IELTS Computer Delivered Tests + Band Score

Using Phrasal Verbs in IELTS

Phrasal verbs can be important for IELTS as someone who can use them naturally shows that they have a good command of the English language. They can be used in speaking but also in IELTS letter writing, though this is mostly in informal letters.

You can also watch a video of this lesson:

You also want to be able to recognise them if someone else uses them in their writing or speaking otherwise you may misunderstand what they are saying -  so knowing them will help with listening and reading as well.

What are Phrasal Verbs?

Phrasal verbs are verbs plus a preposition or an adverb (or followed by two).

When these two words are put together, they have a different meaning to what each word means on its own. Here is an example.

"I can’t put up with your rudeness anymore!"

You probably know that the word ‘put’ means to place something somewhere, such as “I put the book on the table”, and the word ‘up’ means to in or towards a higher position.

However, when these words are put together, the meaning completely changes.

To “put up with" = to accept someone or something unpleasant in a patient way


[You are advised to carry on reading this page before taking the quizzes[


It is not this straight forward though. Some phrasal verbs must take an object, and some can be put either side of the object.

For example, look at this illustration with the phrasal verb ‘let down’ (= disappointed):

"I felt let down by my friend".

"My friend really let me down".

Another difficulty is that they are verbs, which obviously means they take a tense and will change according to whether it is past, present or future.

Look at this example with 'break up' (= to end a relationship):

I broke up with my girlfriend last week (= past)

I hope my girlfriend does not break up with me (= present)

I've broken up with my girlfriend (= present perfect)

I think I'm going to break up with my girlfriend (= future)

And also some have more than one meaning:

I've fallen out with my friend

= Argue and be on bad terms with someone

I eat a lot of sweets. I hope my teeth don't fall out

= Become loose and unattached (usually hair or teeth)

Phrasal Verbs and IELTS

As noted above, phrasal verbs can be useful for IELTS, particularly to improve your speaking and letter writing when using informal phrasal verbs.

That said, as with any new vocabulary, you have to be careful with the way you learn them. Its usage needs to be natural.

If you learn some phrases and try to ‘fit’ them into your speaking or writing to get a higher score without knowing them properly, it may sound unnatural and you may make mistakes, which will be noticed by the examiner.

The aim of these pages is to show you how they can be used in an ‘IELTS context’ so the words have been placed in answers to IELTS type speaking questions. There are more formal types of phrasal verbs, but the focus here is on informal ones.

After every 10 words there are phrasal verb exercises to test your knowledge of the words.

But to emphasise again, the words can change according to tense and context, so as you learn them do some internet research on each one to see how it can vary.

Examples of Phrasal Verbs in Use 

Word Set 1

Phrasal Verb Meaning
hang out spend time relaxing (informal)
catch up with Meet someone after a period of time and find out what they have been doing
cut down/back on Reduce
give (something) up Quit / stop doing it
cut out Stop eating something (permanently or for a long time)
find out Discover
get along/on Like each other
fall out Argue and be on bad terms with someone
clean up Tidy / Clean
come across Find something unexpectedly

What do you normally do at the weekends?

I usually just hang out with my friends. We’ll go to the cinema or something. Unfortunately I don’t get the chance to catch up with them often as we are all so busy with work.

Do you have a healthy lifestyle?

I don’t think I really do.  Something I definitely need to do is cut down on the amount I smoke, or even give it up completely. I would also like to cut out red meat from my diet. I’ve read that both of those are unhealthy. I found out recently that my father has cancer, and he smoked a lot when he was younger.

Do you like the place where you live?

Yes, I live with some college friends. There are several of us in the house so it is crowded, but we get along well so we have not had any serious problems. I fell out with one guy who lived there because he played his music too loud, but he has moved out now.

Do you like to collect things?

Not anymore, but the other day I was cleaning up my room when I came across an old album of football stickers. I used to collect them when I was younger.

Test Yourself

How well do you know the 10 words?

In this phrasal verb quiz, you have three choices to fill the gap. Choose the right word or the right word form if it is the same word.

Phrasal Verb Quiz

1. I with her really well. We are best friends.

2. I have a heart problem so I have to my cholesterol intake.

3. with friends is really important to me in the evenings.

4. I hope to with my brother this weekend. I've not seen him for ages.

5. This is very bad - I've with my manager at work.

6. The kitchen is in a right mess. I'll have to

7. I last week that I'm getting a promotion at work.

8. I an old photo of my father yesterday. I hadn't seen it for years.

9. I've completely meat from my diet. I'm now a vegetarian.

10. I with the crossword in the end. It was too difficult.

Score =
Correct answers:

Phrasal Verb Set 2 >

Join IELTS buddy for Free IELTS Tips!


Any comments or questions about this page or about IELTS? Post them here. Your email will not be published or shared.

Enjoy this page? Please pay it forward. Here's how...

Would you prefer to share this page with others by linking to it?

  1. Click on the HTML link code below.
  2. Copy and paste it, adding a note of your own, into your blog, a Web page, forums, a blog comment, your Facebook account, or anywhere that someone would find this page valuable.

Band 7+ eBooks

"I think these eBooks are FANTASTIC!!! I know that's not academic language, but it's the truth!"

Linda, from Italy, Scored Band 7.5

ielts buddy ebooks