Advanced Grammar for IELTS: Multi-word verbs

Advanced Grammar for IELTS: Multi-word verbs – Diagnose Test, Grammar Explanation & Practice Exercises


Multi-word verbs

Rewrite these sentences replacing the underlined words with the words in brackets. Make any necessary changes to word order.


She repaid the debt punctually. (on time/paid/back/it)

==> ……..She paid it back on time……………………

  1. The whole story was invented by Suzy’s brother. (by/him/made/was/up)
  2. Maintain the good work. (up/it/keep)
  3. Make sure you carefully follow the guidelines. (strictly/to/stick)
  4. This tie doesn’t match that shirt…… (it/with/go)
  5. We met my wife’s cousin by chance at the museum. (into/him/ran)
  6. These are the beliefs our movement upholds. (stands/which/for/our movement)
  7. The company won’t tolerate this kind of behaviour. (with/it/put/up)
  8. I revealed the secret to Elizabeth. (it/her/in/let/on)

Eight of the following sentences contain grammatical mistakes or an inappropriate verb or multi-word verb. Tick () the correct sentences and correct the others.


They’re a company with which we’ve been dealing for many years.   ……………….

Her Majesty turned up at the ceremony in the dazzling Imperial State Coach. ==> arrived

  1. That division was taken by head office over.
  2. The very first breakout of the disease was reported in Namibia.
  3. Steve was left by his ex-girlfriend out from her wedding invitation list.
  4. It is a condition of receiving this Internet account that you do not give away your confidential PIN number to any third party.
  5. Could you activate the kettle, darling? I’m dying for a cup of tea.
  6. He fell down the floor and hurt himself.
  7. Come on! We’re going to be late!
  8. The plane took off the ground at incredible speed.
  9. The government brought recently in some legislation to deal with the problem.
  10. There are few people for whom he cares so deeply.
  11. They took Clive up on his invitation.
  12. We look forward eagerly to your wedding.

B        GRAMMAR   EXPLANATION: Multi-word verbs

A common feature of English is the combination of verbs with prepositions and/or adverbs to create multi-word verbs, e.g. to put off, to put out, to put up with. These verbs can be difficult for learners because the meanings often cannot be worked out from the individual words, and there are special rules about the position of objects with these verbs. We sometimes refer to all multi-word verbs as ‘phrasal verbs’, although there are several different types.


1A. Overview

Multi-word verbs are formed from a verb, e.g. grow, plus an adverbial particle, e.g. away, back, out, or a prepositional particle, e.g. on, off, up. There are four types of multi-word verb and each type has different rules, for example about the use or position of the object:

Type 1 intransitive phrasal verbs

e.g. take off:

The plane took off very late. (There is no object.)

Type 2 transitive phrasal verbs

e.g. put something off :

We’re putting the party off / putting off the party because of the awful weather.

(The noun object can go before or after the particle.)

Type 3 prepositional verbs

e.g. cope with something :

How does she cope with all those kids? (The object goes after the particle.)

Type 4 phrasal-prepositional verbs

e.g. look forward to something :

They’re looking forward to the holidays. (The object goes after the particles.)

Learner dictionaries indicate which type a verb is by showing a noun object with the verb:

put sb/ sth off phr v [T] to arrange to do something at a later  time or date, especially because there is a problem, difficulty etc:

They’ve put the meeting off till next week.

Multi-word verbs form tenses, and are used in questions and negatives and in the passive voice, in the same way as other verbs:

Will you be putting the party off? (future continuous question)

The party has been put off until next month. (present perfect passive)

We never separate the verb and particle in the passive form:

X  That story was made by a resentful employee up

  That story was made up by a resentful employee.

We can sometimes form nouns from multi-word verbs.

