- I think the reason he's acting up is because his parents are going through a painful divorce.
- If she doesn't stop acting up, I'm going to have to call her parents.
to make sense
- He says he want to run the Frankfurt marathon next year, but all he does is lie on the couch eating junk. It doesn't add up!
- Now it adds up. You were cheating on me the whole time.
to fit or match a description or name
- Does anyone who works here answer to the name of Gertrude?
- Sorry, I don't know of anyone who answers to that description.
to provoke and deserve punishment
- You're asking for trouble if you keep misbehaving like that.
- Why did you shout at her? - She asked for it!
to withdraw or retreat
- You don't know when to back off. Can't you see how much you have upset her?
- I would back off if I were you. You could lose a lot of money.
to change your mind and not do what you had previously promised or intended to do
- John had put his name down for the ski trip but had to back out at the last minute when he hurt his leg.
- Sorry, you signed the contract. It's too late to back out now.
'Back out' and 'pull out' are synonyms.
to help or support (agree)
- You need to find a little more evidence to back up your theory.
- Believe me, I tried my best. John will back me up. He was there the whole time.
to want to have or get
- Don't believe a word he says. He is only after your money.
- I am after an unusual present for my wife. Do you have any ideas?
be cut out for
to be good enough for
- She's not quite cut out for the job as a teacher. She knows her stuff but cannot keep control of the class.
- If anyone is cut out to be a leader, it's him!
be in for
a surprise is coming; you will soon have a surprise
- He is in for a shock if he thinks he can stroll in late every day.
- You believe that you can pass your exams without doing any work. Well, let me tell you that you are in for a big surprise.
An alternative is to be in for a shock. What is coming is usually unpleasant!
be not on
to be unacceptable
- Your behaviour is just not on.
- You can't do that. It's just not on.
be up to
to be good enough
- I'm thinking of applying to be project leader, but I'm not sure if I am up to it.
- She wants to be a concert musician, but I'm afraid she is not up to it.
This expression is more usual in the negative.
to be wrong
- What is up with him today?
- She hasn't spoken to me for the last 3 days. I think something is up.
to be patient; wait
- You will have to bear with him for a while. He's having hard time.
- Bear with me. I'll be ready for you in a minute.
You can use this verb as a noun: a rip-off.
to pass or finish
- The government are just waiting for the scandal to blow over.
- At first everyone got very agitated but the fuss soon blew over.
Literally, storms blow over.
- The house blew up when gas escaped from a pipe.
- A bomb blew up in the market square injuring 5 people.
to get out of control; to become angry or dangerous
- The situation in the slums of Paris is getting worse. The government is worried it's going to boil over at any moment.
- Their bad relationship boiled over into outright war.
to get rid of someone or something
- If you keep on arriving late to work, they're going to boot you out.
- He was booted out of the team after staying up all night drinking.
to not do what you wanted or promised to do (often because it was dangerous or difficult)
- John signed up for bungee jumping but he bottled out at the last minute.
- You can't bottle out now just because things are getting a little harder.
to recover from a problem or illness
- No matter what bad things happen to her, she always manages to bounce back very quickly.
- You're strong. You'll soon bounce back. Don't worry.
to be sure to
- You're bound to fail unless you start working harder.
- Anyone who regularly takes drugs is bound to have medical problems sooner or later.
to enthuse or surprise
- She looked wonderful. She walked into the room and just bowled everybody over.
- You'll bowl everyone over in that dress. You look wonderful!
The expression comes from the game of bowling in which the goal is to bowl over (knock down) the pins.
to start crying
- She broke down when she heard her dog had been injured in the accident.
- He found it difficult not break down as he was telling about his expreiences in the war.
to wear clothes (especially shoes) until they are comfortable
- I didn't have time to break in my new boots, and now I've got blisters all over my feet.
- Be sure to break in those new shoes before your walking holiday.
to start (usually a problem)
- News report: Riots broke out on the streets of Paris yesterday when two young men were killed while being chased by the police.
- How did the fight break out in the playground yesterday?
to make happen
- It is difficult to know how to bring about an end to the fighting in Iraq.
- Getting impatient is not going to bring about an answer to the problem.
- I will be very surprised if you can bring it off.
- He was very good, but he didn't quite bring it off.
to make someone (change their opinion) and agree with you
- At first John didn't want to come with us, but we managed to bring him round.
- Don't try to bring me round. I've made up my mind and I'm not going to change it.
to mention an issue
- I don't like to bring this up, but you still owe me some money.
- We must remember to bring the matter up at the next meeting.
to raise a child
- Her parents went missing in the war so she was brought up by her grandparents.
- I was brought up to respect my parents.
to ignore or reject
- I offered to help him, but he just brushed me off.
- She's very strong. No matter what bad things happen to her, she brushes it all off.
to lose energy and enthusiasm
- You're going to burn yourself out if you don't soon have a holiday.
- He was such an energetic teacher, but he burned out before he was 40.
to flatter someone in the attempt to get something from them
- It's no good trying to butter me up. You're not going to the party and that's it!
- I knew that she was trying to butter me up.
- The football match was called off because of the heavy snow.
- I think we're going to have to call off the trip. Not enough people have signed up for it.
to succeed (unexpectedly) in something difficult or demanding
- I didn't believe she could do it, but she carried it off with no problem at all.
- No, I don't think I can carry it off. I don't feel strong enough.
- If you carry on working so well, you are sure to pass your exams.
- I couldn't carry on pretending that everything was ok.
- The government plans to carry out an investigation into the link between alcohol and crime.
- For my science project I have to carry out a survey of the eating habits of grade 8 students.
to become successful
- It's a clever idea, but I don't think it will catch on.
- She had been experimenting for many years before she finally found something that caught on.
- It took me a long time to catch on but now I know why she did it.
- She didn't catch on immediately, and when she did, she was not happy!
Also possible is "cotton on".
catch up on
to inform oneself of missed information or do missed work
- I'd been away for a few weeks and needed to catch up on the latest news.
- If you are absent from school, make sure you catch up on the work you missed while you were away.
to find something unexpectedly
- While I was surfing the internet the other day I chanced on an interesting website about phrasal verbs.
- I chanced on a beautiful lamp while shopping in a Baghdad market.
To refer to an unexpected meeting with a person "bump into" or "run into" are more usual.
to talk to someone you like with the intention of having them as your boy- or girlfriend
- Stop trying to chat me up. I've got a steady boyfriend.
- If you like her so much why don't you go over and chat her up?
to be too afraid or unwilling to do something
- Somehow I knew that he'd chicken out at the last moment.
- Sorry. You promised. You can't chicken out now.
to make a contribution
- If we all chip in, we'll be able to get her a nice present.
- We needed help moving house but he refused to chip in.
to go away
- Some guy came the door asking for money. I told him to "*Clear off."
- Clear off. I never want to see you again.
to get better
- I've been ill with the flu for the last week, but I think it's clearing up now.
- The weather looks like it's finally clearing up.
to retreat or admit you were wrong
- He had to climb down when we looked up the information on the internet.
- No. I'm not going to climb down. I'm right and you know it!
to put money
- We decided to club together to buy her a bunch of flowers.
