The festive season is upon us. The English language is riddled with holiday-related phrasal verbs that we will take a look at today. Remember to sign up for your free first lesson to discuss any questions you might have with your favorite Fluentella teacher! 

Written by: Marie

Marie is from Cape Town, South Africa. She has taught English as a second language in a variety of settings, including a kindergarten, after school language academy (in South Korea), and at a world-famous language school for adults in her hometown. She is able to help students of all ages and levels. She can help you or your child with English grammar, British or American pronunciation, or any type of English test preparation. She especially enjoys Business English and IELTS preparation. She has 10 years of teaching experience with all ages, levels, and nationalities.

    It looks like Louis managed to gain access to the house through the unlocked basement door. Must have been Betty that forgot to lock it, I think annoyed and grateful at the same time. My anxiety keeps  building up  as I wait impatiently behind the barn. It’s too quiet. Where did the rest of the family end up? Prior to our Christmas celebration, mom  went over  to the neighbors to  hand out  some gifts and they all  gathered round  their tree to drink eggnog and have a chat. I can see their house in the distance. They are still up because all the lights in their house are on. Should I make my way to their house in the darkness and call 911? Too risky, I have no idea how many of these people are hiding in the darkness.

When the phone rang earlier, the man said, “Get it together and find her!” Was he talking about me or Betty? Who is the target here?  Betty returned from her military duty a few days ago, we haven’t even had time to  catch up  properly. Did she get herself mixed up in something dangerous? I know I haven’t. Why is the youngest sibling always the most reckless? Did she  fall out with  someone in her platoon? A jealous boyfriend none of us are aware of? This is driving me crazy, the waiting and doing nothing behind the barn.
If Santa really existed and he  turned up  on the roof right now, that would be a great distraction. However, that is wishful thinking. I make my way slowly around the barn to the other side so that I can see the road to the neighbor’s house clearly. An unfamiliar car is parked down the road. There are people inside and figures moving around the car in the darkness. What on earth is going on? After another minute of observing the vehicle, I can see that they are doing something with the back wheel. Do they have a flat tire? Suddenly I notice someone in the front seat. Long blonde hair. Mom?

If that is my mother, they have taken her but ran into some trouble with the flat tire. Which means it’s still possible to save her before she is taken away to an unknown location. I start leopard crawling through the bushes and snow towards the vehicle as silently as possible. Man, I should have  cut down on  all those festive treats, I’m too out of shape for this kind of thing. After tremendous effort, I’m only halfway there. But now I can hear them speaking to each other. “Why do I need to  put up with  this? Is it amateur hour? Now is the worst possible time to have a flat! Hurry up with that spare tire!”

Time is running out for me to save mom. I don’t have any weapons on me, I am freezing cold, and the odds are against me. Think, think, think!



What are phrasal verbs?


It is a verb and a preposition / adverb used together that usually changes the meaning of the verb


There are two and three word phrasal verbs (some are separable and some are not)


One phrasal verb could have multiple meaning which makes it hard to follow native conversations, songs or movies

Some phrasal verbs can be transitive or intransitive:

Transitive phrasal verbs:

subject + verb + preposition / adverb  +  direct object

The professor called on me.


She heated the pasta / it up.


  • Only transitive phrasal verbs can be separable
  • The object could be replaced with the pronoun ‘it’
  • If the direct object is long, the verb should stay with the preposition

Intransitive phrasal verbs:

subject + verb + preposition / adverb  +  no direct object

We headed out.


  • Inseparable phrasal verbs must stay next to each other. They never get separated.

Some phrasal verbs are always separated:

  • run it by her
  • make it up to him
  • pass it off as something else
  • ask someone back
  • have something on


What is the difference between phrasal verbs and idioms?

Phrasal verbs:

Phrasal verbs could be used as collocations, but collocations cannot be used as phrasal verbs. Most phrasal verbs are confusing because it is not possible to guess the meaning by just understanding the verbs and the preposition (the meaning changes when used together).


They are words that are often used together that has a special meaning not deducible from those of the individual words.

Why do language learners make so many mistakes when it comes to phrasal verbs and idioms?

  • They translate directly from their first language to English 

  • They get confused with the multiple meanings or use the incorrect form or sentence structure

How can you improve?

  • Read more, listen to English music and watch English movies / series
  • Memorize the meanings of the phrasal verbs you are not familiar with and use it in conversation
  • Try to use the right form and correct yourself if you are uncertain


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