• Alex

3-word phrasal verbs in English

Updated: Jun 20


Phrasal verbs are one of the most important parts of English vocabulary. They are usually idiomatic, and it can take a long time for English learners to start using them with accuracy and confidence. When I teach phrasal verbs, such as wake up, put on, take off, and try on, students often ask the same questions:


"Is this one transitive or intransitive?"

"Can I separate it?"

"Is this the only meaning?"


These are all good questions, and they are especially frequent when we study 2-word phrasal verbs. With that in mind, 3-word phrasal verbs are actually easier to teach and understand.

Why?


There are two reasons:

  1. All 3-word phrasal verbs are transitive. They all end with a preposition, which means they all need an object. ("I'm looking forward to going home today.")

  2. Most 3-word phrasal verbs are inseparable. They almost always keep their form. ("Don't worry. I'll take care of this.")

With that in mind, let us look at 10 3-word phrasal verbs that you can start using with confidence today. Pay attention to the fact that 3-word phrasal verbs need an object, and that they are never separated. If you find this resource useful and you would like to learn more phrasal verbs, make sure to get a copy of 100 Practical English Phrasal Verbs. It is ideal for intermediate and advanced students.


Let's learn and review some 3-word phrasal verbs!


1. Come up with (something)

to invent or create something (an idea, an excuse, a story, an invention, a plan, etc.)


"This is very creative. Did you come up with it by yourself?"

"Wow. This is great. How did you come up with it?"

"Sam is always coming up with excuses."



2. Get along with (someone)

to be on friendly terms with someone; to have a good relationship with someone (British English: get on with someone


"We didn't get along in school, but now he's my best friend."

"Do you get along with your sister?"

"We don't get along."* (You can use the 2-word phrasal verb "get along" in this way)



3. Get around to (something or someone)

to finally do something that you need to do; to do something you have not done because you have not had enough time to do it, or because you have been procrastinating


"Have you gotten around to doing the dishes yet?" "Not yet. I've been busy."

"So, I finally got around to calling my cousin last night."

"Don't forget to send that email." "Yeah, yeah, I'll get around to it eventually."



4. Put up with (something or someone)

to tolerate something or someone


"I can't put up with her lies anymore."

"Every morning on my way to work, I have to put up with at least 20 minutes of traffic."

"He's such a jerk. I don't know why you put up with him."



5. Look forward to (something)

to anticipate a future event; to be excited about a future event


"I'm looking forward to seeing you."

"She's really looking forward to the concert."

"Are you ready for the meeting?" "I suppose so. I'm not looking forward to it."



6. Look up to (someone)

to respect and admire someone; to see someone as a role model


"When I was a kid, I looked up to my uncle. He was so kind."

"I can't disappoint her. She looks up to me."

"Whom did you look up to when you were young?" ("Whom" is the object)



7. Look down on (someone or something)

to feel superior to someone else and to see them as lower than you; to not have respect for something or someone


"I used to look down on bands like Nirvana and Silverchair in the '90s, but now I realize how influential they were."

"You shouldn't look down on other people. You never know what they have been through."

"They have terrible opinions. They look down on poor people and immigrants."



8. Live up to (something or someone)

to fulfill/match/meet one's potential/expectations/hype/etc.


"That movie didn't live up to my expectations."

"He has lived up to his potential."

"Everyone told me how amazing that restaurant was, but now that I've been there, I can say it didn't live up to the hype."



9. Keep up with (something or someone)

to maintain the same pace or stay at the same level as someone or something; to progress at the same speed as someone else


"You're speaking too fast. I can't keep up with you."

"Run faster! Try to keep up!" (with the other runners)

"Our company is trying to keep up with the leaders in our industry."



10. Make up for (something)

to compensate for doing something bad by doing something good; to atone for something; to do something as penance for a past mistake or hurtful action


"I'm so sorry, Lexi. I'll make up for it. I promise."

"You've been trying to make up for your past mistakes for a long time."

"I made a mistake. I know that. I'll make up for it, okay?"



How was that? Were the definitions clear enough and the examples helpful? I hope so. Remember, the best way to learn new vocabulary is to put it into a context that makes sense for you. If you would like to practice these phrasal verbs by creating your own original sentences, leave a comment.


Finally, if you enjoyed this resource and would like to learn more phrasal verbs, pick up a PDF, e-book, or physical copy of 100 Practical English Phrasal Verbs. I wrote it with English students and teachers in mind, which is why it has only high-frequency phrasal verbs, multiple definitions, and at least 4 example sentences for the most popular usage of each phrasal verb. Get it today and let me know if it helps you.

Until next time, I wish you success in your studies.

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