- Unless we all club together, we will never have enough money to pay for the trip.
come across as
to give the impression
- She always comes across as sweet and innocent, but I know what she's really like!
- He doesn't come across as very intelligent. Did he really go to Harvard?
to find, see or meet someone or something unexpectedly
- I came across an interesting article in the newspaper this morning.
- Did you come across anyone you knew on the beach last night?
to hurry (usually said as a command to someone)
- Come along! I haven't got all day!
- Come along now. Time for bed!
to find or get
- Where did you come by that old vase? - On holiday in Rome.
- If you take enough trouble on the internet, it's possible to come by some real bargains.
come down with
to fall ill
- Sorry, I won't be able to play tennis today. I think I've come down with a cold.
- She's not very healthy. She seems to come down with every illness that's going around.
You can also say go down with.
to be successful
- I didn't think it would work but it came off beautifully.
- I don't think your plans to start your own business have any chance of coming off.
come out with
- Don't come out with such feeble excuses. If you don't want to visit us, just say so.
- He came out with the most ridiculous reason for forgetting his homework.
to regain consciousness
- It took him more than 20 minutes to come to after falling off his motorbike.
- She fell out of the tree and never came to.
come up with
to suggest or say or develop
- This British company has come up with a way to block email spam.
- I have come up with a nice idea for making some quick money.
to happen (usually unexpectedly)
- Sorry, I won't be able to play tennis tomorrow. Something has come up.
- Has anything like this ever come up before?
to rely on
- Can I count on you to keep your promise?
- I wouldn't count on him paying you the money back. He's not very reliable.
crack down on
to use strong authority
- The school needs to crack down on students who are late to class. It's becoming a big problem.
- The town council has decided to crack down on kids drinking in the market square.
to cancel or reject an invitation
- I had to cry off at the last moment. He wasn't very happy.
- If you need to cry off, please call me and let me know.
- We were making a lot of noise in class yesterday and the teacher told us to cut it out.
- You'll end up with lung cancer if you don't cut out smoking.
to (finally) realize
- I didn't understand why he'd done that. Then it dawned on me that he didn't know what had happened.
- It didn't dawn on me who she was until I got home.
Dawn is the time of day when the sun rises.
- Interest in watching TV has died down since the coming of the internet.
- I'm not going to continue until the noise in here has died down.
to criticize or punish someone
- He's always ready to dish it out, but he gets all upset if anyone criticizes him.
- Are you really going to just let her keep dishing it out like that?
do away with
to abolish or stop
- The school has decided to do away with the candy machine in the cafeteria. The students were buying too much junk food.
- You can't make people work harder just by doing away with their coffee break.
to make tired or unhappy
- All this working late is doing me in.
- You'll do me in if you don't stop complaining all the time.
This expression is often said in a joking way.
do out of
to cheat someone of what is rightfully theirs
- My brother and I don't speak any more. He tried to do me out of the money our father left us.
- She did me out of top score in the test by copying answers from the back of her hand.
to improve the appearance or quality of something
- I've spent the last 3 weeks doing up the house. We want to try and sell it in the summer.
- I've got a hair appointment tomorrow. I need to do myself up for the job interview.
to tie or fasten (laces, buttons or a zip)
- Your shoes are untied. Do them up!
- Can you help me do up my jacket? My hands are too cold to pull the zip.
to relinquish or live without something
- I'm not sure I could do without my computer and the internet.
- Sorry, there's no more beer. You'll just have to do without until we I go shopping tomorrow.
You can also say go without.
to make yourself look good
- She was dolled up in the latest fashion.
- Sorry, I've no time to help you now. I need at least 2 hours to doll myself up for the party!
to go on for a long time and therefore be boring
- The meeting dragged on for half the morning without reaching any decisions.
- I was bored. The lesson seemed to drag on for ever.
to take a long time to finish
- Young children can always find a way to drag out the time until they have to go to bed.
- She dragged out her lunch until it was time for the next lesson. She obviously didn't want to come outside with us.
to approach or pass slowly (used with expressions of time)
- Winter is drawing on. It's time to get some wood in for the fire.
- The more the evening drew on, the more nervous we got waiting for her to arrive
to invent, imagine or have an idea for
- She said that she was being followed home every day, but I think she was just dreaming it up.
- Don't pay him any attention. He's always dreaming up crazy ideas to get rich quick.
to respond positively to something or pay a lot of attention to it
- I love to stand in the middle of St Peters Square in Rome just drinking in the atmosphere.
- He's such a wonderful speaker. I sat there drinking in every word.
to fall asleep
- I lay awake worrying for hours last night and didn't drop off until just before dawn.
- What time did you finally drop off last night? - It was well after midnight.
to let someone out of a car
- Can you drop me off at the supermarket on the way home?
- Drop me off here. I'll walk the rest of the way.
to raise (interest or support)
- I'm finding it difficult to drum up enough people to help me move house.
- At election time politicians are often seen on the streets trying to drum up support for their party.
- We tried to egg him on, but he was too cautious to accept the offer.
- I know it was John who broke the computer but you were the one egging him on.
to look at someone (or something) in a way that shows that you find them attractive
- He sits there in the cafeteria all lunch eyeing her up from across the room. Doesn't he know what a fool he's making of himself?
- I couldn't help eyeing up the expensive jacket in the shop window.
'Ogle', one of your author's favourite words, is a synonym for 'eye up'.
face up to
to accept an unpleasant truth or situation
- You need to face up to the fact that you are never going to be good enough.
- If she doesn't start facing up to what drink is doing to her, she's going to end up in hospital.
to laugh loud and long
- We just fell about when he told us what she had said to him.
- You're not really going to wear that hat, are you? Do you want people falling about in the streets?
to not make the same progress as others or as planned
- It's no surprise that she's falling behind. She been absent so many times this year.
- The government is falling behind in its efforts to reduce drug use.
to be attracted to
- I fell for her the moment she waked into the room.
- He's always falling for the wrong girl. Why doesn't he marry someone from the village?
to be deceived
- You didn't fall for it, did you? How totally stupid.
- Don't expect me to fall for your excuse. I wasn't born yesterday!
- His efforts have fallen off since the winter vacation. Is anything wrong?
- The business is not doing so well. Interest in our products has fallen off in recent months.
to stop liking
- I've fallen out with my boyfriend. I never want to see him again.
- Have you seen Jane recently? - No, we fell out over a holiday we'd planned together.
You often fall out with someone after an argument.
to fail; to not be completed as hoped
- I wanted to go away for the weekend, but my plans fell through when my mother became sick.
- Our new business fell through when the bank refused to lend us any more money.
feel up to
to feel able to do something
- Sorry, I don't feel up to helping you in the garden. I didn't sleep very well last night.
- I'm not going to the party tonight. I don't feel up to it.
think of the solution to a problem or question
- How did you figure out that he was the one who trashed your locker?
- It took me a while to figure out the best route to take to work.
- Can you fill me in on what was agreed at the meeting yesterday.
- Fill me in on what happened next. I'm dying to know what he said!
to try and get someone to accept something
- The doctor tried to fob me off with some headache pills, but I knew there was something more seriously wrong.