The car broke down five kilometres from home.   (multi-word verb)

The breakdown happened five kilometres from home. (noun)

In some cases the order of the verb and particle is reversed in the noun derived from them:

The epidemic first broke out in Namibia. (multi-word verb)

The first outbreak of the epidemic was in Zaire. (noun)

1B. Formal and informal use

Where a multi-word verb has no exact synonym, e.g. grow up, we can use it in formal and informal contexts. However, when there is a single verb with an equivalent meaning, e.g. think about (= consider), the multi-word verb tends to be used in informal contexts while the single verb is more formal. Compare these examples:

[The bank will think about your application in due course.]

The bank will consider your application in due course. (formal)

[Honestly, how can you consider money at a time like this!]

Honestly, how can you think about money at a time like this! (informal)

1C. Meaning

It is sometimes possible to get an idea of the meaning of a multi-word verb from its particle, because some particles are associated with areas of meaning, for example:

on – starting/continuing/progressing, e.g. carry on, take on, get on
out – thoroughness, e.g. work out, see out, mark out
up – completion/finality, e.g. give up, break up, eat up

Note: However, these areas of meaning can be abstract and may not cover all cases.


2A. Intransitive verbs

Intransitive phrasal verbs (type 1) consist of a verb plus an adverb. Phrasal verbs usually have a meaning which is different from the meaning of the separate parts:

Getting by on my salary isn’t easy! (= managing)

Rollerblading never really caught on in England. (= became popular)

As intransitive phrasal verbs have no direct object, they cannot be made passive:

X  My car broke down the engine.

My car broke down

Intransitive phrasal verbs are sometimes used in imperatives:

Watch out. That floor’s not very solid.

Come on! I can’t wait all day!

2B. Transitive verbs

Transitive phrasal verbs (type 2) consist of a verb + adverb and have a direct object (either a pronoun or a noun):

It isn’t true, I made it up. I made up that story.

If the object is a noun, it can either be between the verb and particle, or after the particle:

I made a story up. I made up a story.

If the object is a pronoun, we put it between the verb and particle, but not after the particle:

X  I made up it.

I made it up.

Note: We can’t put an adverb between the verb and particle or between the particle and object:

X  I paid early back the loan.

I paid back early the loan.

I paid the loan back early.

Note: We can’t put a relative pronoun immediately before or after the particle.

X  That’s the room which up I did.

X   That’s the room up which I did.

That’s the room which I did up.

Some phrasal verbs have a transitive use with one meaning, and an intransitive use with a different meaning. Compare:

The plane took off on time. (take off, intransitive = become airborne)

The man took off his coat. (take something off, transitive = remove)


3A. Form and use

Prepositional verbs (type 3) consist of a verb, e.g. look, plus a preposition, e.g. into, at. for. The combination of the verb and preposition creates a new meaning which can sometimes, but not always, be worked out from the parts:

She looked for her missing passport. (= searched, tried to find)

Would you mind looking into his complaint? (= investigating, researching)

These verbs are transitive. We put the noun or pronoun object after the preposition, and not between the verb and preposition:

X  We didn’t fall his story for.

X  We didn’t fall it for.

We didn’t fall for it/his story

With prepositional verbs (but not phrasal verbs above) we can put an adverb between the verb and preposition. But we cannot put an adverb between the preposition and object:

X  She parted with reluctantly her money.

She parted reluctantly with her money.

3B. Special uses

In formal English we sometimes prefer to avoid a preposition at the end of a sentence. With prepositional verbs (but not phrasal verbs above) we can put the preposition in front of the relative pronouns whom or which:

These are the principles (which) our party stands for.

==>These are the principles for which our party stands.

That’s the type of client (whom) I’m dealing with.

==> That’s the type of client with whom I’m dealing.

Note: But we cannot put the preposition after whom or which:

X  These are the principles which for our party stands.

Some prepositional verbs are mainly used in the passive form , especially in written English:

The marketing strategy is aimed at a target audience of 18 to 25 year olds.


