Top 100 IELTS Phrasal Verbs

For non-native English speakers, one of the most common challenges with mastering the IELTS test is Grammar. Though there is no specific Grammar section in either IELTS Academic or IELTS General Training, it plays a pivotal role in all test sections. A relatively intermediate form of English Grammar is phrasal verbs. It can often be intimidating and confusing if English is not your first language.

That’s why we created this guide. This article will help you familiarize yourselves with the most common phrasal verbs used in IELTS.

What are Phrasal Verbs? 

Phrasal verbs are a combination of a verb and a preposition or adverb.

Using them is colloquial for native speakers. Understanding and learning more about phrasal verbs will help you in the IELTS exam, especially in the Writing and Speaking sections, and even in the Listening section, where you will hear people conversing with each other.  

Phrasal verbs function as a verb in which the meaning is completely different from the combined meanings of the individual words. Since most phrasal verbs are idiomatic expressions too, you have to acquaint yourself with their meanings and not take their literal meaning. 

Take for example the phrasal verb “call off“. It means ‘to cancel‘, which is entirely different from the meaning of the combined words – “call” and “off”

The same is true with the phrasal verb “get along”. It means ‘to have a friendly or harmonious relationship‘. It means completely different from the meaning of the words – “get”‘ and “along”

Another example is the phrasal verb “clam up” which means ‘to become silent or refuse to talk‘. The meaning is entirely different from the meaning of the words that are combined – “clam” and “up”.   

The same goes with the phrasal verb “pan out”. It means ‘to end up or conclude’, which is different from the words “pan” and “out”


How to Use Phrasal Verbs in IELTS?

Phrasal verbs are very common in IELTS, especially in the Writing and Listening sections. In the IELTS Speaking section, you are also encouraged to use phrasal verbs as it shows that someone is fluent in English and naturally knows the language.   

Being familiar with many phrasal verbs will surely boost your chance of getting your desired IELTS band score. They are one of the most extremely common features of natural and native English. When an interviewer notices that you use them quite often, they will think that you are well-versed and will have a strong chance of getting a high band score. It will also help you interact and communicate with native speakers better and more effectively.

Using phrasal verbs can be tricky in daily conversations, let alone in IELTS, where you will spend a decent amount of money, and of course, your time and effort. So make sure to use them correctly. 

Phrasal verbs are an excellent approach to incorporate into your IELTS exam. They may be used to address a wide range of topics and are a fantastic method to boost your vocabulary score. However, you have to make sure that you have researched enough when using them, as phrasal verbs are not as simple as they seem. 

There are different phrasal verbs, depending on whether you can put other words between the verb and the preposition or the adverb. With separable phrasal verbs, you can put a word between the verb and the preposition or the adverb. For non-separable phrasal verbs, you cannot put a word between the verb and the preposition or the adverb. 

There are four kinds of phrasal verbs depending on their uses:

  • Transitive.
  • Intransitive.
  • Seperable.
  • Non-seperable.

This is where it gets tricky. A lot of people get confused on whether or not they can separate the phrasal verbs and insert words between them. Some are not sure where to put the pronouns when using phrasal verbs. To avoid such confusion, you must familiarize yourself with the different kinds of phrasal verbs. 

Transitive

A transitive phrasal verb has an object or receiver of the action. 

The object can be put between the verb and the preposition or the adverb, or after the phrasal verb itself, without changing the meaning of the sentences. 

Example:

  • Put on your apron” OR Put your apron on”. 
  • ” Turn off the lights”  OR Turn the lights off”. 
  • “Take back the books” OR Take the books back”. 

When a pronoun is used, the pronoun should be in the middle of the verb and the preposition or the adverb.

Example:

  • “Put it on” NOT “Put on it”.
  • Turn it off” NOT Turn off it“.
  • Take them back” NOT Take back them“.

Intransitive 

An intransitive has no object.

No words are put between the verb and the preposition or the adverb.

Example:

  • “The concert tickets are sold out”. 
  • My car broke down this morning”. 
  • He dropped out of college last semester”. 

Separable 

A separable phrasal verb allows a word (usually an object) between the verb and the preposition or the adverb. 