- Don't try to fob me off with some feeble excuse about your car not starting.
to close or stop working (often a business that has been unsuccessful)
- We struggled on for 2 years but had to fold up after the bank refused to extend our loan.
- Many young businesses folded up when the dot.com bubble burst.
to pay money for something
- How much did you fork out for your new bike?
- I'm not prepared to give him any more money. I already had to fork out for the repairs when he crashed his car.
to visit many places
- You get about a lot. Is there anywhere you havenít been?
- I've been working too hard to get about very much in the last couple of years.
You can also say get around.
to make someone understand
- I couldn't get it across to her why I wanted to change jobs.
- I spent an hour telling him that he was making a mistake but I couldn't get it across.
to make progress
- You will never get ahead unless you make more effort.
- If you want to get ahead, you should change jobs. You have no prospects where you are.
get along with
to have a friendly relationship with someone
- How do you get along with your boss? She seems very unfriendly to me.
- I don't really get along with my new English teacher. She's too critical for me.
Also possible is 'get on with'
to be unpleasant to someone
- Don't get at me just because you made a mistake.
- Why are you always getting at her? She's just doing her job.
- What are you getting at? I don't understand a word you're saying.
- What was he getting at when he said that no-one knows the real reason they broke up?
"Get at" with this meaning is usually used only in the continuous "-ing" form.
get away with
to not be punished or reprimanded for something bad that you have done
- He will not get away with drinking and driving for ever. One day the police will stop him.
- I forgot to bring my homework to class, but I got away with it because the teacher was absent.
to take a short holiday
- I've been working so hard that I haven't been able to get away for several months.
- You're looking very tired. Why don't you try to get away for a few days?
You say Get away! to express surprise: She's just won the lottery! - Get away!
to support or encourage
- If you don't get behind me, who will?
- Mary's having a difficult time at the moment. We all need to get behind her.
to have just enough money to live on
- We don't have very much money, but we sell vegetables from the garden so we get by.
- I don't know how I'm going to get by. Everything is so expensive here.
to leave the table after eating
- Can I please get down? - No, you haven't finished your greens.
- When I was a child, we were not allowed to get down from the table until everyone had finished.
Greens are vegetables.
- What time does your train get in?
- We've got plenty of time. The train doesn't get in until 6.30.
to start to like
- My friend keeps playing his German heavy metal music for me. But I'm finding it hard to get into it.
- It took me a long time to get into chess, but now I play almost every day.
get off with
to start a relationship with
- Don't try to get off with me. I'm not interested.
- I'll break your neck if you get off with my brother.
This verb is more common in British English (among young people).
get on for
to be close to a time
- Time for bed. It's getting on for 8 o'clock.
- It was getting on for midnight, but we hadn't found the problem so there was no chance of going home.
get on with
to continue; to not stop; to start again
- Please get on with your work. You have no time to talk.
- Sorry, I can't stop now. I need to get on with my marking or I'll still be sitting here at midnight!
to be doing, working or succeeding
- How are you getting on in your new job? - Fine, thanks!
- How are you getting on, Masato? - Not very well. There are too many words I don't understand.
to have a (friendly) relationship with someone
- I'm afraid I don't get on very well with my parents.
- Do you and your sister get on?
to recover from
- It took me much longer than expected to get over my foot injury.
- Has she got over her broken romance yet?
get round to
to (finally) have or find time to do something
- I really must get round to cutting the grass. It must be almost 30cm high!
- When are you going to get round to cleaning your room? It's in a real mess.
You can also say get around to,
get through to
to make someone understand
- I warned him many times that he was in danger of failing, but I couldn't get it through to him.
- What will it take to get it through to you that we are finished?
to annoy or irritate
- There's something about her that really gets to me.
- I know he's an idiot, but don't let him get to you.
get up to
to do (often something you shouldn't)
- What did you get up to while I was away yesterday? The house is in a complete mess.
- If you get up to anything stupid while I'm out of the room, I'll send you to the headmaster.
to reveal (usually a secret)
- Whatever you do, don't give it away that I like him.
- If you give away that I wasn't really sick yesterday, I'll break your neck!
to surrender or stop
- Do you surrender? - No, I will never give in!
- I had to give in. I knew I had no chance of winning.
give up on
to relinquish or lose (belief)
- She's given up on the idea of moving to London. She says it's too expensive.
- I've given up on him. He's disappointed me too many times already.
to stop doing something
- My new year's resolution is to give up smoking.
- I think I'll have to give up playing golf. It's killing my back.
- I'm thinking of applying for a job. - Go ahead. The change will do you good.
- May I take another cake? - Go ahead!
This expression is often used alone as a way of granting a request.
go along with
to do as someone wants (even though you may not really want to)
- Ok, I'll go along with you until you prove me wrong.
- I wish I hadn't gone along with his crazy idea. It got us into real trouble.
go back on
to break a promise
- You promised to help me move house. You can't go back on it now.
- She went back on her promise to repay the money as soon as possible.
- I don't really go for sports.
- I don't go for horror films. I can never sleep afterwards.
This verb is not often used in any tense other than the present simple. (You can also say go in for.)
go in for
to like or enjoy
- I don't go in for sport. Ever time I play something I seem to get hurt.
- I've never gone in for visiting churches or museums. I'd rather lie on the beach and read a book.
- Three bombs went off in the center of London yesterday.
- Don't play with fireworks. They may go off in your hands.
to go bad (food)
- I wouldn't eat that cheese if I were you. I think it's gone off.
- The milk's gone off. Can you buy some more on the way home?
to stop liking
- I went off cheese when I was served fondue every day on holiday in Switzerland.
- I've gone off my teacher ever since she shouted at me for no reason.
go on about
to talk about something for so long (or again and again) that it becomes boring to the listener
- He went on about how things were much harder when he was a child.
- Oh will you stop going on about it! I told you I was sorry and there's nothing more I can say.
- What's going on? - Nothing. We're just playing.
- Is anything interesting going on at the weekend?
to look at or check
- I'll go over your work after school. I'm too busy now.
- Can you go over this report for me? I'm not sure if all my facts are right.
go through with
to finish an unpleasant task
- I really don't want to do it, but I know I have to go through with it.
- You don't need to go through with it if you don't want to. Nobody is forcing you.
to experience (usually something unpleasant)
- You have no idea what I'm going through.
- He's going through a very difficult time at the moment. Please be patient with him.
to become liked
- I didn't like German pop music at first, but it has grown on me.
- I see that cheese has grown on you. You never used to like it.
grow out of
to stop liking
- Does he really still like playing with trains? At 38 you'd think he would have grown out of it by now.
- I used to like going for a drink after work, but I grew out of it when I changed jobs.
to behave like an adult
- Isn't it about time you grew up?
- Oh do grow up! You're 32 but you're acting more like a 12 year old.
to give to another person
- If you can't use these books, maybe you could hand them on to the library.
- Please hand these letters on to the secretary on your way home today.
- Can you please hand out the tests?
- There was someone at the school gate handing out a free newspaper.
A hand-out is a paper sheet commonly given by teachers or presenters to their students or audience.
to pass on responsibility for something
- He's getting very old. It's time for him to hand the business over to his son.
