Common phrasal verbs in writing


The two lists below show commonly used phrasal verbs in academic writing and their one-word synonyms. Although it is academically acceptable to use phrasal verbs, you might want to switch them to their one-word synonyms to make your writing diverse and more professional. 

The examples given in the lists are only applicable to a certain meaning of a given phrasal verb. Don’t forget that a phrasal verb can have more than one definition, and the suggested synonym can’t contain every meaning of the phrasal verb.

Separable phrasal verbs

You can put the object between the verb and the preposition in these phrasal verbs. Don’t forget that you should always separate these phrasal verbs when using pronouns (e.g. “He wrote down the paragraph” but “He wrote it down”).

Phrasal verbs Examples Synonyms
Add up
He added up the number of sold properties.
Buy out
The firm bought out the rival firm.
Purchase (Someone's assets)
Buy up
The woman’s clothes were bought up in the yard sale.
Purchase (all of something)
Call off
Maybe I should call off the party.
Carry on
He needed to carry on with the project.
Carry out
Did you carry out the task as I asked?
Cut out
As the paragraph didn’t fit in with the rest of the paper, she had to cut it out.
Find out
Researchers found out a new species.
Get (it) over with (split)
The innocent suspect was happy that the police got the investigation over with.
Get across
Get my message across so that he won’t make the same mistake.
Give up
Tribes didn’t give up until the 19th century.
Hold up
The flight was held up due to the weather conditions.
Leave out
Don’t leave out any necessary information in your paper.
Make up
He made up an excuse to skip their plan.
Make out
It was impossible to make out the settlement in the dark.
Pass up
This job is an opportunity one should not pass up.
Pass on
The virus can pass on with a cough.
Pass out
The products were passed out to the sellers.
Pick up
You can pick your presentation up from where you left off.
Point out
I pointed it out for the boss to understand.
Set up
The wedding planner is setting up the venue as we speak.
Turn down
Several interviewees were turned down.
Use up
We used up all the possibilities and found nothing.

Inseparable phrasal verbs

Phrasal verbs Examples Synonyms
Back out of
The company backed out of the signed agreement.
Bear on
Aristotle’s works have been bearing on the new philosophers for years.
Catch up with
Their newest factory works hard to catch up with the older ones.
Call on
She called on the biographies of great businesspeople.
Call for
Papers are called for the annual conference.
Count on
I knew I could count on you!
Rely on
Cut down on
The government cut down on budgets.
Come up with
The researchers came up with a solution.
Fall apart
After the election, the losing party fell apart.
Get away
The criminal thought he could get away with the murder.
Get along with
The two countries failed to get along with one another for years.
Be friendly with
Give in
For 20 years, he didn’t give in to the oppression from the big companies.
Go on
The war could go on for years if it weren’t for him.
Hold on to
Many seniors held on to their paychecks for a holiday.
Hold out on
The police held out on the press about the case.
hide (something)
Look into
We should look into other options before making a decision.
Look out for
Cops had to look out for the shooter in the crowd.
Safeguard against
Make sure of
The government had to make sure of their safety on the road.
Pick up on
The detective picked up on the hidden evidence.
Put up with
Doctors have to put up with troubled patients.
See to
I will personally see to your request.
Take after
Homo sapiens took after other species.
Touch on
He touched on some sensitive topics in his presentation.

Frequently Asked Questions

In academic writing, some phrasal verbs are preferred more than others. The 10 most used phrasal verbs are; bring up, come across, set up, follow along, set out, call for, go on, get along with, look into, and make sure. 

Phrasal verbs are a group of words (usually two or three words) that act together to deliver a meaning. They act like a single verb but they are always used together. Some of them are separable and some of these are required to be used side-by-side. Phrasal verbs add to the flow of your essays and make it look more professional. 

Phrasal verbs are used as a single verb in sentences. An example of these verbs could be “pick up on”. In a sentence, it would look like; The detective picked up on the hidden evidence. These types of verbs are recommended in academic writing as they add smoothness.

The four main types of phrasal verbs in English are; transitive phrasal verbs, intransitive phrasal verbs, separable phrasal verbs, and inseparable phrasal verbs. You need to learn how to use each type to avoid grammatical mistakes.

Thank you for reading. If you need further information, feel free to have a look at our essay samples or contact us at live chat.

Ibrahim Akturk
Ibrahim Akturk
Content editor at Tamara Research. Translation major, huge coffee and baking nerd. Addicted to good music and great articles.

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