15 Phrasal verbs with more than one meaning.

Muito frequentemente nos deparamos com uma forma diferente de expressão em inglês que chamamos de Phrasal Verbs.

Você sabe realmente o que eles significam? Muito usados em diálogos formais e informais, os phrasal verbs são expressões compostas por um verbo + preposição, verbo + advérbio ou verbo + advérbio + preposição.

A principal característica deles é que, quando o verbo original liga-se a preposição ou advérbio, a expressão toda tem um significado diferente da ação original.

Veja exemplos de alguns phrasal verbs muito usados e que mais confundem quem está aprendendo inglês principalmente pode ter mais de um significados e, se levado ao pé da letra, conduzem ao erro.

Vejamos os 15 que selecionamos para vocês.

#1 – BACK UP (two words)

A) Make an extra copy of computer data = “You can BACK UP information onto a server, another computer, a CD, an external hard drive, a USB drive, etc”.

Note - BACKUP (one word) is the noun referring to the extra copy of the information you backed up.

B) Move backwards, in reverse = “You can BACK UP in a car or while walking”.

Note - For walking, we can also use BACK AWAY – usually to move away from danger. You would BACK AWAY from an angry dog so that it won’t bite you.

C) Give moral/emotional support for someone’s position = “My coworkers BACKED me UP when I complained with my boss”.

D) Accumulate and delay due to excess = “There is an accident on the road. It is BACKED UP for miles”.

Note - A road can be BACKED UP, a toilet can be BACKED UP (blocked so that the water can’t go down), or a schedule can be BACKED UP.

#2 – BLOW UP

A) Explode in fire – “The car BLEW UP after the accident”.

B) Explode in anger, get extremely angry very quickly – “My boss BLEW UP when he found out who made the mistake”.


A) Stop Moving – “My car BROKE DOWN in the middle of the street” 

B) Ended in failure – “Conversations between the two groups BROKE DOWN

C) Start crying and can´t control emotions – “She BROKE DOWN when she heard the bad news”.


A) Look after children they become adults – “Due to my father´s death, my mother BROUGHT me UP alone”

B) Mention or introduce a topic – “That’s a great idea. You should BRING it UP at tomorrow’s meeting”.


A) Telephone for something – “I'll CALL FOR a cab right away”.

B) Demand - The Opposition party CALLED FOR the minister's resignation after the scandal broke

C) Go and collect someone to take them out – “I'll CALL FOR you at seven, so be ready because the guys can´t wait.”

D) Require – “A situation like this CALLS FOR some pretty drastic action”.


A) Borrow a book from a library – “Bill CHECKED OUT two books form the library”

B) Investigate information or facts – “Before passing information received by e mail, CHECK it OUT”


A) Give something to someone for free – “If you haven’t worn a piece of clothing in more than a year, you should GIVE it AWAY.”.

B) Reveal secret information - Spoiling – “Robert knows the end of the movie but he won´t GIVE it AWAY”

#8 – HANG UP

A) Stop a telephone conversation – “After thirty minutes on the phone Mike had to HANG UP.”

B) Put up clothes on a line or a hook – “Ana never HANGs her close UP”


A) Find information in a book or on a computer – “You can LOOK UP the words in your dictionary”. 

B) Improving – “Brazil passed a hard time last year, but things are LOOKING UP now”.

#10 – MAKE UP

A) Invent a story (not true) – “I didn’t know the answer to the question, so I just MADE something UP.”

B) Restore a good relationship after an argument or fight – “After 2 months apart, me and my girlfriend finally MADE UP.”

C) Compensate (for an error, bad behavior, etc.) – “I bought my wife a nice gift to try to MAKE UP for arriving late”.

Note: The word MAKEUP (one word) refers to cosmetics.

#11 – PASS OUT

A) Distribute (hand out) - “The teacher PASSED OUT the exams

B) Lose consciousness – “I was hit on the head and almost PASSED OUT”

#12 – PICK UP (24 senses in the Cambridge Phrasal Verbs Dictionary – below we see the main ones)

A) Take something with your hand and bring it up from a surface – “I PICKED UP the paper that fell from the table”

B) Buy (informal) – It is used for buying small, casual, everyday things – “I’ll be a little because I need to PICK UP a few things at the store.

C) Get someone in your car, in order to take them to a place – “I´ll PICK you UP at 9 PM.”

Note: The opposite is DROP OFF. If your friend is arriving from a trip, you would pick him up at the airport and drop him off at his house.

D) Learn (usually quickly and casually, not in a formal classroom environment) – “When I moved to Brazil, I PICKED UP Portuguese very quickly.”

E) Increase/improve, usually after a period of decrease or no change. Typically used for economy, sales, growth, speed – “Everyone thought that sales would PICK UP around Christmas time, but that didn´t happen


A) Remove something from inside a place – “He TOOK his phone OUT of his pocket.

B) Borrow from the library – “I TOOK OUT ten library books.

C) Bring someone on a social encounter (may or may not be romantic) – “John is TAKING my sister OUT to dinner on Friday.

#14 – TURN IN

A) Submit classwork – “Mike TURNED IN his homework after 30 minutes

B) Go to bed – “It´s late, I´m gonna TURN IN.

#15 – WORK OUT

A) Exercise - “I WORK OUT every day before going to work

B) Resolve or have a positive outcome (usually after difficulties/challenges) – “There were many problems, but everything was WORKED OUT in the end”.

Prof. Joseph Bomfim Junior


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