47 phrasal verbs and their one-word substitutions

The following is a list of commonly deployed phrasal verbs that find one use or another in academic texts. These (and others) can be acceptably used in academic texts. Along with these examples, however, are a number of one-word substitutions to illustrate that in each case the phrasal verb can be easily replaced.

Table of contents

As you look through the substitutions, be aware that phrasal verbs (like other verbs) often have more than one definition and more than one context of proper use.

This flexibility means that although these substitutions work for the examples given, and although the examples are common uses of phrasal verbs, a suggested replacement will not cover every possible use of its phrasal verb.


Note: If it uses a pronoun, the separable phrasal verb must be separated (e.g. “He added up the number” but “He added it up”).

Phrasal verbsExample usesDefinitions and Replacements
Add upJames added up the number of affirmative responses.calculate
Buy outThe large company bought out the smaller.purchase (someone’s assets)
Buy upThe business’s assets were bought up in the auction.purchase (all of something)
Call offThe order was to call off the strike immediately.cancel
Carry onThe meeting will carry on in your absence.continue
Carry outSam carried out the research because Jimmy couldn’t find the time.execute
Cut outBecause the subsection was not directly relevant to the rest of the paper, Randal had to cut it out.excise
Find outThe purpose of the literature review is find out what has been said on the topic.discover
Get (it) over with (must be split)Isa and the other participants were happy to get the laborious questionnaire over with.complete
Get acrossLars’s paper has too many grammatical mistakes, meaning he couldn’t get his message across.communicate
Give upThe outnumbered forces would not give up.surrender
Hold upWhen deadlines approach, a student cannot let anything hold up the completion of an assignment.delay
Leave outThe witness left out a number of important details.omit
Make upWe asked participants to make up a scenario in which they would be content.fabricate
Make outIn the darkness he could not make out the size of the camp.see
Pass upWe could not pass up this opportunity to collaborate.forgo
Pass onThe common flu can be passed on through saliva.transmit
Pass outOur research assistants passed out four-hundred surveys to a random sample of shoppers.distribute
Pick upThis study picks Dekker’s research up where he left it.resume
Point outHendriks (2010) points out that such a study might be useful.explain
Set upThe equipment’s sensitivity meant we had to set it up with utmost care.arrange
Turn downRegretfully, the board must turn down a number of applicants every year.reject
Use upThe campers were thirsty after they used up the last of the water.exhaust


Phrasal verbsExample usesDefinitions and Replacements
Back out ofSeveral subjects backed out of their treatment.abandon
Bear onFoucault’s writings still bear on contemporary thought about prison.influence
Catch up withIt will take some time for our newer coal mines to catch up with our older ones.equal
Call onI call on the work of other contemporary thinkers.utilize
Call forThe act of aggression called for immediate response.necessitate
Count onThe question is, should a citizen be able to count on its government to preserve free access to clean water?rely on
Cut down onPracticed writers cut down on unnecessary adverbs and adjectives.reduce
Come up withHannah had to come up with a way to isolate the variable.invent
Fall apartThe board of directors fell apart.disintegrate
Get awaySeveral of them sought to get away from the cold winter night.escape
Get along withThey commonly exaggerated the degree to which the indigenous tribes would not get along with one another.be friendly with
Give inAfter a long pause for thought, he gave in to the demands.yield
Go onBakker went on to win a prestigious award.continue
Hold on toSven tried everything, but could not hold on to his youth.keep
Hold outBram would hold out until morning when the supplies arrived.wait
Hold out onNapoleon would not tolerate his generals holding out on him.hide (something)
Look intoWe have a hypothesis, but we must look into other possible explanations for the phenomenon.research
Look out forAmong 50 respondents who regularly walk home from work in the middle of the night, 45 indicated looking out for criminals.safeguard against
Make sure ofTo print the name of interviewee, an author must make sure of the interviewee’s consent.ensure
Pick up onThe data show various relationships that we had not picked up on.notice
Put up withThe country will put up with a certain number of economic sanctions.tolerate
See toThe custodian would see to the security of the building.arrange
Take afterThis new state takes after its regional neighbours.resemble
Touch onAt the beginning of his speech, Finn found it necessary to touch on the circumstances of the event.mention
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Shane Bryson

Shane finished his master's degree in English literature in 2013 and has been working as a writing tutor and editor since 2009. He began proofreading and editing essays with Scribbr in early summer, 2014.

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September 23, 2017 at 9:18 PM

It is really interesting this article. Thanks a lot.

How can I learn and improve my writing skils



Lucy Vleeshouwers
Lucy Vleeshouwers (Scribbr-team)
October 9, 2017 at 4:26 PM

Hi John,

Thank you, glad to hear you liked our article!
Maybe this article on academic writing can help you to improve your skills: https://www.scribbr.com/category/academic-writing/



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