- I don't think it's time to hand the class over to the student teacher. She's just not ready yet.
- I'm not going to hang around for you any more. If you're not ready at 3 o'clock, I'm going!
- I had to hang around for 2 hours until her meeting was over.
to wait (or used as an expression to ask someone to wait)
- Hurry up. I can't hang on all day.
- Could you hang on just a little longer? I'm sure she'll be here soon.
to be in place (with nothing particular to do)
- Where do you hang out at the weekends?
- Many young people like to hang out with their friends in the local park.
This verb has a commonly used noun form hang-out
to end a phone call
- Don't hang up. I haven't finished yet.
- Someone called me three times last night, but as soon as I answered, they hung up.
To finish a telephone call on an old telephone, you had to hang part of the phone on a hook.
to keep talking about something
- Don't keep harping on that old jacket I used to wear. At the time it was very fashionable.
- Ok, I know I made a mistake, but don't harp on about it.
A harp is a large string instrument.
have in for
to want to harm someone
- I think my teacher has it in for me. She's always shouting at me in class for no reason.
- Have you got it in for me? - No, you're just imagining things.
to deceive or trick someone
- Are you having me on? - No, I'm being deadly serious!
- She's just having you on. She doesn't really mean it.
to go (be going) towards a place or situation
- You're heading for trouble if you don't watch out.
- The ship rounded the cliff and headed for the port.
- If you check your car regularly, you can head off problems before they arise.
- A large number of police were sent to the town square to head off an illegal demonstration.
to listen until someone has stopped speaking
- Hear me out. I haven't finished yet.
- Why do you never hear me out?
to find or think of
- We'd been working on the project for 6 months when we hit on the idea of asking my grandfather.
- Sometimes taking a rest can help you hit on the right way to continue.
to talk for a long time (and bore people)
- John was holding forth again when I walked in. I walked out again as soon as possible!
- Ok, you can stop holding forth. I get the picture!
to wait (often in a difficult or dangerous situation)
- The soldiers held out for 3 days, but the enemy was too strong for them.
- The managers wanted to give the workers a 3% rise in salary, but the union was holding out for 5%.
- Sorry I'm late. I was held up by heavy traffic through the town.
- All the planned departures were held up because of thick fog over the airport.
to do stupid things
- Stop horsing around and get back to your work.
- It's no surprise that people don't take you seriously if you horse around all the time.
to keep something a secret; to keep someone quiet
- He tried to hush up his drinking problem, but she found out in the end.
- Don't you dare try to hush me up. I'll tell him exactly what I want.
to want something a lot
- She's itching for a fight. She can't wait to give him a piece of her mind.
- I'm itching for a new job. My present one bores me to tears!
to be keen to accept an opportunity or offer
- I'd jump at the chance of working in the music business, but I've got no talent.
- I suggested having a camping holiday this year, and she jumped at the idea.
to attack or criticize
- I thought I had made a good proposal, but everybody at the meeting jumped on it.
- It's not fair to jump on me like that. It isn't my fault.
to continue (to do something difficult)
- I know English is difficult, but if you keep at it, you're sure to get better.
- We had problems cutting down the huge old tree in our garden, but we kept at it all afternoon, and it finally fell just before dark.
keep up with
to stay up-to-date
- I'm finding it difficult to keep up with all the changes in modern technology. I haven't even got a mobile phone yet!
- If you are a teacher, it's important to keep up with the latest research in your subject.
- Keep up the good work and you are sure to pass your test.
- It's difficult to keep up your efforts if all you get is criticism.
- What time does the meeting kick off?
- The party didn't really kick off until well after midnight.
The expression comes from soccer, in which the match starts with the first kick of the ball.
kiss up to
to try and win someone's favour
- I hate the way she's always kissing up to her teacher. Doesn't she know how unpopular she's making herself?
- If you want promotion, you're going to have to kiss up to your boss, like it or not.
to finish work
- Sorry, I won't be able to make it. I don't knock off until 6.30.
- Do you knock off earlier on Fridays?
- Oh, knock it off. You are beginning to get on my nerves.
- If you don't knock off complaining al the time, I'm going home without you.
to criticize severely
- Then he started laying into me for forgetting to buy pizza on the way home.
- The coach really laid into the team for playing so badly.
to dismiss workers
- If the school does not manage to attract more students, it may have to lay off some of the teachers.
- We cannot afford a cleaner any more. We are going to have to lay her off.
- Can you please leave it out. I'm trying to concentrate.
- You can leave out the sob stories. I'm not going to give you any money!
(A sob story is a story you say to someone in the hope that they will feel sorry for you.)
- You really let me down. Why didn't you call to say you couldn't help?
- Many students work very hard because they don't want to let their parents down.
let in on
to allow to participate
- I had an idea they were planning a secret celebration, but they wouldn't let me in on it.
- Can you let me in on the joke? I don't understand what's so funny.
to explode a firework or bomb
- Make sure your pets are inside the house when you let off fireworks.
- The terrorists let off a bomb just as people were coming out of the cinema.
to not punish
- I forgot my homework but the teacher let me off because it was the first time this term.
- No, I'm not going to let you off. You did something very stupid and now you have to pay for it.
to reveal information
- We planning a secret party for John on Friday. Please don't let on.
- Whatever you do, don't let on that I like her.
- The rain has not let up all afternoon.
- Don't let up now. You're almost finished.
to plan something or get it ready
- I had lined up a large variety of food and drink for the barbecue, but the weather was bad all weekend and it had to be cancelled.
- Have you got anything lined up for the weekend?
to compensate for (or make people forget) bad behaviour
- She'll never live down the fact that she once worked as a stripper.
- Don't tell anyone that I used to like the Spice Girls. I'd never live it down!
live up to
to meet expectations
- They had such high hopes for me. It was impossible to live up to them.
- His reputation is very high. I'm not sure he is going to be able to live up to it.
to want or look forward to something
- I'm longing for the summer vacation. I really need a rest.
- I'm longing for an excuse to punch him on the nose!
to take care of someone or something
- My grandmother is too old to look after herself any more.
- Can you look after my cat while I'm away?
to investigate; to try to find the answer to a problem
- The police are looking into the woman's disappearance. They don't know yet if a crime has been committed.
- My computer's been acting strangely recently. - I'll look into it tomorrow when I have more time.
to be aware of danger
- If you're going to swim in that river, you need to look out for crocodiles!
- Look out! That motorbike is on the wrong side of the road.
look up to
to respect and admire
- I really look up to my grandfather. He's had a very difficult life, but he's always cheerful.
- These days young people are more likely to look up to sports stars than their parents or teachers.
- Life was hard when we first moved here, but now things are looking up.
- She had some problems when she first joined the class, but now everything is looking up for her.
to visit a person or place (often after a long period of time)
- Be sure to look me up next time you're in Frankfurt.
- I wanted to look up my old girlfriend but she wasn't living there any more.
to have a lot of luck
- I could have been killed in the accident. I guess I really lucked out.
- I lucked out at the station yesterday. Although I got there late, my train was delayed and I jumped on just as it was leaving the platform.
