Phrasal Verbs
In this episode we give you 11 really cool phrasal verbs to use in your IELTS exam and your daily life.
  • To man up (ph. verb) - used to tell someone that they should deal with something more bravely.
  • To cut down (ph. verb) - do or use less of something.
  • To cut back (ph. verb) - to spend less, do less, or use less of something.
  • To boil down to something (ph. verb) - be the main or most important result of something.
  • To cave in (ph. verb) - agree to demands that you originally opposed because you have become tired or frightened.
  • To nod off (ph. verb) - to begin sleeping, especially not intentionally.
  • To hook someone on something (ph. verb) - to cause someone or oneself to become addicted to something.
  • To make out (ph. verb) - see, hear, or understand something or someone with difficulty.
  • To come across (ph. verb) - to behave in a way that makes people believe that you have a particular characteristic.
  • To come over (ph. verb) - to seem to be a particular type of person.
  • To boss around someone (ph. verb) - tell someone what to do.
  • To faff about/around (ph. verb) - to spend your time doing a lot of things that are not important instead of the thing that you should be doing.
Get exclusive episodes on IELTS Speaking parts 1, 2, and 3
Get exclusive episodes on IELTS Speaking parts 1, 2, and 3
The Test
M: Let's imagine that we discussed conditional sentences. Your favourite.

R: Oh, God! Hold on. You never said there would be imagining involved. You said there would be a test. So I have to do the test and imagine? That is not fair.

M: Yeah. So context, context. So we discussed conditional sentences with you. This if, if I were and Rory you were wrong, you made a mistake about this conditional sentence. It was the third conditional, but you said it was the second.

R: That does sound like me.

M: So you need to deal with it more bravely and admit that you were wrong.

R: There is a couple here, so I have to toughen up and admit I was wrong?

M: Okay. Very close. What else?

R: Or I have to man up or I have to harden up.

M: Yeah. Well done, well done. You have to man up.

R: But you will notice all of these have the word up in them, which is like a symbol of rising to the occasion. Oh, that was difficult.

M: Yeah. So man up. To man up, like behave with courage, behave with conviction, behave bravely.

R: Basically the opposite of how I am behaving right now.

M: Could you give us some examples? Where can I use this man up?

R: Oh, we could use them in different forms. So I was terrified of taking the IELTS exam, but I just had to man up and deal with it.

M: Yeah. Or if, for example, you see that your friend is weak and your friend is like... I don't know what to do, like... You say like, okay, you should man up, man up. Come on like, man up and do stuff. And Rory told us that this phrasal verb is with up. We grouped the phrasal verbs according to this particle or preposition up. So we have a lot of groups with different prepositions. And the first phasal verb is man up. The next one, the second one is going to be with a different preposition. So, Rory, you do too much exercise, you go to the gym, you do too much exercise, you should do less.

R: Well, since the last time we had something with up, this might be with something going down. Is it calm down?

M: Calm down. Not really, no. Try again. Something like, to spend less or do less of something or use less of something.

R: It's not cut down on exercise, is it?

M: Cut down on, yes. A little bit. Any other preposition that I can use? Cut down on exercise or?

R: Cut back on exercise.

M: Yeah.

R: Why can't I say cut down on? That's really mean. What's the difference?

M: Yeah, you can, you can. Yeah, yeah, cut down on. So if you want to reduce something, reduce the consumption of something. So I exercise too much or I drink too much coffee so I need to cut down on coffee.

R: So cut down on would be for physical things? Like food and drink. But cut back would be activities like exercise or spending money.

M: The third phrasal verb for you, dear listener, you can also think what phrasal verbs you can use here. So Rory writes IELTS essays, okay? And I say, Rory, your essay is massive, it's really big. You should reduce the information. So it has only one page. Only the most important parts.

R: Why do you pick the most obscure phrasal verbs? What could this possibly be? Like to put something all in one... Like to summarise, like we're talking about a word for summarise here or a phrasal verb meaning summarise. Well, that's cut it down.

M: No. What else can I say?

R: Focus on the main points. Focus on is a phrasal verb, probably.

M: Boring, no. We need more sophistication, Rory, more sophisticatication.

R: Focus on is actually quite high level, but never mind.

M: And the phrasal verb also is about something when I... I make a soup. You know, cooking a soup and I... The soup...

R: What?

M: The water.

R: What are you talking about? The water boil... Oh, right, okay. You need to boil it down to the main features.

M: Yeah. Well done!

R: But that was not clear at all. You should say you need to... to the main features or to the main points.

M: So you should reduce the information in the essay. So the essay has only the most important parts. And we can say that you should boil it down to one page. This one is about our YouTube channel. And you know that we started our YouTube channel, which now has, what, thousands of loyal followers. And at first, I refused to record all these videos for our YouTube channel. But then I agreed. Rory frightened me, I was scared and then I agreed.

R: Oh, were you frightened into doing it? Or scared into doing it?

M: In is correct. But what's another verb I can use?

R: I don't know. Coerced into doing it.

M: It starts with C, yes.

R: Oh, you caved into it?

M: Yeah. Bravo.

R: I would like to point out that all of the other suggestions I made were also adequate. So, like, being coerced into something is the same thing. It's like someone talks you into doing it.

M: Yeah. Coerced into. Yeah? Or in.

R: I'm coerced into something.

M: Into something. So to cave in. What does it mean to cave in?

R: Well, to cave in or to cave into someone's demands just means that you... That you give in. It's another phrasal verb. It means that you accept it after pressure is applied.

M: Rory, could you give us an example, where maybe a situation when you caved in?

R: I have caved into your demands to do this ridiculous phrasal verbs episode. There we go.

