Working in an English speaking company or industry, you’ll hear countless phrasal verbs throughout the course of your day. The English language is full of thousands of phrasal verbs, so you will come across them in almost every sentence. Just like that one!
Phrasal verbs are often hard to understand. They don’t make much literal sense and they can have multiple meanings, depending on the situation. This can make conversations with colleagues and following fast paced business meetings a nightmare for non-native English speakers.
Don’t panic! We’ve got the top 10 most used business phrasal verbs, with explanations and examples. You’ll be speaking like a native in no time!
Why should I learn business phrasal verbs?
Phrasal verbs are a great way to boost your language skills. Including them in your business conversations helps you sound more natural and native.
Additionally, they help you express more specific ideas and follow conversations more easily.
Phrasal verbs ease the flow of communication between you and your colleagues, and will help you impress the big bosses!
What is a phrasal verb?
Before we give you the most commonly used business phrasal verbs, let’s have a quick revision lesson on what a phrasal verb is.
A phrasal verb is defined as a verb used with another word (usually an adverb or preposition). The words are combined to form a commonly-used phrase.
Phrasal verbs can be confusing because the meaning isn’t obvious. It can’t be figured out by interpreting the separate words. When the words are placed together to form a phrase, the meaning is something new.
For example: He has always looked down on me.
The phrasal verb ‘to look down on someone’ doesn’t mean to look at someone from a high place. It means feelings of superiority, or thinking you are better than someone else.
Separable and inseparable phrasal verbs
Some phrasal verbs are separable. This means that the object can be in the middle, between the verb and the preposition, or at the end.
She’s putting on her coat.
Can you put your coat on?
Other phrasal verbs are inseparable, meaning that the verb and the preposition must stay together, and the object must be at the end.
Correct: I ran into Jenny last week.
Not: I ran Jenny into last week.
Learning phrasal verbs
The best way to learn phrasal verbs is to treat them as new vocabulary and the best way to learn new vocabulary is to learn by context and in small groups.
Here are 10 most useful phrasal verbs commonly used in business English.
1. Look through (something)
To look through something is to read information quickly to find the details you need, or to get the gist of it.
Have you had a chance to look through the report?
We’ve had a look through your CV and we would like to invite you to interview for the job.
2. To get on with (something / someone)
This is one of those phrasal verbs that be can used in different ways for different meanings.
It can mean to make progress on something.
How are you getting on with the task?
It can also mean to have a good relationship with a person.
I get on well with my colleagues, we have great fun in the office!
He’s a difficult customer, hard to get on with.
3. To sum up
When nearing the end of a meeting you may hear the speaker use this phrase which means to summarize. It’s a brief recap of the main points discussed.
Before we end the meeting, let me sum up what we’ve agreed on so far.
4. To call (something) off
This means to cancel plans.
The worker’s strike has been called off as the board have agreed to their demands.
My meeting has been called off so I’m available this afternoon.
5. To put off
This phrasal verb has a number of different uses and meanings, and can be separable and inseparable.
You can use it to mean ‘postpone’
I don’t think we should put this off any longer, we have to take action now!
The merger has been put off for now.
Or, it can mean to cause somebody to dislike something or someone.
I don’t think he is the best person to represent the company. His manner can put people off.
I’m not sure about that machine, the expense is a real put off.
6. To write up
This means to type rough or quick written notes onto a computer to create a complete version. You may have had to take notes during a meeting, and afterwards your boss may ask for a copy.
Jim would you mind writing up the notes and emailing them to us all later today?
7. To go over
If you are asked to ‘go over’ something, you are being asked to study, examine or review something in detail.
Before we start the meeting, can we quickly go over the monthly figures?
We can’t sign the deal until we have gone over the contract.
8. Figure (something) out
You may hear this when your colleagues are trying to understand or solve a problem.
Don’t worry: If we work together, I’m sure we can figure this out.
These figures make no sense. No matter how hard I try, I just can’t figure it out!
9. To roll out
This means to implement a plan in full, to all areas.
We expect the new benefits plan to be rolled out within the next month.
If the pilot is successful, then it will be rolled out to all the other countries later in the year
10. To fall through
This means that a plan that was made is not going ahead. The plan has failed for some reason, making it impossible to proceed. You may hear colleagues discuss plans, possible partnerships, or deals falling through.
We have to start all over again. The deal has fallen through.
The sale was almost complete, but at the last stage it fell through.
Do you know any other useful business phrasal verbs? Share and practice them in the comments below!