This phrasal verb is more common in American English than in British English. (Some people use the expression to mean its opposite: to run out of or have no luck.
to put in the same category as another person or thing
- Don't lump me together with Sharon. We may be sisters, but we have totally different opinions.
- You can't just lump all the students together in the same class. Some of them have much better English than others.
make do with
to (have to) be satisfied with something or someone
- I couldn't find the screwdriver so I had to make do with an old knife.
- Sorry, you're not going to find anyone better, so you'll have to make do with me!
- I can't drive you to work today. - That's ok. I'll make do with the bus.
to go towards
- Many spectators make for the exits before the end of a football match so they don't get caught in the rush.
- Itís starting to rain. Let's make for that hut and rest until it stops.
to think of; have an opinion of
- What do you make of his behaviour recently? Do you think he's been secretly drinking?
- I don't know what to make of her. One minute she's friendly and the next she's incredibly rude.
to pretend or intend to deceive
- She made out that she was working, but I know that she was on the chat site.
- It's no use trying to make out you've got no money. I don't believe you!
to improve something by changing it
- We've decided to make over the basement of our house. It's needs more light.
- All of the pictures of models in fashion magazines are made over.
Make-over programmes are currently very popular on television.
- No, I don't believe you. I think you're making it up.
- He made up some stupid excuse about his dog eating his homework
to settle an argument; to become friends again
- Isn't it about time you made up with your father? It was such a stupid disagreement in the first place.
- I have no intention of making up with her unless she apologizes for what she said.
to treat someone badly (often by being unreliable or unfaithful)
- If you don't stop messing me about, I'm going to walk right out on you.
- Don't let her mess you about like that. Show her who's boss!
- If you're not careful, you'll mess up the whole project.
- Don't play football in your tennis shoes. You'll mess them up.
to be careful
- Mind out! You're spilling your coffee on the floor.
- You're going to have a nasty accident if you don't mind out.
A synonym is look out.
- I mixed you up with your twin. Sorry.
- Somehow I got my dates mixed up and forgot to send her a birthday card.
A mix-up is a mistake due to a misunderstanding.
to talk angrily about something or someone
- I keep away from her as much as I can. She's always mouthing off about something or other.
- There's no need to mouth off to me. It wasn't my fault!
to forget the past and its problems or sadness
- Your dog dies over three years ago. Isn't it time to move on?
- I know I should forget about her, but I'm finding it really difficult to move on.
to go out for a short time
- I'm just nipping out to get some more milk.
- Where's Emiko? - She just nipped out. She'll be back in a minute.
to fall asleep
- I usually nod off on the sofa after dinner.
- Some of my history lessons are so boring that it's difficult to stop myself nodding off.
to look at or for something curiously
- Have you been nosing around in my room? Things are not where I put them.
- When I visit a new city I like to nose around in the markets to see what I can buy.
Also possible is 'nose about'.
- I knew that one of them had used my computer, but neither owned up.
- If it was you that broke the window, I think it would be best to own up before they find out from someone else.
to stop doing something
- Pack it in. You're getting on my nerves.
- My boyfriend and I have decided to pack it in. We just didn't have very much to say to each other any more.
to stop (working)
- My television has just packed up again. Time to get a new one.
- When do you pack up? - Not until 6.30.
- Our dear grandmother passed away at the weekend.
- She gave all her money to charity before she passed away.
This expression is used as a euphemism by speakers who want to avoid the word "die".
to lose consciousness
- I nearly passed out in town today. It was so unbearably hot.
- She passed out after cutting her finger very deeply with a kitchen knife.
- I decided to pass up the chance of promotion because I didn't want to move to a different city.
- If you pass up this offer, you may not get another one.
to (promise to) include someone in a group or activity.
- I'd really like to learn how to snowboard. Can you pencil me in?
- Can I put my name down for the school committee? - I've already pencilled you in!
to get better or become happier and more lively
- For a long time our business was not going very well, but now things have started to perk up.
- John perked up when I told him I'd help him.
to slowly get weaker or smaller
- Interest in the new activity petered out after only a few weeks.
- At first he wrote her hundreds of emails but these petered out when he had to move to a different city.
to eat slowly and without enthusiasm
- Don't pick at your food. If you don't want it, throw it away.
- Have you seen the way she picks at her food. No wonder she's so thin!
to choose someone for ill-treatment
- Why does she always pick on me? I'm not the only one who's talking in class.
- Schoolchildren often pick on others to make themselves feel stronger or more popular.
to (stop the car and) take someone with you
- Don't forget it's your turn to pick up the children after school!
- Can you pick me up by the post office tomorrow? I've got to send an urgent parcel before work.
to get better
- Your work has picked up a lot in the last few weeks.
- Interest in reading among young people has picked up since the arrival of the Harry Potter books.
to get or learn
- She's got a real talent for picking up languages.
- Where did you pick up your knowledge of cars?
to make someone be exact or truthful about something
- I keep asking him, but he refuses to be pinned down.
- Try to pin her down, will you. I've got to know one way or another if she's going to come or not.
to be quiet, shut up
- Oh will you please pipe down! I've had enough of your whining.
- If you don't pipe down I'm going to wring your neck!
to do stupid things (to someone)
- Stop pissing about and help me with this box.
- If you don't stop pissing me about, I'm walking out and never coming back.
Many people would consider this expression offensive and avoid using it
to work together
- We'll get this job done much more quickly if we all pitch in.
- We asked them to help us but they refused to pitch in.
to act in a silly way
- If you don't stop playing around, I'm going to send you out of the room.
- Why don't you act your age instead of playing around the whole time?
to fool around or make bad decisions
- What are you playing at. You're going to break it!
- I don't know what he's playing at. He'll to lose his job if he's not careful.
to (try to) make something seem less important than it really is
- He was careful to play down the fact that he had been fired from his previous job.
- Don't try to play his unreliability down. One of these days it's going to cost him his place in the team.
to misbehave or not work properly
- My computer is playing up again. I really must get a new one.
- Jack's been playing up in class recently. I think I'll have to call his parents.
to say (something that the conversation partner did not know or realize)
- I would just like to point out that we haven't had a break since 10.30.
- I do need to point out that she's only been learning English for a few months.
- I hate it when windows keep popping up when I'm surfing the internet.
- Her name kept popping up in the conversation.
to continue (despite difficulty or disappointment)
- It started to rain heavily, but we decided to press on. We wanted to get home before dark
- She pressed on with her idea, although everyone said that she was sure to fail.
to criticize strongly
- Why do you need to pull everything I do apart?
- I thought I'd written a good essay, but the teacher really pulled it apart.
to succeed at something (difficult)
- John's the one person I know who can pull it off.
- I have no idea how she managed to pull it off. I didn't think she was good enough!
to survive a difficult or dangerous situation
- John's very sick but his doctors have told us he's going to pull through.
- My father helped us pull through when we were struggling with money problems at the start of our marriage.
"Pull round" is an alternative to pull through an illness.
to get control of oneself; to calm down after been angry or upset
- You need to pull yourself together. There's really no need to get so agitated about it.
- If he doesn't pull himself together, he's going to end up in big trouble.
- Pull yourself together. It's not the end of the world.
