Phrasal Verbs A - B

This is the phrasal verb reference section. Here there are definitions and examples for hundreds of phrasal verbs found in English.

Don't forget we have a phrasal verb exercise page.


Blow Up

1. Increase in size (especially printing, photography), inflate
When you photocopy this, blow it up to double the size.
We blew up more than 50 balloons for the party.
2. Explode, Detonate.
The damage was caused when an old Second World War bomb blew up.
3. Become very angry quickly.
Sheila blew up when she found her husband with another woman.

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Break Down

1. When something mechanical stops working.
My car broke down and I had to walk ten miles to the nearest phone box.
2. When talks, negotiations hit problems and stop.
Talks between the unions and management have broken down and a strike now seems certain.
3. Become very sad.
When she heard of her father's sudden death, she broke down.

Break Something Down

1. Analyse something in detail, especially statistically.
When you break down the figures, you see that it is young women who smoke the most.
2. In chemical reactions, one substance causes the destruction of another.
Enzymes help to break down fat in the body. (don't e-mail me if this is not true...I know less than zero about chemistry!)

Break Even

When expenses and income are equal
To break even, we need to sell another 8 televisions this year. After that, we will be in profit!

Break In

1. Enter without permission, trespass
The thieves broke in while the guard dog was sleeping.
2. Make something work better for you by using it often.
These shoes hurt at first, but I have broken them in now and they are really comfortable.
3. Train a horse.
'The Horse Whisperer' is a book about a man who has an odd way of breaking in horses.

Break Into

1. Change speed suddenly
When the horse heard the gunshot, he broke into a fast gallop.
2. Use a large banknote.
Sorry, I don't have change. I will have to break into this $50 note.
3. Suddenly start doing something.
He was so happy that he broke into song.

Break In On

Interrupt Someone.
Don't break in on me while I am thinking.

Break Off

1. To stop talking
He broke off in the middle of a sentence to answer the phone.
2. Stop negotiations, an engagement.
She broke off the engagement when she found out he was racist.
The government broke off all peace negotiations after the bomb.

Break Out

1. To Start Suddenly (esp. disease, war)
War broke out after the president was assassinated.
Poor health facilities means disease is certain to break out.
2. Escape
The prisoners broke out of the prison when then was a power cut.
3. To suddenly become covered in spots, etc.
She broke out in a terrible rash after eating the mushrooms she had picked in her garden.

Break Up

End a relationship.
They didn't love each other any more and so they broke up.

Break Something Up

1. Destroy
We can break up this chair to use on the campfire.
2. Destroy a friendship/relationship.
He broke up their friendship when he told all those lies.
3. Divided into pieces.
The land was broken up into three large areas, one for each brother.

Break With Something

Go against, break connection with.
Let's break with tradition and go on vacation this Christmas. I don't want to stay at home again.

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