4A. Form and use

These verbs (type 4) are formed by combining a verb with an adverb and Form and preposition. The combination creates a new meaning which cannot usually be use understood from the meanings of the individual parts:

We look forward to hearing from you. (= anticipate with pleasure)

They are transitive and can be made passive:

All her employees looked up to her. (active)

She was looked up to by all her employees. (passive)

We can never use a noun or pronoun object between the particles:

X  I can’t put up this treatment/it with any longer.

We cannot usually put a noun or pronoun object immediately after the verb:

X  I can’t put this treatment /it up with any longer.

I can’t put up with this treatment/ it any longer.

The exception is when the verb has two objects, e.g. let somebody in on something, take somebody up on something:

We let James in on the plan.        We took her up on her offer.

Note: We cannot put an adverb before the first particle or after the final particle, but we can use an adverb between the two particles:

X  He stands strongly up for his principles. (verb + adverb + particle)

X  He stands up for strongly his principle. (particle + particle + adverb)

 He stands up strongly for his principles. (particle + adverb+ particle)


These tables include all multi-word verbs which occur at least ten times per million words in the Longman Corpus Network. (Below, sb = somebody and sth = something.)

5A. Type 1: intransitive phrasal verbs:

break down (= stop working), catch on (= understand/become popular), come back (= return), come in, come on. fall out (= quarrel), fall through, fit in, get by (= manage/cope), get up, go away, go on (= continue), go out, grow up, look out, pass out (= faint), shut up. sit down, stand up, stay on (= remain), take off, turn up (= arrive), wake up, watch out.

5B. Type 2: transitive phrasal verbs

act sth out {= perform/demonstrate), bottle sth up {= not allow a feeling to show), bring sth in (= introduce), bring sb up (= rear), bring sth up (= mention sth/introduce a topic), carry sth out (= perform/undertake). do sth up (= restore/redecorate). fill sth in/out (= complete in writing), find sth out (= discover), fix sth up (= arrange), give sth away (= reveal), give sth up (= stop), hold sth up (= delay), keep sth up (= maintain), leave sth/sb out, let sth out (= release), look sth up. make sth up (= invent), pay sb back, pick sth up (= collect), point sth out (= highlight/explain), pull sth/sb down (= demolish, demote), put sth away, put sth off (= postpone), put sth on, put sb up (= accommodate), run sb down (= criticise), set sth up (= establish/implement/organise), take sth over, take sth up, throw sth away, turn sthlsb down (= refuse), turn sth/sb out.

5C. Type 3: prepositional verbs

call for sb, care for sb, come across sth (= encounter), cope with sth, deal with sth (= manage, handle), fall for sth (= be tricked), feel like sth, get at sb/sth, get over sth (= recover from), get through {= finish successfully), go into sth, go with sth (= match), ead to sth, look after sb/sth, look at sth (= observe), look into sth (= investigate), look like sth (= resemble), look round sth (= visit, etc.), part with sth, pay for sth, rely on sth/sb, run into sb (= meet by chance), see to sth (= organise/manage), send for sb, stand for sth (= represent/mean/tolerate), stick to sth (= persevere/follow), take after sb, talk about sth, think about sth (= consider).

The following prepositional verbs are usually used in the passive:

be aimed at (= intended for), be applied to, be considered as, be derived from, be known as, be regarded as, be used as, be used in

5D. Type 4: phrasal-prepositional verbs

back out of sth, break in on sth, catch up on sth/sb, catch up with sb, check up on sth / sb, come across as sth (= appear to be), come down to sth (= be essentially), come up with sth (= invent), cut down on sth (= reduce), do away with sth, drop in on sb, face up to sth (= confront), get away with sth, get back to sth (= return), get down to sth, get on with sth, get out of sth, give in to sth, go out for sth, go up to sb (= approach), keep away from sb/sth (= avoid), keep up with sb. look down on sb, look forward to sth (= anticipate), look out for sblsth, look up to sb (= admire/respect), make away with sth, move on to sth, put up with sth/sb (= tolerate), run away with sb, run off with sth, stand up for sth (= defend), turn away from sth, walk out on sth/sb

The following phrasal-prepositional verbs are usually used in the passive:

be cut off from, be made up of, be set out in

Also check :


Q 1.

