or place where you live, or less commonly a workplace or place where you habitually spend a lot of time. This meaning of 'go out' comes from the use of 'out' as an adverb to mean 'not at home'.... I am going to be out all day tomorrow, so can you please arrange for the delivery to arrive the following day. I called in at your house but you were out. In addition to this, the verb 'to go' then adds the element of leaving the house or movement away from it. Examples of usage.... I am going out in 5 minutes, so I don't have time to chat now. After John had an argument with Lisa, he went out for a bit to give them both a chance to calm down. Helen's not here at the moment, I'm afraid. She's gone out for the day and I'm not sure what time she will be back. We use 'go out' to refer to any time that we leave our house or place of residence, however it is often used specifically by native speakers to mean 'to leave your house to go somewhere to socialise', such as a bar, restaurant or party. The additional preposition 'for' can also be used here to specify what you are doing. Examples of usage.... We are going out tonight with some friends who we have not seen for a long time. Roger and Sophie went out for a meal last night at the new restaurant in town. Are you free later? Shall we go out for a drink? EXTRA INFORMATION TO SOUND LIKE A NATIVE SPEAKER In recent years in British English the informal expression 'to go out out', with the double repetition of the particle 'out', has started to be used to talk about when people go out to socialise. However, 'going out out' is normally reserved for when people have a big, extravagant night out and spend a lot of money, wear their best clothes and often finish the evening drunk. Examples of usage... Are you going out tonight or are you going out out? I can't remember the last time that my wife and I went out out. It's not so easy to do when you have children. MEANING 2: To be extinguished The second meaning of 'go out' is 'to be extinguished', or in other words, to no longer be burning or emitting energy in heat or light form. This form of 'go out' is commonly used with the nouns 'fire' and 'light', but can also be used with other nouns for sources of energy. You may remember from earlier in the post that another meaning of 'out', when used as an adverb, is to describe when sources of energy are extinguished....so if a candle is out, it's no longer burning and if a light is out, it's no longer shining (in the same way as when it's 'off'). When we combine this meaning of 'out' with the verb 'to go', we get the specific meaning of a power source stopping emitting light or heat. Note that we normally only use this application when the power source is extinguished without human intervention. Other nouns that this application of 'go out' is used with, especially in American English, are 'power' and 'electricity', to describe when there is a blackout or a power cut. Examples of usage.... The fire went out whilst John and Lisa were sleeping. When the children were telling each other ghost stories, the lights in the room suddenly went out and everyone started screaming. The power has gone out all over the city due to the storm. MEANING 3: To leave a competition The next meaning of 'go out' is 'to leave a competition', or in other words, 'to be eliminated from a competition, so that you can no longer compete in it and win it'. Similarly to the previous two meanings of 'go out' that we have looked at, this one is also derived from an adverbial usage of the word 'out'. In addition to meaning 'not at home' and 'extinguished', 'out' can be used as an adverb to mean 'no longer active in a competition or activity' and combining this meaning with the verb 'to go', it gives us the idea of being eliminated from a competition and leaving it. As you will undoubtedly have guessed, this application of 'go out' is used primarily with sports and games to describe when a player or competitor is eliminated from competing and can no longer play or win. One notable exception to this is with card games as when a person 'goes out' in cards, it often means that they have got rid of all of their cards and, by doing so, have won the game. Examples of usage.... Aston Villa went out in the third round of the Championship cup after losing to local rivals Birmingham City. If one of the players catches the ball after you hit it, you automatically go out of the competition. The objective of the game is to go out and win the competition by being the first player to place all of your cards on the table. MEANING 4: To have a romantic relationship with someone The fourth meaning of 'go out' is an informal application and means 'to have a romantic relationship with someone'. This meaning of 'go out' is a synonym of the verb 'to date' and more than likely derives from the idea of people going out on dates when they are in the early stages of a relationship. Although 'to go out' and 'to date' can often be used interchangeably, I would say that the meaning of 'go out' has evolved slightly and is often used to describe something more long-term than 'to date', often even to describe a relationship until a couple gets married. 