'Give up’? ‘Go on!’ – Phrasal Verbs
In combination with prepositions such as up,in, off etc. some English verbs acquire a different meaning that cannot be guessed from their basic form. A good example is to gowhich can be combined with a number of different prepositions. The meaning of these combinations, also called phrasal verbs, cannot be guessed simply from the meaning of ‘go’:
‘to go about something’ – to deal with something: “How can I go about solving this problem?”
‘to go at somebody’ – to attack somebody: “He went at him with a knife.”
‘to go down’ – to be remembered: "He went down in history as the first man to land on the moon."
‘to go off’ – to explode: “Suddenly a bomb went off.”
Phrasal verbs are very common in everyday spoken English, so if you want to get into them, check the weblinks below.
The Purdue Owl gives a good introduction to phrasal verbs and their use.
A good list of common phrasal verbs can be found on
This page offers a slighly more unusual list.
There's a useful and very user-friendly dictionary of phrasal verbs on
Alternatively you could use a Learner’s Dictionary and check verbs such as to have, to go, to get, to put, to come, to take... You might still want to practise, so have a look at these pages:
Match phrasal verbs and descriptions of their meaning.
Choose the appropriate phrasal verb for a sentence.
Important note: phrasal verbs are not generally used in academic writing: use 'go off' when speaking, but the more precise/formal verb 'explode' in academic writing.