Underline the most suitable verb in bold in each of these sentences.

1          Don’t stop now Liz. Continue/ Go on, I’m dying to hear the end of the story!

2          In a bid to improve diplomatic relations, the Foreign Office has arranged/fixed up a visit by senior embassy staff.

3          The court sentences you to life imprisonment, with the recommendation that you not be released /let out for a minimum period of twenty years.

4          Owing to a lack of military support, the United Nations feels unable to maintain /keep up its presence in the war-torn province.

5          I don’t think your dad trusts me – he’s always observing / looking at me.

6          You’ve got to make an effort, darling. You’ll never lose weight unless you reduce / cut down on the amount of fatty food you eat.

7          The government have announced plans to abolish/ do away with the disabled person’s vehicle allowance in the next budget.

8          My little brother’s always getting bullied at school. He just won’t confront/ face up to the other kids.

9          The presidential party will arrive / turn up at the palace shortly before luncheon.

10        My best friend always exaggerates – half the things he says are just invented/ made up!

Q 2.

Rewrite these sentences using an appropriate multi-word verb. You must use a pronoun ( it, him,

her, them) to replace the underlined object. In some cases you may have to change the word order. The exercise begins with an example (0).

0            They’ve postponed the housewarming party until Friday.

==> They’ve put it off until Friday

1            Would you mind organising the removal yourself?

2            I met Steve and Terri quite by chance at the supermarket this morning.

3            I’ve arranged the meeting for ten o’clock tomorrow.

4            You’re always criticising your colleagues.                                        ,

5            I’m sure the police will investigate the burglary.                  .

6            The builders undertook the job very professionally.

7            Could you collect the children from school tonight?

8            Has Perry recovered from the flu yet?

9            She really resembles her parents, doesn’t she?

10          Would you highlight the advantages for me?

Q 3.

What are the people saying in the pictures on the next page? Write a short sentence for each situation using multi-word verbs and a suitable pronoun (it, them, you, etc.). All the multi-word verbs you need can be formed from the verbs in brackets and the particles in the box. The first one has been done as an example (0).

PARTICLES:        after        at          down        off         out       up (x2)           with



Q 4.

Rewrite the parts of the sentences in brackets with the words in the correct order.

0          Don’t (tomorrow/put/until/off/it); do it now.

==> Don’t put it off until tomorrow

1          Thanks for the invitation; (looking/to/I’m/it/forward).

2          The evil witch (frog/prince/the/into/turned/handsome/a).

3          I won’t have any sugar thank you; (it/I’ve/up/given).

4          There isn’t a death penalty any longer; (away/they’ve/it/done/with).

5          He’s the footballer (million/a/team/manager/for/the/paid/whom/dollars).

6          I have a small trust fund; (by/it/my/was/set/grandfather/up).

Q 5.    

Read the magazine article below. Then use the information in the text to complete the informal summary on the next page. Use no more than three words for each gap (1-18), including the word in brackets. The words you need are all multi-word verbs and do not occur in the newspaper article. The exercise begins with an example (0).

When anger is healthy

Everyone knows that not allowing oneself to show feelings of anger and resentment can be very unhealthy, leading to stress and long-term feelings of inadequacy and powerlessness. But how do we release our anger without looking foolish or petulant?

The first thing to learn is that expressing your anger and losing your temper arc not the same thing at all. One is natural and healthy, the other is destructive and dangerous. We usually admire those who can express their anger calmly, and see them as ‘firm but fair’ or mature and self-confident. While those who lose their temper appear to be immature, childish, selfish and aggressive.

Mandy Dickson is a psychologist who has established a successful one-day anger workshop that helps ordinary people to learn about and manage their anger. The seminar is not intended for criminals or the mentally ill, but for those ordinary people who feel powerless to control their own tempers.

