Commonly Used
Multiple-Word Verbs
and Certain Expressions

Note: Appearing in the following list are some of the more common multiple-word verbs. Those marked (S) are
transitive and separable; those not marked are intransitive or inseparable. When a preposition is given in
parentheses in the entry, that preposition is used when there is an addition to the phrase (usually a prepositional
phrase); for example:

brush up (on), "review." You'd better brush up (on your grammar); the exam is tomorrow.
act out, "illustrate by acting" (S). The children acted the story out beautifully.

argue over (or about), Let's not argue over (about) this silly matter any longer.
ask out (S), He wants to go out with her on a date, but he's afraid to ask her out.
attend to, "take care of." My lawyer attended to the matter, and my problem just disappeared.
bail out:a. "release (someone) from jail on payment of money" (S). Her neighbor's son got into trouble last
weekend and ended up in jail. She had to bail him out.
b. "extricate from a difficult situation" (S). Our company hasn't been doing well lately, but the banks are
going to bail it out.
c. "empty a boat of water" (S). Our boat was filling up with water (we'd sprung a leak), and we were
trying to bail it out as fast as we could.
d. "parachute from an airplane." The pilot bailed out of the plane at four thousand feet.
bank on, "have confidence in." You can bank on my friends; they're all dependable.
bawl out, "rebuke severely" (S). I got to work late, and my boss bawled me out.
beat up, "give a thorough beating to" (S). Some big boys down the street beat our little boy up yesterday;
we're going to talk to their parents.
bite off (S). Here, Jamie, would you like a piece of this candy bar? Bite some off.
block out, "obstruct from view or exposure" (S). That tree blocks the sun out; let's cut it down.
blow away (S). There was a lot of smoke from the fire, but the wind blew it away.
blow down (S). We had a banana tree in the garden, but the last hurricane blew it down.
blow out:a. "extinguish" (S). Don't spill any wax on the table when you blow the candles out.
b. "explode (in reference to tires)." On our trip last month, two of our tires blew out.
blow up:a. "explode; destroy by explosion" (S). The terrorists blew the wrong car up.
b. "become very angry." When I asked my father to lend me some money, he blew up.
c. "make larger (as in photography)" (S). Ali liked the photograph of himself, and he had it blown up five
break down:a. "stop working properly." Our car had broken down, and we had to have it towed to the
nearest garage.
b. "lose one's composure or health."Take it easy or you're going to break down.
c. "analyze" (S). We broke the hospital bill down and found that it was wrong.
break in:a. "tame" (S). We're breaking this horse in; he's almost ready to ride.
b. "train" (S). This is my new secretary; I'm breaking her in.
c. "make an illegal entry." Someone broke in last night and stole all of my wife's jewelry.
d. "make something new more comfortable; begin the initial operation of a machine" (S). I can't wear these
new shoes to go shopping or sightseeing; I'm just breaking them in. I'm not driving very fast; this is a brand
new car, and I'm breaking it in.
break out:a. "appear (as with rashes, pimples, and other skin ailments)." Even when he eats a lot of
chocolate, Alain's face never breaks out in pimples.
b. "occur suddenly." Just as they arrived in the country, a revolution broke out.
c. "escape." Several convicts broke out of prison last night.
break up, "separate into smaller parts" (S). The kids were rioting, but the police broke them up.
break up (with), "put an end to a romantic relationship." Alex and Flo are breaking up (with each other); they
no longer get along.
bring about, "cause" (S). What brought the Russian Revolution about?
bring out:a. "introduce to society or the marketplace" (S). Our company is bringing a new mouse trap out,
and we're going to make a million.
b. "publish" (S). The publishers brought this book out in the spring.


