Communicating with native English speakers in a business setting means you’ll hear phrasal verbs at least once, if not several times, during a conversation. Phrasal verbs can make the conversation confusing and difficult to follow for non-native English speakers. As defined in the Grammarly handbook, phrasal verbs are verbs used with another word (an adverb or preposition) to create a commonly used phrase. Phrasal verbs are idiomatic — you can’t deduce the meaning of a phrasal verb by interpreting each of the words it contains literally. For example, if you say, “I’ll look into the mirror,” you are going to direct your sight to a mirror. In this case, look into is not a phrasal verb; it’s simply a verb followed by a preposition. On the other hand, if you say, “I don’t know what phrasal verbs are, but I’ll look into it,” you are not directing your sight into phrasal verbs—you are going to find out more about them. Reviewing phrasal verbs and their definitions will help with your comprehension. Let’s take a look at ten common phrasal verbs used in business.
1 To ask around Definition: to ask many people the same question Example: “I will ask around to find out who wants to go to lunch together.”
2 To call back Definition: to return a phone call Example: “I called her yesterday and am waiting for her to call back.”
3 To come across Definition: to find unexpectedly Example: “If you come across my keys while you’re in the break room, please bring them to me.”
4 To dropby Definition: to visit briefly; to meet without making an appointment first Example: “Drop by my office after the meeting so we can discuss this further.”
5 To figure (something) out Definition: to find the answer; to understand Example: “The solution isn’t clear to me right now. I’ll figure it out and give you the answer later.”
6 To run by/past Definition: to discuss something with a person for his or her opinion Example: “Please run it by Arthur. He has done this type of project before and can let you know how it should look.”
7 To shop around Definition: to compare prices for or quality of an item from different sources (similar to ask around) Example: “Our usual supplier is expensive. Let’s shop around for a better price on the cases.”
8 To think (something) over Definition: to consider Example: “We have several possible plans to think over. We need another day to consider them.”
9 To write up Definition: to type on a computer, usually from a rough draft or handwritten notes; to create a complete version Example: “After the meeting, please write up the minutes and email them to everyone so we know who will do which tasks this week.”
10 To zero in on Definition: to focus closely on Example: “We can zero in on the candidates for this position during the interviews. Right now we can only see how talented they are on paper.”
Phrasal verbs can be tricky for English learners, because you may understand the words individually but not as a phrase. After learning common phrasal verbs used in business and hearing them repeatedly, you’ll become more comfortable with them. Gaining a clear understanding and practicing them will help you to integrate them into your own vocabulary.