M: Are you still annoyed about boiled down?

R: No. Now I'm annoyed about the whole thing.

M: Okay, here's another one, dear listener. Are you ready? Our Rory enjoys talking about science. So I listened to Rory's explanations about the planets, stars, the freaking nebula. And then I fell asleep while we were recording.

R: So you didn't really fall asleep. You were just being rude. So I would say that you switched off. But really, what you probably meant was by falling asleep, you nodded off during the conversation.

M: Yeah, well done! Super. Yes. Nod off. Nod off, means to fall asleep, but to fall asleep not in your room, not in your bed, but maybe at work or in a cafe at the cinema, at the theatre. When you are listening to the opera, when you listen to Rory's voice or my voice, sometimes you can nod off. For example, like after my busy day, I sat down and nodded off in front of the TV. You know, dear listener, and also, Rory, you might remember that I've been to Malaysia. I started enjoying squash when I was in Malaysia. Squash is not a vegetable. It's a kind of sport. It's not like tennis, no, dear listener. It's a different kind of game. So squash, if you don't know what squash is, check it out now. Squash. So I started enjoying squash when I was in Malaysia. I wanted to play squash as much as possible, so I got... Squash.

R: Oh, is it hooked on?

M: Yeah, bravo! Hey! Nail on the head. I got hooked on squash. Or I got hooked on playing squash. Rory, tell us the meaning.

R: It's like you've developed a very strong interest in squash or in playing it. It's to develop a strong interest in something.

M: Yes. For example, if you enjoy our podcast and you listen to it all the time. So I got hooked on listening to IELTS Speaking for Success podcast. So, Rory, I'm reading your IELTS essay.

R: Oh, God!

M: So Rory has written some essays and, Rory, I'm reading your essay and I can't understand what you mean.

R: Oh, I can't make out what you're trying to say.

M: Yay! Nail on the head... Make out. To understand the meaning of something. And when it's difficult to understand something or someone. So I can't make out what is going on at work. I can't make out what's going on. I can't understand what's going on. Or, for example, like the numbers are too small, I can't make them out or I can't make it out. Can I say I can't make out your writing?

R: No, it's more like an idea or something that you can see. Because you can see the writing. So it would be like, I can't make out what you're trying to say from your writing.

M: I can't make it out. I can't understand it. What about people? If I don't understand a certain person, so this person is a bit strange and I can't understand them. So what do I say? I can't make her out?

R: No, no, I can't make out what you were saying. Because you have to be very careful when you're talking about people. Because make out is also a phrasal verb meaning to kiss someone romantically.

M: Yeah.

R: Yeah, so we made out. Do not... Well, no, do that, as long as you have consent. But probably not a great idea to talk about in terms of, you know, when you're talking about your IELTS exam. I think the examiner would probably get distracted.

M: Rory, you seem to be a responsible person, so you make an impression of being a responsible person. You... A responsible person.

R: Come across as?

M: Yes. Come across or come...

R: Come over.

M: Yay! Come over.

R: Oh, wow! I never would have guessed that. I would always say come across.

M: I think come across is more common. Yeah, but also come over, dear listener, if you want to be super cool and full of awesome and to be different from other people. Yeah, so he comes across as smart or he comes across as a responsible person. I don't like being told what to do. I don't like being ordered what to do.

R: I don't like being bossed around.

M: Yeah, well done. Yes, that's my educated native speaker. Yeah, so boss around. So when another person bosses you around, this person acts in a bossy manner with you. So if I boss Rory around, I act in a bossy manner. I order Rory what to do. I tell him what to do, as if I was his boss.

R: But you have never done.

M: Mhm, okay. Good to know. You haven't noticed. One of my favourite phrasal verbs. First of all, the sentence. Rory, I wish you'd stop spending your time doing a lot of things that are not important instead of the thing that you should be doing. So stop all this nonsense, all these silly little things and do something useful. So stop...

R: Faffing around.

M: Yay!

R: Or plastering around.

M: Yeah, faff around or faff about. It's a UK phrasal verb. So it's used in the UK and it's really informal. So faff about. Spend your time doing a lot of things that are not important instead of doing something useful. So for example, you can say, I was faffing about all day. I was faffing around all day. So kind of like being disorganised, not achieving very much. Rory, could you give us an example?

R: I couldn't, because I'm very organised and everything I do is important.

M: What about other people?

R: That's their problem, not mine. I'm not faffing around giving an answer to this question. There we go. Or giving example to this question.

M: It was annoying to watch them faffing about or I wish you'd stop faffing about and do something useful. Right, and the last phrasal verb for today, dear listener.

R: Oh, God.

M: So I do IELTS tests sometimes. Just, you know, like to keep me in the game. And yesterday I completed the test easily and successfully. So I... The test.

R: Was it difficult to do?

M: No, no, it was easy.

R: Oh, you breezed through the test.

M: Yes.

R: Well done.

M: Yes, yes, yes, yes.

R: Because if it was difficult, then you would have to get through the test.

M: Yeah, I got through the test - it was difficult. But if you say I breezed, breeze like a...

R: Like a wind.

M: I breezed through the test, it was easy for me, I did it successfully and... No problem. Rory, give us examples, please.

R: Well, I didn't exactly breeze through all these phrasal verbs, did I?

M: Some were difficult, but other phrasal verbs were easy. Sweet. Thank you very much for listening, dear listener! Do check out our phrasal verbs course. The link is in the description and the first episode is for free. So we'll see you in our next episodes. Bye!

R: Bye!
Get exclusive episodes on IELTS Speaking parts 1, 2, and 3
Get exclusive episodes on IELTS Speaking parts 1, 2, and 3
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