Example:

  • He called me up to tell me about the party”.  
  • The driver dropped her off at the nearest gate”. 
  • My sister cheers me up every time I am down”. 

Non-separable

An inseparable phrasal verb can be transitive, meaning it has an object, but no words are put between the verb and the preposition or the adverb.

Example:

  • I’ve always looked up to my father as a role model”. 
  • Sue takes after her mother’s eyes”.  
  • I ran into an old friend yesterday”. 

Top 100 Useful Phrasal Verbs 

Here, we’ve compiled a list of more than 100 different phrasal verbs in the English language. We’ve stated the meaning of each phrasal verb, and also provided an example sentence. Make sure to familiarize yourself with these in your practice tests and mock tests — so you can get the necessary confidence to ace your IELTS test.

Phrasal Verbs Phrasal Verb MeaningExample Sentence
Account forTo give a reason or explanation forHe couldn’t account for his repeated unpunctuality.”
Adhere to To behave according to a specific rule, principle, or belief“The employees are expected to adhere to the company’s dress code.”
Allude toTo mention something in an indirect manner “She alluded to the problem during her speech.”
Argue outTo convince someone to do/not do something by giving them reasons “The committee argued out on hiring new members.” 
Bank onTo rely on somebody/something.“You can bank on your friends in times of trouble.”
Blow up1. To explode; to be destroyed by an explosion.

2. To get angry at somebody.
1. “The plane blew up in mid-air.”

2. “I got annoyed by his behavior, so I blew up.”
Bone up onTo try to learn about something “She had to bone up on her Spanish.”
Break down1. To stop working because of a fault.

2. To fail. 
1. “Our car broke down so we had to take the bus.”

2. “Their marriage had broken down.” 
Bring aboutTo make something happen “We want to bring about the changes in a peaceful manner.” 
Bring downTo cause someone to lose power or be defeated “The current pandemic has brought down the world’s economy.” 
Bring inTo include; to introduce “The senate is planning to bring in a new resolution.”
Bring upTo care for a child, teaching him/her how to behave“My mother brought up five children.” 
Brush up onTo quickly improve a skill, especially when you have not used it for a time“She quickly brushed up on her French before leaving to Paris.”  
Buckle downTo start working hard “We need to buckle down for a new project.” 
Bump intoTo meet somebody by chance “I bumped into my former teacher at the church last Sunday.” 
Bundle offTo send someone to a place quickly “She bundled her children off to the playground.”
Call offTo cancel “They had to call off the match because of the rain.” 
Calm downTo make someone less agitated “The police had to calm down the family of the victim.” 
Carry onTo continue doing something“You will end up dead if you carry on smoking like that.”   
Carry outTo do something, one has said they will do or have been asked to do“He was prepared to carry out his plan to look for another job.”
Catch up1. To reach somebody who is ahead by going faster

2. To talk to someone whom one has not seen for some time and find out what they have been doing
1. “You run and I will catch up with you in a while.”  

2. “It’s always nice to catch up with old friends.” 
Chip inTo provide a part of a whole amount “Everyone in the building chipped in five bucks for the janitor’s birthday.”
Clam upTo become silent and refuse to talk “She has the habit of clamming up when asked about her problems.” 
Come aboutTo take place; to happen“The cops asked the witnesses how the accident came about.” 
Come across1. To make a particular impression

2. To be understood 
1. “The new manager came across as rude.”

2. “She had her speech for two hours but her message didn’t come across.” 
Come out1. To be produced or published

2. To be known 
1. “Her new book came out last month.”

2. “After a decade, the truth finally came out and justice prevailed.” 
Come up withTo produce something, especially when pressured or challenged“They came up with an idea to prevent the company from losing profit. 
Count onTo rely on something or someone“You don’t need to lean on others to finish this project.”  
Cut downTo reduce the size, amount, or quantity of something“You need to cut down on carbs if you want to lose weight.”
Dawn onTo begin to be understood or realized for the first time“It suddenly dawned on her that she was deceived.”
Dive intoTo become suddenly and enthusiastically involved in or occupied with something“She quickly dove into the discussion and shared every detail of her trip.” 
Do away withTo remove or put an end to something “The city has decided to do away with the use of plastics.” 
Eat outTo have a meal at a restaurant “My family and I are eating out this weekend at a local diner.” 
Embark onTo start doing something new “He and his college friends are planning to embark on a new business venture.”  
End upTo reach or to come to a place or condition “She didn’t want to end up like parents.” 
Face offTo argue, fight or compete with somebody“The teams will face off in the much-awaited match of the season.”   
Fall apart1. To be in a very bad condition