'To date', on the other hand, tends to be used more for a short-term or casual relationship. On a grammatical note, this usage of 'go out' is often used with continuous tenses, especially when the relationship in question is ongoing. Moreover, the additional preposition 'with' is required here when specifying who a person is in a relationship with. Examples of usage.... John and Lisa have been going out for over three years but have no plans to get married. He's very attractive. Is he going out with anyone at the moment? Since when has Roger been single? I thought he was going out with Ashley. Debbie and Mel went out with each other for a while but decided to remain friends. MEANING 5: To cease to be popular or fashionable The next meaning of 'go out' is 'to stop being popular, fashionable or trendy. For this meaning, we need to firstly consider that one of the meanings of the particle 'in' as an adjective is 'trendy', 'fashionable' or 'popular'. As I stated at the beginning of the post in the Basics section, 'out' usually functions as the opposite of 'in' and consequently, if we describe something as 'out', it means that it is no longer popular or in fashion. Furthermore, when we say that something 'goes out', we are talking about the time when it becomes unfashionable or no longer popular. This is normally used for nouns to describe music, clothes, fashion, societal trends and even words and vocabulary. Sometimes, we also use the expression 'to go out of fashion' as an alternative way to express this. Grammatically, this application of 'go out' tends to be used with past tenses as we are not always aware when something is becoming unpopular in the present moment. Examples of usage.... Flared trousers and platform shoes went out in the 1970s. Swing music went out years ago but there are still some people who enjoy listening to it. Here is a list of some social etiquette rules that have gone out of fashion but should be brought back. MEANING 6: To recede (tide) The sixth meaning of 'go out' is a much more limited application than the others that we have looked at so far and means 'to recede'. This is a very specific usage as it is used specifically to refer to the tide (the twice daily movement of the oceans caused by the moon). When referring to the tides, we say that the tide is 'in' when the sea is close to the land and that it is 'out' when it is far from the land. Furthermore, to describe the movement of the oceans and tides, we state that they 'come in' when the sea water moves towards the beach and that they 'go out' when it moves away from the shore. Note that we do not use this to talk about individual waves but rather for the general tidal movement towards and away from the land that occurs over a period of hours. Examples of usage.... The tide is in at the moment but when it goes out again i will reveal the rocks on the beach. We had a nice walk along the beach as the tide was going out. MEANING 7: To be announced or published The seventh and final meaning of 'go out' is 'to be announced or broadcast' and is used to talk about when information and programmes are transmitted to the general public. Here, we use 'go out' to talk about the time or the moment when the information or the programme is released and made public. Whilst 'go out' is used universally in English for the transmission of information and messages, it is worth noting that 'go out' to describe the transmission and broadcasting of TV programmes, radio programmes and podcasts is more of a British English usage. Examples of usage.... New episodes of the podcast go out at 7pm every Sunday evening. The information went out to all news agencies. IDIOM ALERT!! Before I end this post, I want to make you aware of some common idiomatic phrases and expressions that exist featuring the phrasal verb 'go out'... My heart goes out to.... - This is an expression that is used when you want to express sympathy for someone who is experiencing problems or troubles in their life. I've heard your bad news and my heart goes out to you! If there is anything I can do to help, please let me know. To go out of your way to do something - If you go out of your way to do something, it means that you make a big effort to do something that you perhaps would not normally do. John has gone out of his way to make your visit pleasant and all you have done is complain! To go out on a limb - If you go out on a limb, it means that you express an opinion that is different to that of other people and you are perhaps the only person in the group who expresses it. I am going out on a limb here but I didn't enjoy the film at all. I know you all loved it, but I thought it was terrible. To go out with a bang - Lastly, if you go out with a bang, it means that you finish doing something in an exciting or dramatic way. It is our final day at university tomorrow and we are intending to go out with a bang by playing some tricks on the lecturer. TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE Re-write the following sentences using 'to go out'.... I need to leave the house shortly, so please be quick. Suddenly, all of the lights in the room turned off by themselves. The England football team were eliminated from the competition in the first round. They have been dating for several weeks. This hasn't been popular since the turn of the century. The tide is in at the moment, so we need to wait for it to recede again. The answers will be available on next week's post. EXERCISE ANSWERS FROM 'WRAP UP' How long did it take you to WRAP UP all of these presents? You should WRAP UP if you are going outside. Let's WRAP this meeting UP, it's getting late. He WRAPPED UP all of the points of the meeting very succinctly. Linda was totally WRAPPED UP in her problems and she didn't think about her husband's. John has been completely WRAPPED UP IN COTTON WOOL for his whole life. This brings us to the end of the 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 'go 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.

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