bring up:a. "raise or rear" (S). Dick's parents brought him up on a farm.
b. "bring into a conversation" (S). Let's have a light conversation; please don't bring anything serious or
controversial up.
brush off:a. "remove dirt and dust by brushing" (S). Brush that jacket off before you put it on.
b. "reject; dismiss abruptly" (S). He's always trying to be friendly with her, but she always brushes him
brush up (on), "review." You'd better brush up on verbs before you take the final exam.
burn down, "burn completely (for buildings)" (S). The building burned down, but no lives were lost. Who
burned it down?
burn out, "stop working (usually in reference to electrical equipment)." The motor in the fan has finally
burned out. The light bulb in the closet has burned out.
burn up:a. "burn completely (for combustible material)" (S). She burned up her old love letters .
b. "make angry" (S). Your talking about me behind my back just burns me up.
butt in (on), "interrupt." Please don't butt in (on our conversation); it's rude.
call back, "return a phone call" (S). Please call me back; I'll be in all day.
call down, "reprimand" (S). He called his son down for being so lazy.
call for, "come or go to meet and get." Please call for me at nine; I'll be waiting for you.
call off, "cancel" (S). They've called their wedding off; they've decided they don't love each other.
call on:a. "pay a formal visit." The Ambassador called on the King today.
b. "be asked to speak." The teacher always calls on Diane first; She's his favorite.
call out, "announce" (S). I'm waiting for someone to call my name out.
call up:a. "telephone" (S). No one could call me up yesterday; my phone was out of order.
b. "draft into military service" (S). The government has called up thousands of young men and women;
many people say war is coming.
calm down, "relax" (S). I was nervous, but the soft music calmed me down.
carry out, "obey orders" (S). Yes, Sir, I'll carry these orders out right away.
catch on (to), "understand (usually in reference to jokes)." Everyone was laughing at his wife's joke, but his
face was blank; he hadn't caught on (to the joke).
catch up (with), "overtake." You're behind in your class, but if you study hard, you'll be able to catch up
(with the rest of the students).
check in (with), "inquire." My boss asked me to check in (with him) before I leave work today.
check off (S). The teacher checked the names off as he was reading the list.
check out, "test or evaluate" (S). You'll enjoy that restaurant; you should check it out.
cheer up, "encourage cheer and happiness" (S). I was feeling depressed and unhappy, but SEbastien came
over and cheered me up with some funny stories.
chew up, "chew completely" (S). Children, chew your food up before you swallow it.
chicken out, "lose one's bravery." I was going to dive off the high board (almost thirty feet), but I chickened
out at the last moment.
chop off (S). He chopped his thumb off in an accident with a hatchet.
chop out, "remove by chopping" (S). Chop the spoiled part out of that head of lettuce.
chop up, "chop completely" (S). Chop the vegetables up before you put them in the soup.
clam up, "stop talking." Whenever I ask Carine a personal question, she clams up.
clean off, "clean completely (usually in reference to tables)" (S). Please clean this table off.
clean out, "remove articles from in order to clean (usually in reference to closets, drawers, and large
containers)" (S). We're also going to clean the closets out; they're in a mess.
clean up, "clean completely" (S). We're going to clean the house up today.
clear away, "remove articles from (usually from a table or desk top)" (S). Waiter, would you please clear
these dishes away; we've finished.
clear out (of), "leave." When the police arrived, everyone cleared out (of the room).
clear up:a. "become fair weather." The rain has stopped, and it's finally clearing up.
b. "explain" (S). This is a serious matter; you'd better clear it up with the boss yourself before someone
else talks to him.
come off, "succeed or take place." I worked hard on planning that meeting, but it never came off.
come up with, "imagine or think up." I'm trying to come up with a good title for my next novel.
cool off, "make cooler" (S). Why don't we turn on the air conditioner and cool the bedroom off before we go
to bed.
count on, "depend on." You can always count on me; I'm very dependable.


