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Common Phrasal Verbs in English

sit in on sth

Meaning: to attend a meeting, class, etc. in order to listen to or learn from it rather than to take an active part


  • Kyle had recently sat in on some econ seminars, and he was telling Florian how aggressive the conversaton had gotten.
  • She's been asked to sit in on the meetings.

spill over (into sth)

Meaning: to start in one area and then affect other area


  • Unrest has spill over into areas outside the city.
  • Debates over academic papers can spill over into outright attacks - sometimes even threats.

poke around/about

Meaning: to look for sth, especially sth that is hidden among other things that you have to move


  • We've had journalists poking around and asking a lot of questions.
  • So engineer, not economist, Kyle Jensen has just poking around on the Econ Job Market Rumors site.

set out to do sth

Meaning: if you set out to do something, you start trying to do it.


  • We set out to find the truth behind the mystery.
  • What were you setting out to do with this paper? What was the plan?

rope in sb (to do sth / for sth)

Meaning: to persuade sb to join in an activity or to help to do sth, even when they do not want to


  • Everyone was roped in to help with the show.
  • Florian ropes in another friend - a mathy one - Paul Goldsmith-Pinkham of Yale.
  • Visitors were roped in for potato picking and harvesting.

call up

Meaning: to make a phone call to sb


  • So the other day, I caled up one of the world's top experts in working from home, and he himself was fittingly working from home.

lost out

Meaning: If you lose out, you suffer a loss or disadvantage because you have not succeed in what you were doing/


  • And it's just weird, and you're probably going to lose out on business.
  • Small business are losing out to the large chains.
  • Egypt has lost out on revenues from the Suez Canal.
  • He got through the preliminaries, but lost out in the finals.

hold with

Example: to agree with sth

  • We don't hold with the French in Britain.
  • I don't hold with the use of force.

take on sb

Meaning: If you take someone on, you fight them or compete against them, especially when they are bigger or more powerful than you are. Example:

  • The rebels took on the entire Roman army.
  • An Indigenous drink maker in Colombia decided to take on one of the biggest beverage makers in the world.