A phrasal verb is an idiom which consists of a verb followed by a preposition, an adverb or an adverb with a preposition.


- I ran into an old friend. (verb + preposition)

- We put off washing the dishes. (verb + adverb)

- They all look up to him. (verb + adverb + preposition)

NOTE: Many phrasal verbs are used more often in informal English. In most cases, the ideas expressed by such phrasal verbs may also be expressed by other phrases which are more likely to be used in formal English.

For instance in the table below, the phrasal verbs used in the preceding examples are listed in the left-hand column and other phrases with the same meanings are listed in the right-hand column.



to ran into

to put off

to look up to

to meet unexpectedly

to postpone

to admire

It should be noted that the use of many phrasal verbs varies among the different dialects of English. For example, in order to express the idea of contacting someone by means of the telephone, the expression to ring someone up is frequently used in British English; whereas the expression to call someone is frequently used in American English.

Because of the differences in dialect, the forms of the verbs and the meaning given may vary from one dictionary to another. In addition, some phrasal verbs have more than one meaning. The meanings provided in this chapter are samples of meanings which are used in North American English only.