2. To lose one’s ability to cope
1. “My car is starting to fall apart.”

2. “I fell apart when my dog died.”
Fall outTo have an argument with somebody “She had fallen out with her family a long time ago.” 
Figure outTo discover or determine a solution to something“The participants have finally figured out the way out of the maze.”
Fill inTo do somebody’s job for a short time while they are not there“I can fill in for you while you are on vacation.” 
Find outTo discover a fact or a piece of information “I want to find out who won the competition.”  
Follow throughTo finish something one has started “The project started on a good note, but failed to follow through.” 
Frown uponTo think that something is bad “Divorce is legal and yet, it is still frowned upon.” 
Get acrossTo be communicated clearly “Your message didn’t really get across.” 
Get alongTo have a friendly or harmonious relationship “The players of the other team don’t get along with each other.” 
Get around  To persuade someone to do something that they initially do not want to“He knows how to get around his siblings.”
Get atTo imply something  “I can see now where you’re getting at.” 
Get away withTo escape with something“He thinks he could always get away with turning in his tasks late.”   
Get backTo get something again after losing it “They got their old house back.”
Get it togetherTo gather or assemble socially or corporately“Let’s get together for some pizza tomorrow.” 
Get on withTo perform or make progress in a specified way“Stop playing around and get on with your work.” 
Give upTo cease making an effort; to resign oneself to failure “He was trained not to give up so easily.” 
Hand outTo distribute “The organizers handed out the prizes to the winners.”  
Hand over 1. To pass responsibility to someone else

2. To give something/somebody officially or formally to another person
1. “The outgoing president handed over the power to the new government.”