cross out, "remove a written mistake by making a cross mark" (S). Please cross all the mistakes out and put
in the appropriate corrections.
cross up, "betray or cheat" (S). I'm furious that my business partner has crossed me up.
cry over, "worry about." Don't cry over your past mistakes; they weren't all your fault.
cut down:a. "cut to the ground" (S). He cut the tree down with the biggest saw I'd ever seen.
b. "decrease the consumption (of)." He's cut down on smoking and feels better.
cut in (on), "interrupt." I hate to cut in (on your conversation), but I must speak to you at once.
cut off:a. "abruptly stop someone from speaking" (S). The telephone operator cut me off.
b. "remove by cutting, or amputate" (S). The patient's leg couldn't be saved, and the surgeon had to cut it
c. "disinherit" (S). He never liked his children, so he cut them off in his will.
cut out, "stop" (S). Children, you're making a lot of noise; please cut it out.
cut out (of), "remove by cutting" (S). What a beautiful picture this is! I'm going to cut it out (of the
cut up, "cut into small pieces" (S). Cut the meat up before you fry it.
deal out, "distribute" (S). The dealer dealt the cards out, and I got four aces.
deal with, "negotiate with; take care of." My lawyer is dealing with the problem now.
decide on (or upon), "choose." Which color have you decided on to paint your house?
die down, "decrease in intensity." The storm finally died down after ten hours.
die out (away) "end." Many old customs in our country have died out (away).
dine out, "dine in a restaurant." It costs a lot to dine out in a fine restaurant.
dish out, "serve" (S). My grandmother always dishes the food out at dinner.
do over, "do again with corrections" (S). Please do this composition over.
do without, "manage without." We have to do without a vacation this year; we're broke.
drag on, "proceed slowly." The meeting was dragging on, so I finally left.
dream about (sometimes of), He's always dreaming about castles in the air.
dress up, "dress in a formal or elegant style" (S). For the occasion, she dressed herself up in her best finery.
Shall we dress up for dinner?
drive away:a. "repel" (S). The spray drove the mosquitoes away.
b. "leave by driving." She stepped on the gas and drove away.
drop in (on), "unexpectedly visit." I don't like to drop in (on my friends) without calling first.
drop off, a. "deliver" (S). I have to drop these packages off at the post office.
b. "decrease." The company's sales have been dropping off recently.
drop out (of), "leave; stop attending (usually in reference to schools)." Some students become discouraged
and decide to drop out (of school). Note: Frequently used with the expression "drop out of sight": As I watched
the ship sailing toward the horizon, it gradually dropped out of sight .
eat in, "eat at home." Let's not eat in; let's go out and have Chinese food.
eat out, "eat at a restaurant." Let's not eat out; let's stay home and save money.
eat up, "eat completely" (S). RM cooked a whole chicken for himself and ate it all up.
end up, "arrive at a place, usually unexpectedly." Columbus wanted to go to India, but he ended up in
America instead.
fall behind, "not keep up; lose ground."Ali wasn't studying, so he fell behind the rest of the class.
fall down, A horse fell down in the race and broke its leg; it had to be destroyed.
fall in, collapse (used in reference to buildings)." The roof of the old building fell in. Note: Often used in the
expression "fall in love": Romeo fell in love with Juliet at first sight fall off, "decrease." Sales for our
company always fall off in the summertime.
fall out of, They were breaking up because they'd fallen out of love.
fall out (with), (about or over), "quarrel; have an argument." He and his brother fell out with each other.
They fell out over a woman.
fall through, "fail." We were supposed to go to Sweden, but our plans fell through.
figure on:a. "expect." We're figuring on ten people being at the meeting.
b. "intend." I'm figuring on doing my homework this evening after dinner.
figure out, "solve; understand" (S). Would you please help me figure this puzzle out.
fill in: a. "complete a form, quiz, etc. by writing in the blanks" (S). Please fill the blanks in with appropriate
b. "substitute." Mrs. Catsicas is filling in for her husband at school while he's away on a trip.
fill out, "complete by writing" (S). Have you filled your application form out yet?