Ah, phrasal verbs— nothing can be more important when it comes to communicating in English.

Imagine asking someone to turn on the lights if you don’t know the proper phrasal verb. You’d end up saying something like this:

“Can you please move the switch on the wall upwards so the electrical circuit can be closed, resulting in the light coming into the room?”

Ok, maybe this is a bit of an exaggeration. But the overall point is correct— phrasal verbs simplify your communication and make you sound more like a native English speaker. That’s why it’s so important that you know and use them. One problem though— there are literally thousands of them. And often, they don’t make any sense: like turn on for example. Why is it “turn” and not something else? It can drive you crazy to think about, so it’s best not to ask why— just try really hard to learn them!

On that subject, here’s a quick list of some confusing phrasal verbs you may come across in business English, as well as examples of how to use them.

Answer For

If you made a mistake and someone important expects you to explain yourself, you are being made to answer for something. Here’s an example: “The General was brought before the court and forced to answer for his war crimes.” Usually, the mistake you “answer for” is something serious, so save this phrase for important situations.

Cheer Up

If you’ve done something special to make a sad person happy, congratulations: you cheered them up. Here’s an example of this phrase in a sentence:

“Her dog died. What can we do to cheer her up?” Cheer up can be used with a pronoun or noun in between the words, or with the two words in the phrase together, like in the encouraging request “Cheer up!”

“Cheer” is a fairly outdated word for “happiness” that isn’t heard much anymore, other than this phrase and the related phrase “cheer on,” which means “vocally support someone at a competition.”

Chip In

“Chip in” means “to contribute money or time to a group cause.”

“Let’s all chip in so we can buy a birthday present for the office manager” is an example of chipping in. It only happens in groups of people, typically larger ones.

Make Do With

When you “make do with” something, you accept it even though it’s not as good as the thing you really want. “I really want a Coke, but I will have to make do with Pepsi” is a sentence that expresses this idea. You never “make do” with something you really like, it’s always something that’s less satisfactory.

Put Off

There’s a famous phrase that goes “Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today.” Put off means “to postpone,” and if you’re the type of person who waits to do important things or has to constantly prioritize their projects, you probably put things off fairly often. We commonly use the preposition “until” with this phrase, as in “I need to put that off until tomorrow.”

When it comes to online business English classes, we believe that students should have the power. We work closely with each of our business English students to ensure they get exactly what they need from their lessons. If phrasal verbs are a trouble spot, let us know— a little practice goes a long way! If you’re ready to take the next step in your career, contact Verbalize Now to find out more about our online business English classes. After all, upgrading your business English is what we do!