- If she doesn't pull herself together very soon, she's going to lose her job.
to stop a car
- As I was walking home yesterday, a police car pulled up at the house opposite.
- I was standing by the road hitchhiking for more than an hour before one of the cars finally pulled up.
to use superior power to get someone to do what you want
- Don't try to push me around just because I'm new here. You're not my boss.
- Why does he let her push him around like that? I would walk out of the door.
to save for the future
- I'm putting some money by each month for a new car.
- If you are sensible you will starting putting part of your salary by while you are young.
put down to
to attribute (as the reason for something)
- Why has she been so miserable recently? - I put it down to her new boss. He's very rude to her.
- Don't try and put your bad grade down to your cold. You know you could have studied harder!
- He's been behaving very strangely in school recently. I put it down to problems with his parents.
have killed, usually an old, sick animal
- We had to have our old cat put down. She was in terrible pain and unable to walk.
- The horse broke its leg in the race and had to be put down.
make someone feel useless, stupid or inferior
- I hate my math teacher. She is always putting me down in front of the rest of the class.
- Don't you ever put me down in front of my friends like that again!
- You will need to put forward a plan for improvement, otherwise we will have to ask you to leave the school.
- The government has put forward a proposal to reduce drug-taking among young people.
to deter someone from doing something
- I was going to book a snowboard holiday, but my friend put me off the idea when she told me how dangerous it is.
- I don't want to put you off. But that meat has been in the fridge for at least two weeks.
- The football match had to be put off until the following week.
- We had to put off the party until my wife had recovered from her illness.
to tease or trick someone
- Did he really win a million dollars? You're not putting me on, are you?
- Don't you believe a word he says. You know how he likes to put people on!
put up with
- I don't know how you put up with his constant rudeness!
- I've decided to move away from the city. I'm finding it ever harder to put up with the noise of traffic passing my bedroom window every night.
to give someone somewhere to stay; give them a bed for the night
- Can you put me up for a couple of days? My wife has kicked me out of the house!
- Will you be staying in a hotel? - No, my brother lives near the conference centre and has offered to put me up.
to reveal and talk about unpleasant facts about something or someone
- Why did you have to rake up that business about the divorce. Didn't you see how upset she was?
- Politicians are always trying to rake up embarrassing details about their opponents' private affairs.
to depend on
- A lot is riding on his answer.
- I couldn't make up my mind. I knew that the success of the business was riding on my decision.
to cheat (often to sell something at an inflated price)
- Don't let him rip you off. It's not worth more than about $20.
- I got ripped off badly on holiday. I bought what I thought was a genuine Rolex and it turned out to be a cheap imitation.
- Don't trust him. He's trying to rip you off.
- I really got ripped off with my new car. I paid twice as much as it is worth.
- What time did you roll up this morning?
- He rolled up half an hour late, and then the first thing he did was make himself a cup of coffee.
People who roll up are often not worried about being on time.
to be cheering for or in support of someone or something
- I've reached the finals of the tennis tournament. Will you come and root for me?
- Good luck in your driving test. I'll be rooting for you!
to include someone (often in order to help)
- It's no use trying to rope me in. I'm not going to come and that's that!
- We don't have enough people to help at the festival. Maybe we can rope in a few of the parents.
to remind someone again and again of their inferiority or problems
- Yes, I know you won. There's no need to rub it in.
- She always rubbing in the fact that she went to a better university than me.
- You can rule me out. I won't be able to come after all.
- The school has not yet ruled out the idea of introducing a uniform for all students.
- Why are you always running him down? He doesn't deserve it.
- You won't be popular if you keep running people down like that.
meet by chance
- I ran into John on the way home. He says to give you his best wishes.
- She started avoiding the discos and clubs because she didn't want to run into her old boyfriend.
You can also say "bump into".
to have no more of something
- We've run out of milk. Can you buy some on the way home?
- Some geologists predict that the world will run out of oil before the end of this century.
to pass very easily
- She sailed through university and got a top job in law.
- John sailed through the interview. He's such a convincing speaker.
to pass a test with difficulty
- Did you pass the test? - Yes, just about. I scraped through with lowest score.
- If you start working harder, you might just scrape through your end of year test.
Scrape is what you do when you run your knife over the surface of a carrot to remove its top layer.
to do something badly
- Did you pass your driving test? - No, I screwed up badly.
- This is your last chance. Don't screw it up.
Some people think this expression is a little vulgar.
to defeat or overcome a difficult opponent or problem
- They were difficult opponents, but we managed to see them off in the last part of the game.
- He fought very hard against his illness, but in the end he was not able to see it off.
- Now that we've started, we have to see it through.
- In the end we just didn't have the energy to see the project through
to not be deceived by someone; to understand their true intentions
- She told me she had a doctor's appointment after work, but I saw right through her. I knew she had arranged to meet her boyfriend.
- Don't try to lie to me. You know I can see right through you.
to fix or deal with a problem
- My computer's not working. Can you help me? - I'll see to it in the morning.
- If you don't see to that hole in your roof, you'll have water coming through in the next storm.
to sell your house or business
- When parents became ill, we sold up and moved in with them.
- If we don't start making some money soon, we're going to have to sell up.
to put in prison
- She was sent down for 3 years for smuggling heroin.
- You'll be sent down for a long time if the police catch you doing that.
to trick or make fun of someone (often by imitating them in an exaggerated way)
- John's always sending up the boss. I'm sure he'll get the sack if she ever finds out.
- Are you trying to send me up? - No, I'm being deadly serious!
to keep in reserve
- We're setting aside some money each month to pay for our children's education.
- You should set these books aside. Maybe your children will want to read them one day.
to start and look like continuing (often something unwelcome)
- Winter has set in early this year.
- His depression had set in when he lost his job, and he never managed to shake it off again.
to start a journey
- We need to set off early tomorrow. I want to miss most of the traffic.
- What time do you set off for school?
to start a journey
- Columbus set out from Spain in 1492 to find a way to reach the east by sea.
- What time do we need to set out tomorrow?
to lose or get rid of something (often an illness)
- I've had this cold for the last three weeks. I just can't seem to shake it off.
- Smoking is not a habit that is easy to shake off.
to make big changes
- The new boss started shaking things up the moment he stepped through the door.
- I think the students need shaking up a little. Some of them are getting complacent.
This is often used in noun form: a shake-up,
to pay money for something
- How much did you shell out for your new car?
- I shelled out a lot of money for this jacket. Then I was told it's not real leather!
to take time in looking for something (to buy)
- I intend to shop around before I get married.
- The internet has made it a lot easier to shop around.
This expression is often used in the sense of having lots of partners in the hope of finding someone suitable to marry.
to act or talk in such a way that you want everyone to look at you (and think how good you are)
- He likes to show off what a good skateboarder he is, but in fact his brother is much better than him.
- Oh do stop showing off! Who are you trying to impress?
- I bet he's going to show up late again - like he usually does on a Monday morning!
- How many people showed up at the meeting yesterday?
to stop talking or make someone stop talking
- Ok, you've had your say. Now will you just shut up!
- He's difficult to shut up once he's got a few drinks inside him.