The first thing Mandy explains is that anger is a natural and normal feeling, and that feeling angry about something is nothing to be ashamed of. But we need to recognise anger when we feel it, and to investigate its true causes. Once we know the real cause of anger we can confront it and begin to do something positive about it. Mandy asks participants to complete a questionnaire about things that make them angry. By comparing these ‘triggers’ people often discover that the true causes of anger are other feelings, especially fear, disappointment and grief. But because it is not socially acceptable in our culture to openly demonstrate these feelings, we express them as anger. This is particularly true for men who, even in these enlightened times, are expected to hide any feelings of inadequacy or fear and be strong and stoical in all situations.

Having recognised the causes of anger, the first step is to learn how to avoid anger-inducing situations. The next step is to learn how to express one’s feelings calmly and firmly. Mandy believes that when we are angry we want other people to understand our anger and sympathise with it. But we often fall into the trap of expressing anger by criticising those around us, when what we really want is their support and empathy. One of the most common causes of anger is when other people fail to behave in a way you expect them to. But as Mandy explains, human beings are not telepathic, they cannot be expected to automatically anticipate other people’s desires and wishes. So an essential tool in reducing the occurrence of anger-inducing situations is to always explain exactly what you want and expect from those around you. It is all essentially a question of communication.


We know (0)…bottling up ….(bottle) anger can be unhealthy. But how do we (1)…..(let) our anger without seeming foolish? Expressing anger and losing your temper are different things. One is healthy, the other dangerous. We (2) … (look) people who express anger calmly, but those who lose their temper (3) … (come) immature and aggressive. Mandy Dickson has (4) … (set) a one-day anger workshop which helps people learn about and (5) …         (deal) their anger. It is (6) …(aim) ordinary people who don’t feel able to control their tempers. She (7) … (point) that anger is natural and nothing to be ashamed of, but we should recognise it and (8) … (look) its true causes. Then we can (9) … (face) it, and begin to do something positive. Participants (10) … (fill) a questionnaire about things that make them angry. They compare their responses and often (11) … (find) that the causes are other feelings such as fear or grief. But in our culture it isn’t acceptable to (12) … (act) these feelings in public. Men, in particular, are supposed to (13) … (cover) these feelings.

Once we know the causes of anger, we must learn how to (14) … (keep) situations which will induce them. When we are angry we want other people to understand us, but we often make the mistake of (15) … (run) those around us. Anger is often caused by the feeling that you have been (16) … (let) by other people. But we can’t always expect other people to know our feelings. So the most important way to (17) … (cut) the number of anger-producing situations is to tell people exactly how we feel. It really all (18) …  (come) communication.

Q 6.

Rewrite John’s half of this unnatural telephone conversation in a more natural, informal style. Use the multi-word verbs in the box to replace the underlined verbs and phrases. Replace nouns with pronouns where possible and make any other necessary changes, as in this example:

JOHN    (0) I’ve just demolished the conservatory.   ==> …. I’ve just pulled it down…..

do sth up

put up with sb

stay up

get on with sb

put sb up

turn sth into sth

look down on sb

put sth up

take sth off

look forward to sth

sit down

take sth up

finish sth off

sort sth out

turn sth down

pull sth down

DAVE        John, it’s Dave. How are things?

JOHN         Sorry, I can’t hear you. (1) I’ll just reduce the volume on the radio. That’s better.

DAVE        How are things? Still working on the house?

JOHN        Yes. (2) We’ve completed the work on the kitchen and (3) we’re renovating the dining room. (4) We’re transforming the room into a second bedroom. (5) I’ve just mounted the wallpaper but I’ve been having trouble getting it (6) to remain vertically attached.

DAVE       I know what you mean. I hate wallpapering.

JOHN      (7) And it’s all got to be organised and ready by Saturday. Jane’s mother is coming and we’re (8) providing accommodation for her for a few days.