2. “The tourists were ordered to hand over their passports to the officer.”    
Hang outTo spend time relaxing or socializing informally “We usually hang out at our favorite restaurant every Friday.” 
Hold back To hesitate to talk or speak “She knew the truth but held back because of fear.”
Keep upTo move or progress at the same rate as someone or something else“The employees can’t keep up with all the adjustments happening.” 
Knuckle downTo apply oneself seriously to a task “She was able to knuckle down to her lessons enough to pass her examinations.” 
Leave outTo not include somebody or something in something“Let’s leave out the last two sentences of the speech.” 
Let downTo fail to support or help somebody as they had hoped or expected“The students felt that they have let their teacher down.”
Look backTo think about something in the past“I like looking back at the good old days.” 
Look forward toTo feel happy and excited about something that is going to happen“The children in the village always look forward to Halloween.” 
Look intoTo investigate something “The police looked into his personal belongings.” 
Look outTo be vigilant and take notice Look out for spelling mistakes on your writing.”
Look upTo improve or become better “Finally, things are beginning to look up.” 
Make ofTo understand a person or thing’s meaning or character“I don’t know what to make of this painting.”  
Make upTo invent a story or plan “She made up an excuse of her being caught up in heavy traffic.”  
Map outTo plan or arrange something in a careful or detailed way“The committee mapped out their ideas on the new project.” 
Meet upTo come into the presence of someone, especially by arrangement“The former colleagues agreed to meet up at the nearest café.”  
Mull overTo think carefully about something for a period of timeI mulled over the offer for some time and then turned it down.
Narrow downTo reduce the number of possibilities or options“The hiring committee has narrowed down their choices to three candidates.” 
Pan outTo end up or conclude “She’s happy with the way things have panned out.” 
Pick outTo distinguish someone or something from a group“Let’s pick out the bad tomatoes in the basket.”
Pick upTo get better or stronger; to improve “The company’s sales have picked up in the last three months.” 
Put forwardTo recommend somebody as a suitable candidate for a job or position“The new student has been put forward as the club’s secretary.”  
Put offTo postpone something “The concert has been put off because of the pandemic.”
Resort to ​To do or use something especially because no other choices are possible“She had to resort to asking her parents for money.”   
Rule outTo exclude“The possibility of a mistaken identity has been ruled out.” 
Run up againstTo experience or meet difficulty or problem “The president’s proposal will run up against the country’s current economic situation.” 
Show offTo make a deliberate display of one’s abilities or accomplishments“He is showing off his new car.”
Sort outTo arrange things systematically in groups or according to type“Sort out the things you want to keep and throw the rest.”
Speak downTo talk in an insultingly condescending manner to/about somebody“I hate how my boss speaks down to me whenever I ask him a question.”  
Speak upTo express one’s opinions frankly and openly“The residents are too scared to speak up about the problem.” 
Stamp outTo put an end to something; to eliminate “Government officials should find a way to stamp out poverty.”
Stumble uponTo find or learn about something unexpectedly “He stumbled upon a nice little hut on his way home.” 
Tag alongTo go somewhere with a person or group“My sister always tags along when I go to the mall.” 
Take afterTo resemble or act like a relative“You should take after your brother who is a hardworking student.” 
Talk out ofTo stop someone from doing something “I was able to talk him out of going to the trip alone.” 
Tear apartTo make somebody feel extremely unhappy or worried “It tears me apart knowing I might have hurt his feelings.”
Think overTo consider something carefully “The coach asked the player to think over the offer carefully.”
Turn downTo reject or refuse something that was offered “She gracefully turned down the invitation to the ball.”
Turn outTo prove to be“Faulty wiring turned out to be the cause of the fire.”  
Use upTo use all of something to the extent that there is nothing left“I’ve used up all my money for this trip.” 
Verge onTo come near to being something“My father tells stories that are verge on the absurd.” 
Walk awayTo irresponsibly withdraw from a situation in which one is involved or responsible for“He chose to walk away and leave his family instead of dealing with the problem.” 
Walk outTo leave suddenly or angrily “Half of the members of the committee walked out of the meeting.”
Wear offTo lose effectiveness or intensity  “The pain is slowly wearing off.”  
Wipe outTo destroy or remove somebody/something completely“The coach instructed his players to wipe out the opposing team.”
Work outTo develop in a successful way“I’m happy that the decisions I have made worked out for the better.”
Zone outTo fall asleep or lose concentration or consciousness“He was so exhausted that for a moment, he zoned out.” 

Can I Use Phrasal Verbs in IELTS Writing?

Yes, you can use phrasal verbs in IELTS Writing. Native speakers use phrasal verbs very frequently. Applying phrasal verbs in Writing will boost your chance of getting a high band score. It will show that you are fluent in English and you naturally know the language. However, remember to use formal phrasal verbs only. Some phrasal verbs are informal and are recommended to be used only in spoken English. 

In spoken English, phrasal verbs are common. Native speakers use them without hesitation. Non-natives, on the other hand, find them complex and challenging. They frequently misunderstand their meanings and use them incorrectly in sentences. This is because phrasal verbs often have more than one definition and multiple contexts in which they are used. Your goal is to write your paper in plain and formal English so that it is clear and concise.


Can IELTS Academic Writing Use Phrasal Verbs?

Although phrasal verbs are commonly accepted in spoken English, they are often regarded as too informal for Academic Writing. Your goal is to write your paper in simple language so that it is clear and concise. Thus, phrasal verbs should be replaced with their single-verb equivalent. If using phrasal verbs cannot be avoided, make sure to use formal phrasal verbs. 

Using a wide range of advanced vocabulary is an important feature that could help you earn a better IELTS Academic Writing band score. When using sophisticated vocabulary like phrasal verbs, it is also important to understand the differences in their register and level of formality.

Some phrasal verbs are also considered too informal for Academic Writing. It is therefore recommended that you identify which phrasal verbs are formal, neutral, and informal. If you are not sure, it is advised that you replace it with its single verb equivalent. This will lower the risk of you messing up your paper. 

