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Phrasal verbs are an important feature of the English language. Their importance lies in the fact that they form a key part of everyday English. Not only are they used in spoken and informal English, but they are also a common aspect of written and even formal English. Understanding and learning to use phrasal verbs, however, is often a problem and there are many reasons for this. The meaning of the phrasal verb often bears no relation to the meaning of either the verb or the particle which is used with it. This means that phrasal verbs can be difficult both to understand and to remember. Besides, many phrasal verbs have several different meanings and their grammatical behaviour is often unpredictable.

The Cambridge International Dictionary of Phrasal Verbs is aimed at learners and users of English from Intermediate level upwards. It addresses all the problems associated with this rich and complex area of the English language and presents information in a clear way. Full coverage is given of more than 4,500 British, American and Australian phrasal verbs, making this a truly international dictionary.


 The Structure of the Entry


Inflections are shown for each phrasal verb

Inflections which are different in American or Australian English are also shown

bulk up bulks, bulking, bulked

fit in fits, fitting, fitted

(American past tense also fit)

Syntax. Syntax here refers to the grammatical arrangement of phrasal verbs. In this dictionary, syntax is shown clearly without the use of complicated grammar codes. This part of an entry indicates whether a phrasal verb is transitive or intransitive and where the object of a transitive phrasal verb can be placed. Some phrasal verbs can only ever be used in restricted grammatical forms or restricted tenses and these are also shown.

Many phrasal verbs have several different syntactic patterns. In this dictionary, the different meanings are shown in groups of the same syntactic pattern. Differences between British, American, Australian usages are also clearly shown. Cross-references are used to show the position of a phrasal verb in the dictionary, so that it can be found easily.

Definitions. These explain the meaning of the phrasal verbs. They are written using words from a list of less than 2000 common words, making them easy to understand. They also contain information about typical subjects and objects.

Example Sentences. Example sentences are given for each meaning of a phrasal verb. Based on sentences taken from the Cambridge International Corpus, they show how phrasal verbs are used in natural written and spoken English. Examples also provide essential information about collocation and grammar. Some phrasal verbs are used as a part of a fixed expression. These are shown in bold in the example sentences and are explained in brackets after the example.

Nouns and Adjectives. A number of nouns and adjectives are derived from phrasal verbs. These are shown after the phrasal verb they are derived from.

Phrasal verbs which are highlighted are very
common and useful
for learners of
English to

look up looks, looking, looked

look up sth or look sth up

to look at a book or computer in order to find a piece of information *** Can you look up the French word for “marrow”? *** I’m not sure what his number is. You’ll have to look it up in the telephone directory.


To help international users to choose stylistically appropriate phrasal verb there is a system of register labels: informal, formal, slang, taboo, humorous, old-fashioned, etc. For example, be dying for (always in continuous tenses) informal to want something very much, especially food or drink: I am dying for a cup of coffee. I am dying for a cigarette.


Supplementary material

Besides the main part of the dictionary where all the entries are arranged alphabetically, there is supplementary material at the end. It includes 15 theme panels and photocopiable exercises. In theme panels phrasal verbs are shown in groups according to their meaning: Agreeing and Disagreeing, Computers, Crime, Emotions, Food and Drink, Illness, Money, Relationships, Travel, Work, etc. Twenty four exercises of various types are not only a valuable classroom and self-study material but also an example of how the dictionary can be used for teaching purposes. Using this example every teacher can make similar exercises with any other phrasal verbs. Below are some exercises.

1. Divide the students into four groups.

2. Give each group four phrasal verbs, for instance:


3. Ask the students to look up the meaning of each verb in the dictionary and then ask each student to write one illustrative sentence to bring out clearly the meaning of each of the verbs allotted to his or her group.

4. Ask the students to take the first word allotted to their group: each person is to read out his or her sentence illustrating that word. Within each group they then vote on which is the best sentence in terms of making clear the meaning of the verb. They do this for the other three verbs too.

5. Rearrange the students into new groups so that each has people from A, B, C, and D in it. Ask the students to teach each other their set of verbs using their own illustrative sentences and the one(s) judged best in their original group.

As a result each student learns about 16 phrasal verbs. Hold a revision in the end of the class. For this aim give handouts to the students. This time each student has to work individually.


A) Choose the correct variant:

1. get back at

a. to stop doing sth
b. to leave your husband
c. to win a prize
d. to do sth unpleasant to sb

2. cut down on

a. to improve one’s health
b. to start talking qietly
c. to eat or drink less
d. to make a situation more equal

3. connect up

a. to join sth to the main supply of power
b. to quickly change from one channel to another
c. to tell sb sth again and again
d. to die

4. ink out

a. to write or draw sth in ink
b. to make sb start to be interested in sth
c. to cover words with ink so they cannot be read
d. to accept that a difficult situation exists


B) Fill in the gaps:

If we’re going to meet this deadline, we’re really going to have to ______________ . What are you _______________ , Mark? Do you think I should lose weight? I was going to give away her old baby clothes but I couldn’t make myself ___________ them.

It was ______________ us at an early age that we should never cross the road without looking.


The Cambridge International Dictionary of Phrasal Verbs contains all the information about this difficult aspect of the English language necessary for using phrasal verbs confidently and accurately.


By Ludmila Gorodetskaya,
Moscow State University, Faculty of Foreign Languages