Americans tend to find the command Shut up! more offensive than Britons.
to gradually become understood or accepted (usually an unpleasant fact)
- It took a long time to sink in that she had gone and was never coming back.
- When's it going to sink in? You're no good and you never will be!
- It didn't sink in what she meant until I got home.
to do nothing while an unpleasant situation exists or an unpleasant thing happens
- Are you just going to sit by and watch her drink herself to death?
- I couldn't just sit by and let them keep abusing the poor child.
to not finish work on something
- I've been sitting on my homework for the last week. Now I'm going to have to work all day to get it done.
- The committee's been sitting on the problem for over a year. I don't think they ever intend to do anything about it.
to wait until an unpleasant or difficult situation has finished
- The families trapped by the flood had to sit it out for three days until they were rescued by the army.
- You'll just have to sit it out. She won't be your boss for ever.
to look at someone (and judge them their qualities or abilities)
- At the start of the fight the two boxers were sizing each other up from across the ring.
- I could see that she was sizing me up, and I didn't like it!
to delay making a decision about something
- Sorry, I can't tell you today. I need to sleep on it.
- Maybe you should sleep on the idea for a little while. You want to make sure you're not making a mistake.
to make a mistake
- She really slipped up when she agreed to marry that slob.
- Try not to slip up this time. We can't afford any more costly mistakes.
to take quick advantage of an opportunity (often: to buy)
- It was such a bargain that I snapped it up before thinking about whether I actually needed it.
- Do you have any more of the mobile phones on offer in your advertisement? - Sorry, they were all snapped up the first day they went on sale.
to give too much work to do
- Our history teacher snowed us under with work for the weekend.
- Sorry, we can't meeting tomorrow. I'm completely snowed under at the moment.
- I'd help you if I weren't so snowed under myself.
The expression is most often used as in the last two example sentences.
to find the solution to a problem
- I know it seems impossible but I'll help you to sort things out.
- We have to sort ourselves out otherwise there's no hope that our marriage will last.
- If you don't sort yourself out, you're going to get kicked out of school.
to talk loudly
- Can you please speak up? I can't hear a word you're saying.
- When giving a presentation, it's important that you speak up.
to explain something carefully
- Can you spell out why you did such a stupid thing?
- I'm not going to spell it out to you again. You need to listen more carefully next time.
to make something last as long as possible
- He spun out his holiday photographs show for over an hour. I've never been so bored in all my life.
- Can you spin out your presentation for another few minutes? The next speaker is not here yet.
to spend a lot of money
- We splashed out on a new car although we couldn't really afford it.
- If I win the lottery I'm going to splash out on a house in the south of France.
to take money from someone else because you are mean or too lazy to work yourself
- How long's he going to carry on sponging off his parents? Why don't they just kick him out?
- Some unemployed people prefer to sponge off the state rather than make a real effort to look for a job.
Also possible is "sponge on".
to stop by force or authority
- The school is thinking of ways to stamp out the graffiti that has been appearing on the walls of the boys' toilets.
- You can't stamp out drug-taking just by putting more people into prison.
- What does this symbol stand for?
- Our school stands for respect and discipline, and don't you forget it!
to substitute for
- We need to find someone to stand in for John while he's in hospital.
- Can you stand in for Mary today? She on a business trip.
to be obvious or noticeable
- All students in the class are good, but she really stands out.
- There are many reasons why she failed the course, but what stands out is her repeated absence from class.
The adjective outstanding means excellent.
stand up for
to support or defend
- There was a demonstration on the streets of London yesterday to stand up for animal rights.
- If you don't stand up for yourself, nobody else will!
to resign or retire
- The director had to step down after it was discovered that he had been lying.
- I don't intend to step down yet. I've got enough energy to keep going for a few more years yet.
- You need to step up your efforts or you're going to fail the course.
- The factory needed to step up production to meet the increased demand for its product.
to stay or wait
- Sorry, I can't stick around. My wife's expecting me home before six o'clock.
- Stick around and you might see some fun. John said he's going to set off the fire alarm!
to continue doing something (often unpleasant)
- I know German grammar is difficult but if you stick to it, you'll find it will fall into place.
- He never sticks to anything. As soon as the going gets tough, he gives up!
stick up for
to defend or protect
- You need to stick up for yourself. Don't let him speak to you like that.
- If you don't stick up for me, who will?
- Stop by next time your in town. We're usually at home on Sundays.
- You said you were in the area. Why didn't you stop by? - Sorry, I just didn't have the time.
to deceive someone over a longer period
- He pretended he was in love with her, but he was just stringing her along.
- Don't try to string me along. I know you're only after my money.
to wait until an unpleasant situation has ended
- We were cut off by the snow storm and had to sweat it out for 3 days until the roads were opened again.
- I know things are difficult for you at the moment, but you'll just have to sweat it out until the new year.
to go with someone
- I'm going shopping. - Great! Do you mind if I tag along?
- Why does she always have to tag along? Canít she see we don't want her?
- Your efforts have started to tail off recently. Is anything wrong?
- At first many people wanted to buy our products, but then the interest started to tail off.
to be like or act like
- She takes after her brother. He was always late for class; she's always late for class. He was lazy and rude; she's lazy and rude!
- Some people say I take after my father, but I don't think I'm at all like him.
- The police arrived shortly after the accident to take down the details.
- Police warning to a suspect: "Anything you say may be taken down and used in evidence against you."
to deceived or trick
- Don't be taken in by his sweet words. He's only after your money!
- I'm not going to let myself be taken in any more by your lies.
to look at (enjoy)
- There's nothing I like better on holiday than lying on the beach taking in the sunset.
- It's difficult to take in the sights of London when you've just had your passport stolen!
take it upon (oneself)
to give oneself a job (often that is unnecessary or unappreciated)
- He's taken it upon himself to point out the mistakes in the emails he receives.
- Why do you take it upon yourself to criticize everything I say or do?
You can say 'on' instead of 'upon'. E.g. She took it on herself to inform the boss.
to become successful or popular
- Our business only really took off after we started to sell on the internet.
- Watching TV on a mobile phone has never taken off.
to go into the air (especially an airplane)
- Despite the thick fog the airplane took off on schedule.
- Large airplanes like the Airbus need a huge amount of power in order to take off.
to imitate, usually in a way to make fun of someone
- He can take off his teachers perfectly. He'll be on TV one day!
- Important politicians have to get used to being taken off on TV for the amusement of the viewers.
- Our business became so successful that we had to take on some new workers.
- She was only taken on because the boss wanted an attractive secretary.
to fight or challenge a difficult or dangerous problem or person
- Don't try to take him on. You've no chance of beating him!
- The government's main task is to take on the high rate of unemployment among young people.
take out on
to work off anger or frustration on another person
- There's no need to take it out on me just because you didn't get the job.
- I'd stay away from her today, if I were you. She's looking for someone to take it out on.
to gain control of something (often a business)
- Most British car manufacturers have been taken over by foreign companies.
- Let me take over now. You're making a real mess of things!
- When does the next dance take place?
- A large demonstration took place on the streets of Frankfurt yesterday.
to like or begin to like
- I didn't take to him at first, but when you get to know him, he's really nice.
