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 verbs Example uses Definitions and Replacements
Add up James added up the number of affirmative responses. calculate
Buy out The large company bought out the smaller. purchase (someone’s assets)
Buy up The business’s assets were bought up in the auction. purchase (all of something)
Call off The order was to call off the strike immediately. cancel
Carry on The meeting will carry on in your absence. continue
Carry out Sam carried out the research because Jimmy couldn’t find the time. execute
Cut out Because the subsection was not directly relevant to the rest of the paper, Randal had to cut it out. excise
Find out The 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 across Lars’s paper has too many grammatical mistakes, meaning he couldn’t get his message across. communicate
Give up The outnumbered forces would not give up. surrender
Hold up When deadlines approach, a student cannot let anything hold up the completion of an assignment. delay
Leave out The witness left out a number of important details. omit
Make up We asked participants to make up a scenario in which they would be content. fabricate
Make out In the darkness he could not make out the size of the camp. see
Pass up We could not pass up this opportunity to collaborate. forgo
Pass on The common flu can be passed on through saliva. transmit
Pass out Our research assistants passed out four-hundred surveys to a random sample of shoppers. distribute
Pick up This study picks Dekker’s research up where he left it. resume
Point out Hendriks (2010) points out that such a study might be useful. explain
Set up The equipment’s sensitivity meant we had to set it up with utmost care. arrange
Turn down Regretfully, the board must turn down a number of applicants every year. reject
Use up The campers were thirsty after they used up the last of the water. exhaust


Phrasal verbs Example uses Definitions and Replacements
Back out of Several subjects backed out of their treatment. abandon
Bear on Foucault’s writings still bear on contemporary thought about prison. influence
Catch up with It will take some time for our newer coal mines to catch up with our older ones. equal
Call on I call on the work of other contemporary thinkers. utilize
Call for The act of aggression called for immediate response. necessitate
Count on The question is, should a citizen be able to count on its government to preserve free access to clean water? rely on
Cut down on Practiced writers cut down on unnecessary adverbs and adjectives. reduce
Come up with Hannah had to come up with a way to isolate the variable. invent
Fall apart The board of directors fell apart. disintegrate
Get away Several of them sought to get away from the cold winter night. escape
Get along with They commonly exaggerated the degree to which the indigenous tribes would not get along with one another. be friendly with
Give in After a long pause for thought, he gave in to the demands. yield
Go on Bakker went on to win a prestigious award. continue
Hold on to Sven tried everything, but could not hold on to his youth. keep
Hold out Bram would hold out until morning when the supplies arrived. wait
Hold out on Napoleon would not tolerate his generals holding out on him. hide (something)
Look into We have a hypothesis, but we must look into other possible explanations for the phenomenon. research
Look out for Among 50 respondents who regularly walk home from work in the middle of the night, 45 indicated looking out for criminals. safeguard against
Make sure of To print the name of interviewee, an author must make sure of the interviewee’s consent. ensure
Pick up on The data show various relationships that we had not picked up on. notice
Put up with The country will put up with a certain number of economic sanctions. tolerate
See to The custodian would see to the security of the building. arrange
Take after This new state takes after its regional neighbours. resemble
Touch on At 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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October 14, 2020 at 4:16 PM

What is separable and inseparable?


Shona McCombes
Shona McCombes (Scribbr-team)
October 20, 2020 at 10:49 PM

Hi Ali,

Separable means that you can use other words in between the words of the phrasal verb. For example, the phrasal verb "get across" is separable: "He couldn’t get his message across.

Inseparable means that the two (or more) words of the phrasal verb must always appear next to each other. You can't put other words between them.

I hope that helps!


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