DAVE         I thought you didn’t like her.

JOHN        (9) We don’t interact in a friendly way with each other but (10) I can tolerate her for a few days.

DAVE         Why do you dislike her so much?

JOHN       (11) I’m sure she regards me as inferior to her. And she’s so lazy, I mean she comes in, (12) removes her coat, (13) assumes a seated position and expects us to wait on her hand and foot!

DAVE         I see what you mean. Sounds like a nightmare.

JOHN       (14) Mm. I think I might commence gardening as a hobby – just to get me out of the house!

DAVE        Good idea. Well, I’d better let you get on. And don’t forget about our party on Friday.

JOHN          (15) Of course not. I’m anticipating the party with pleasure.


1                 was made up by him.

2                 Keep it up.

3                 stick strictly to

4                 go with it.

5                 ran into him

6                 which our movement stands for./ for which our movement stands.

7                 put up with it.

8                 let her in on it.

9                 by head office over ==> over by head office

10               breakout  ==> outbreak

11               left by his ex- girlfriend out ==> left out by his ex-girlfriend

12               not give away ==> not reveal (give away is an inappropriate verb in a formal context)

13              activate   ==>  turn on/switch on (activate is an inappropriate verb in an informal context)

14               down the floor and ==> down (on the floor) and

15               ✓

16               took off the ground at incredible speed ==> took off (from the ground) at incredible speed.

17                brought recently in ==> recently brought in

18               ✓

19               ✓

20               ✓


Q 1.

  1. Go on
  2. arranged
  3. released
  4. maintain
  5. looking at
  6. cut down on
  7. abolish
  8. face up to
  9. arrive
  10. made up

Q 2.

  1. Would you mind seeing to it/sorting it out yourself?
  2. I ran into them at the supermarket this morning.
  3. I’ve fixed it up for ten o’clock tomorrow.
  4. You’re always running them down.
  5. I’m sure the police will look into it.
  6. The builders carried it out very professionally.
  7. Could you pick them up from school tonight?
  8. Has Perry got over it yet?
  9. She really looks like them/takes after them, doesn’t she?
  10. Would you point them out for me?

Q 3. (Suggested answers)

  1. He takes after you.
  2. Put it down!
  3. Please take it off.
  4. It doesn’t go with it.
  5. Pick it up!
  6. Drink it up.
  7. Look at them!

Q 4.

  1. I’m looking forward to it
  2. turned the handsome prince into a frog/turned the frog into a handsome prince
  3. I’ve given it up
  4. they’ve done away with it
  5. for whom the team manager paid a million dollars
  6. it was set up by my grandfather

Q 5.    

  1. let out
  2. look up to
  3. come across as
  4. set up
  5. deal with
  6. aimed at
  7. points out
  8. look into
  9. face up to
  10. fill in/fill out
  11. find out
  12. act out
  13. cover up
  14. keep away from
  15. running down
  16. let down
  17. cut down
  18. comes down to

Q 6.

  1. I’ll just turn the radio down
  2. We’ve finished off the kitchen
  3. We’re doing up the dining room
  4. We’re turning it into a second bedroom
  5. I’ve just put the wallpaper up
  6. stay up
  7. sorted out
  8. putting her up
  9. get on with each other
  10. put up with her
  11. looks down on me
  12. takes her coat off
  13. sits down
  14. I think I might take up gardening
  15. looking forward to it

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Misbah Kagad is a Content Marketing Specialist, currently working as IELTS Trainer at Experience Expert with a demonstrated history of working in the education management industry. Skilled in Copywriting, Web Content writing, Management, IELTS and Research. Strong professional with a Diploma focused in Computer Science... Currently helping aspirants to crack IELTS, with tips and tricks to score a bandwidth of 8 and more. Handles the ideation and creation of compelling content including content for IELTS website, writing e-books and solving previous IELTS question papers…

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