- I can't take to her at all. I find her incredibly rude and bossy.
This phrasal verb is usually used in the negative as in the example sentences.
take up on
to accept an invitation or offer
- Can I take you up on your offer of a lift to the airport. My brother can't drive me after all.
- Sorry, I won't be able to take you up on your invitation. I have just too much to do at the moment.
- I'm going to take up golf when I retire.
- At what age did you take up chess?
to respond rudely
- You'll get yourself into big trouble if you talk back to teachers like that.
- When the boss starts criticizing me, it's all I can do to stop myself talking back.
- I didn't really want to go but she talked me into it.
- No matter what you say, you will not talk me into dancing with you!
to make someone change their mind
- I didn't want to go, but in the end they managed to talk me round.
- You can say whatever you want, but I doubt that you will be able to talk her round.
to talk enthusiastically about something
- She talked up her new job, but I think she's sorry she left her last one.
- You can talk up a new car all you like, but we just can't afford one.
to criticize angrily and strongly
- My teacher was in a terrible mood today. He tore into a boy who had forgotten to bring his homework.
- Why did you tear into him like that? He didn't do anything wrong.
- The teacher told me off for being late again.
- Why tell me off? I wasn't my fault.
to reveal information to an authority
- Children who tell on others can quickly become very unpopular.
- If you tell on me, I'll never be your friend again.
to solve a problem or difficult situation with a clever or imaginative idea
- You'd better think up a good excuse very quickly or you're in big trouble.
- Let's ask John. He's good at thinking up solutions to tricky problems.
to drink very quickly
- He threw back one drink after another and then collapsed on the bed.
- You'll pass out if you keep on throwing back the vodka like that.
to be sick
- I feel terrible. I think I'm going to throw up.
- If you're going to throw up, can you please do it in the bathroom.
This expression is more acceptable in American English. To many Britons it sounds vulgar.
to reprimand gently
- My teacher ticked me off for looking out of the window while she was talking to the class.
- I ticked off my mother for boasting about my successes to her neighours.
to land (of a plane)
- The plane touched down exactly on time.
- The helicopter pilot looked for a safe place to touch down in the mountains.
to improve the appearance of something
- I need to touch up my car. I scratched the wing while driving into the garage.
- Most fashion photos are touched up these days with a computer graphics program.
to consider an idea but not very seriously
- We're toying with the idea of emigrating, but it's a big risk.
- I'm toying with a plan to set up a web business.
to make a mistake
- I tripped up on the last question of the math test. I didn't read it carefully enough.
- If you work a little more carefully there is less chance that you will trip up.
to attempt to trick or deceive someone
- You can try it on all you like, but don't expect me to believe a word you're saying.
- Sorry, I was only trying it on. I didn't really mean what I said.
The expression must be used with it as in the example sentences.
try out for
to be tested for a sports team
- Are you going to try out for the basketball team? - Next year, when I taller!
- I tried out for the tennis team, but they said I wasn't good enough.
Sports tests are called try-outs.
- Some sports shops will let you try out a tennis racquet before you decide to buy it.
- The school is thinking of trying out the idea of abolishing homework.
to stop listening
- I always tune out when my father starts talking about the good old days.
- I tried to tune the teacher out, but she kept asking me questions.
- I asked her if she wanted to dance, but she turned me down.
- I'm afraid I'm going to have to turn down your offer for the car. It's worth more than that!
to give to somebody
- I have to turn in my report to the boss by Friday.
- Am I stupid! I spent 3 hours doing my homework and then I forgot to turn it in!
To turn in also means to go to bed.
to disinterest or disgust
- Women with false eyelashes and lots of make-up have always turned me off.
- He turned me right off when started smoking before I had finished eating.
The verb can also be used in noun form: It was aright turn-off?
to become (in the end)
- Five years ago I decided to change jobs and it's turned out very well. I'm much happier now.
- The party started slowly, but it turned out to be the best evening I have had in a long time!
to come or attend
- We'd hoped a lot of people would turn out, but most stayed at home because of the terrible weather.
- Not many people turned out at the opening concert of the German heavy metal band.
The verb can also be used in noun form: Was there a good turn-out at the dance yesterday?
to come; to be found
- If she doesn't turn up in the next five minutes, I'm going to call the police.
- Don't worry about your calculator. I'm sure it will turn up soon.
to use all of something
- Have you used up all the milk? - Yes, sorry!
- Some scientist predict that we will have used up all the earth's oil by the end of the century.
to not go to bed
- Don't wait up for me. I won't be home until after midnight.
- Parents usually wait up until their children come home at night. They can't sleep unless they know they have arrived home safely.
walk off with
to take without permission; to steal
- Someone's walked off with my notebook!
- She walked off with the jacket hanging in the shop window.
- Somebody's walked off with my electronic dictionary!
- He strolled into the classroom and walked off with a notebook computer lying on the table near the door.
walk out on
to leave someone (usually for ever)
- Where's Julia? - I don't know. She walked out on me two weeks ago and I haven't seen her since.
- Why don't you just walk out on him? He's making you unhappy and that's never going to change.
to make weaker
- Those kids are starting to wear me down. They've got too much energy!
- The months of her illness really wore her down.
to stop having an effect
- If you take pain-killing drugs over a longer period, their effect soon wears off.
- I need some need sleeping pills. These ones are beginning to wear off.
to succeed in getting someone to agree with you or like you
- It's no use trying to win me over. I've made up my mind and that's it.
- After months of asking he finally won her over. They're getting married next month!
- I like to wind down with a glass of wine after dinner.
- You need to wind down a bit. You're taking it far too seriously.
to do or say something to trick or irritate someone
- Don't take any notice of him. He's just trying to wind you up.
- Are you winding me up? - No, every word I said is true!
to (come to) understand
- I can't work out how he came top in the grammar test. He never studied at all.
- I haven't really worked out why you decided to quit university.
- I'm putting on too much weight. I need to start working out.
- Do you know where John is? - Yes, he's in the gym working out.
to annoy (get annoyed or agitated or upset)
- Don't let it work you up. There's nothing you can do about it.
- Why are you getting so worked up about it? It's hardly important.
to get information (often from someone who is unwilling to give it)
- It took me a while to worm out the truth, but she finally admitted to copying her essay from the internet.
- I'm trying to worm out why he's been getting home so late, but all he says is "heavy traffic." I don't believe him!
to finish or stop
- We'll need to wrap up the meeting pretty soon. The building closes in 15 minutes.
- My ESL teacher likes to wrap up the lesson with a joke.
to decide that someone or something is useless and not worth time or trouble
- Don't write me off yet. I promised I'd do it and I will.
- I had to write him off. He was unreliable and I just couldn't trust him.
to destroy a car
- I almost wrote my car off when I drove into a tree. Luckily there was hardly any damage.
- The drunken driver wrote off his motorbike when he hit a traffic light.
This verb is often used in noun form: The car was a write-off.
zero in on
to concentrate your attention on a topic or problem
- Before we break for lunch we need to zero in on John's question about sick leave.
- I'd like us to agree in general what we should do before we start to zero in on the details,
Copyright Paul Shoebottom 2005