Here are some informal phrasal verbs and the words that you can use to replace them with:

  • Bring about —— cause
  • Come out —— publish
  • Cut down —— reduce
  • Fall apart —— disintegrate
  • Find out —— discover
  • Get along —— communicate
  • Hand out —— distribute
  • Leave out —— omit
  • Look at —— investigate
  • Pick out —— select
  • Pick up —— resume
  • Put forward  ——  propose
  • Put up with —— tolerate
  • Stamp out —— eradicate
  • Use up —— exhaust

How Can You Use Phrasal Verbs in IELTS Speaking? 

The Speaking section of IELTS is considered a lot harder than the other three sections. There is no room for errors in this section unlike in Writing, where you can revise and edit what you have started. This is the part where you should impress the interviewee and show them that, as native speakers, you know how to speak the English language well. 

One way to impress the interviewee is by using phrasal verbs. Phrasal verbs are one of the biggest challenges in the Speaking section of IELTS. Examinees tend to be nervous and unconsciously mix the verb with a different preposition or adverb.

An example would be the phrasal verb ‘carry on‘. This phrasal verb means ‘to continue doing something‘. Some examinees, however, unintentionally use ‘carry out’ instead, which means, ‘to do something one has said they would do’.  Such instances will significantly affect your band score and thus, should be avoided. 

In the IELTS Speaking section, you will most likely be asked to speak about various topics such as work, study, hobbies, books and films, relationships, personality, music, and food. Phrasal verbs are used frequently by native speakers in their conversations. When conversing casually, stay well-prepared and use phrasal verbs to sound more natural and native.

Here are some sample responses in the IELTS Speaking section, using phrasal verbs:  

Topic: Work and Study

Knuckle down

  • Meaning == to apply oneself seriously to a task.
  • Example senteces:
    • “I am a teacher and exams are coming soon, so I need to knuckle down”. 
    • “I am an engineering student and exams are approaching, I need to knuckle down”.

Brush up on

  • Meaning == to quickly improve a skill, especially when you have not used it for a time.
  • Example sentences:
    • “I haven’t cooked for a long time as I have always lived with my parents, so I need to brush up on my cooking skills.”

Resort to

  • Meaning == to do or use something especially because no other choices are possible.
  • Example sentences:
    • “I can’t cook because of how busy my schedule is, so I resort to ordering food online and having them delivered at my place”. 

Topic: Hobbies

Embark on

  • Meaning == to start doing something new.
  • Example sentences:
    • My husband and I are into music and we are currently planning to embark on putting up a music school for teens. 

Hang out

  • Meaning == to spend time relaxing or socializing informally.
  • Example sentences:
    • My friends and I usually hang out at the local diner every Saturday. 

Topic: Describe a thing

Stumble upon

  • Meaning == to find or learn about something unexpectedly.
  • Example sentences:
    • I was in college when I stumbled upon this necklace at a thrift shop. 

Chip in

  • Meaning == to give some money so that a group of people can buy something together.
  • Example sentences:
    • My siblings chipped in so they can buy me this bracelet. 

Topic: Describe a time when…

Bump into

  • Meaning == to meet somebody by chance.
  • Example sentences:
    • Recently, I bumped into my college professor.

Catch up

  • Meaning == to talk to someone whom one has not seen for some time and find out what they have been doing.
  • Example sentences:
    • I met with my former coach last night and we were able to catch up with each other. 

Topic: What do you think about the future? 

Bank on

  • Meaning == to rely on somebody/something.
  • Example sentences:
    • I am banking on the pandemic to end so I can travel again. 

Pan out

  • Meaning == to end up or conclude.
  • Example sentences:
    • “I hope everything will get better, but let’s see how things pan out”.

Phrasal verbs are challenging yet fascinating since they allow you to demonstrate your command of pronunciation. Since most verbs have a final consonant sound and most prepositions begin with a vowel sound, most phrasal verbs are connected.

Examples:

  • “Sit_up”
  • “Call_off”

Take note of how the connecting functions with various forms and tenses:

  • “He likes to look_up…”
  • “She looks_up…”
  • “They looked_up…”

Some phrasal verbs are only employed in spoken English, and they are a very prevalent aspect of natural, native English. As a result, you’ll need to build up a foundation of basic ones, as well as some less prevalent ones if possible. It will not only make you excel in IELTS, but it will also help you understand native speakers and naturally interact with them. 

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