business phrasal verbs

Phrasal verbs are an important part of the English language and you should teach your students the most common ones.

How to teach phrasal verbs

As you know, they are notoriously difficult to teach. Here is some advice to help your students understand and memorise them.

1. Only teach a few phrasal verbs at a time. Five verbs are plenty for a half an hour session. Your students will need time to practice and digest the content.

2. Make sure your student understands where to put the pronoun. For example, you can say ‘sort out the problem,’ and, ‘sort the problem out.’ However, with the pronoun, it must be, ‘sort it out’. You cannot say this any other way.

The rule on pronouns

Most of the time, if the verb has two components, the pronoun goes in the middle for example, ‘she takes on the project‘, ‘she takes it on.’ (There are, however, exceptions to this rule such as ‘care for’). If it has more than two, then the pronoun goes at the end. For example, ‘I get on well with my neighbour, ‘I get on well with him.’

3. Practice the target language by asking and answering questions, making sentences or doing a role play. It’s important that your students verbally practise this vocabulary with you before they have to use it in real life.  

4. Ask your student what they think each verb is in their native language, so that they fully understand the meaning. Perhaps it’s a Latin-based word (for example,to set upcould be translated as to configure’) or maybe it’s a phrase. The student shouldn’t break into their native language in the lesson, but it’s important that they have a good idea of the translation.

Mergers and new projects


To take on – to hire a new employee, or, to attach more work or responsibility to an individual.

‘He is taking on more clients at the moment.’

‘I can’t take on any more work. I have too much already.’

To take over (noun: ‘A takeover’) an outside force takes control of something.

‘Our company is being taken over by a multinational corporation.’


To roll out –  to make a new productservice, or system available for the first time.

‘FedEx will roll out its new logistics service next spring.’

To set out – to try to achieve something new.

‘We will set out to build a Europe-wide network of suppliers by next year.’

To sign off on – to get the final approval to conclude something.

‘The bosses signed off on the project and so we’re finished!’

Speaking practice

Ask your students some of these questions:

  • What projects have your company taken on in the last year? Will you be taking on any new staff soon?
  • Tell me about a big takeover in your industry.
  • Give me an example of a roll out of a new product or infrastructure in your industry.
  • How long does it typically take to get sign off from management after completing a project?



To bring up a subject – to introduce a subject in a meeting.

‘We have to bring up the issue with the planning department next meeting. This is getting ridiculous.

To come up with an idea – an idea for a project suddenly appears in your mind.

‘They came up with a brilliant idea for the marketing campaign.’

To follow up – to continue a meeting with another action.

‘I will follow this up with an email next week.’

To set up – to organise something (often a meeting), configure or connect cables to an electronic device.

 ‘Can you set up my computer please? I can’t set up my calendar.’


To call off – to cancel a meeting or event.

‘They called off the conference at the last moment.’

To point out – say something to make someone aware of a fact or circumstance.

‘Can I just point out; we need a bigger budget to make this possible.’

To turn up/ to show up – to arrive at a meeting and event when you are expected.

‘Where’s John?’ ‘He hasn’t shown up yet.’

Speaking practice

Ask your student some of these questions:

  • Who usually sets up meetings in your department?
  • Who usually shows up late?
  • What was the last great idea you or a colleague came up with?
  • If your boss said something that was factually wrong during a meeting, how would you point it out without embarrassing him/her?



To carry on – to continue an activity.

‘She carried on working until she was 70.’

To go on – to continue speaking or continue moving.

‘Please go on and finish what you were saying.’

To put off – to postpone.

‘I had a dentist appointment but now I have to put it off until next week due to work.’

To write down / to take down/ to note down information – to quickly put pen to paper to note information.

‘I have a new phone number.’ ‘Oh really, I’ll take it down.’


To carry out – to complete a task or transaction.

‘They will carry out the survey next week.’

Solving problems and research


To deal with – to ‘treat’ problems or situations.

‘I will deal with the structural problem. Can you deal with the budget?’

To find out about – to look for information outside of your immediate knowledge.

‘I don’t know what time the train leaves but I will find out.’

To look into a problem – to investigate a problem.

‘My boss is looking into why we have had such bad network problems recently.’

To sort out – to arrange, organise or repair.

 ‘I need to sort out the party.’ ‘Have you sorted out the files yet?’

To work out / to figure out – to calculate, decipher or find a solution.

‘I can’t work out how to set up my out-of-office message. Can you help me?’

Speaking practice
  • Tell me the steps to figuring out a solution to a client’s problem.
  • What was the last issue that you had to deal with/sort out?

Sales and profit


To close down – a shop or other business closes permanently.

‘It’s so sad the family-run fruit and vegetable shop on the high street is closing down.’

To take advantage of – to profit from.

‘Let’s take advantage of the weather and go for a picnic.’


To buy out – to exit a business by allowing someone else to buy it completely.

‘My uncle owns a grocery store but he let a big supermarket buy out his business.’

To give away – to give something for free.

‘My company is giving away free samples this week.’

To sell out – all of a type of product is sold leaving none left.

‘The shop has sold out of bread.’

Speaking practice

In the UK and US there is a lot of talk about ‘The retail apocalypse’. Is this happening in your country do you think?

What can stores do to encourage people to shop in physical locations rather than online?

Contracts and agreements


To draw up an agreement / contract – to make a contract or agreement.

‘We need to draw up an agreement to determine who will manage the building.’

To back out – not to complete a deal because one party retreats from the deal.

‘We can’t back out now. Everything is signed.’

To hold out – to wait for a better agreement.

‘My boss held out for a better price for the company and it worked!’

To turn down – to reject something (this is often more polite than ‘to reject’).

‘He turned down the job offer.

Other very useful phrasal verbs

To catch up with something/someone – to reach the same level as everyone else.

‘My father catches up with the news on his tablet.’

‘I have to catch up with work tonight. Sorry, I can’t go out.’

To get ahead – to become successful in one’s life or career.

‘He had a small building company but he wanted to get ahead and so he took on some big contracts.’

To run out of something – a resource runs low and needs to be renewed.

‘My phone has run out of battery.’ ‘We are running out of money for this project.’


Here are some great gap fill exercises that you can give your student for homework from tutor Gareth.

Phrasal verbs with multiple meanings practice exercises.

Phrasal verb collocations practice exercises.

Help your students understand phrasal verbs better

Did you know that it’s the preposition in the phrasal verb that conveys the meaning and not the verb. Help your students to understand the deeper meaning of phrasal verbs with Fluentify’s very own Christian from Canguro English.