Native Speaker Phrases – Summer Holidays

A quick way to sound more like a native English speaker is to use phrasal verbs in conversation. You don’t need to use them all the time, but one or two in a conversation makes you sound more natural.

Summer Holidays – 10 Phrasal Verbs

If you’re planning your summer holiday, here are 10 phrasal verbs you can use with your colleagues, customers and suppliers.

Get something in

When you “get something in”, you give something to someone who has been waiting for it. Here’s an example:
“I need to get my holiday request in before the end of the month.”

Wind something up

This means to bring something to an end. You can wind up a meeting, or even wind up a company (close it down). But here’s an example for you about holidays:

“I’m winding up my ongoing projects before the August break.”

Tie something up

This has a couple of meanings. If you’re tied up (a phrasal verb with no object), you’re busy. But when you tie something up, you finish it.  We often use “tie up” with “loose ends” (the odd, miscellaneous things that are left over in a project).

“Before I leave on Friday, I have to tie up a couple of loose ends.”

Clear up something

When you clear up, you make something tidy. This could be your house or a room, or your workspace:

“Before I go, I need to clear up my desk.”

Put something away

When you put things away, you put them in their right place.

“I’ve got a few files to put away.”

Hand something over

When you hand something over, you give it to another person. For example, you might hand over something to a colleague before you leave your job, or before you go on holiday:

“I’m handing over my outstanding projects to Sue.”

Sort something out

“Sort out” is one of those phrasal verbs that you can use in lots of different situations. We often use it when we’re talking about organising or arranging something. For example:

“I’ve got to sort out this paperwork” or “There are a few last-minute things to sort out.”

Take out insurance

We use “take out” in many different ways, but one use is to talk about insurance policies. If you take out a policy, you sign the contract and pay the premium.

“We need to take out holiday insurance before we go.”

Cross off / Check off / Tick off something

If you’re someone who always has a “to-do” list, this phrasal verb is for you! When you have a list of things to do, you can cross them off one-by-one as you finish them.

“I’m gradually crossing off everything on my holiday list!”

Stock up (on something)

When you “stock up”, you buy things in quantity so that you don’t “run out” (use up all your supplies). We might stock up on things if we know there will be a shortage, or if we know we’re going to use a lot of something. Here’s a holiday example for you:

“Before we go, we’ll need to stock up on sun cream.”

Phrasal Verb Hints

Lots of people avoid using phrasal verbs through a lack of confidence – and fear of making a mistake. But here are two hints for you so that you can use the phrasal verbs accurately:

Object or no object? 

All the phrasal verbs above can have an object. So you put something away – not just “put away”. It’s important to know this so that you don’t make grammatical mistakes when you use the phrasal verb.

Check the particle 

Have you noticed in the phrasal verbs above how the particle carries meaning? When you know how to use the particle, often the meaning of the phrasal verb becomes clear. Here are some examples:

Up = to do something to completion
Wind up / Clear up / Tie up / Stock up

In = to give to someone in authority
Get in (Also “hand in”)

Over = to someone else
Hand over

Out = to solve problems
Sort out / Take out

Off = to remove (also from a list)
Tick off / Check off / Cross off

Away = put in another place
Put away (Also “tidy away”, “clear away”)

Before You Go!

I specialise in helping you find quick, easy ways to make a big impact on your English.

Book a free 20-minute coaching call with me in the link below and I’ll show you a couple of things you can do NOW to improve your English.

Yes – I’m ready for this!


The 1% Coaching Method – Quick Vocabulary Wins

One area of English where you can ALWAYS make quick, effective improvements is vocabulary.

With English vocabulary, a great place to start making improvements is “collocations”. These are words which naturally go with other words. So, for example, we say “apply for a job” (not “ask for a job”) or “a dream job” (not “a best job”.)

The “problem” with English collocations is that they’re probably not the same in your language. For example, the verb or adjective that goes with a noun in English may not be the same verb or adjective in your language. This means that it’s easy – and understandable – to make mistakes with English collocations.

Collocation mistakes sound strange to native speakers. Because a collocation is “natural”, it sounds funny when the wrong word is used. Here’s an example I heard recently:

“be full of debt” (“pieno di debiti” in Italian – what would you say in your language?)

A couple of similar mistakes:

“to fill someone with bruises”
“to fill someone with kisses”

Instead, we’d say “have a lot of debt”, or “be in debt”, or even “be heavily in debt”. We’d also “cover someone with bruises” or “cover someone with kisses”. (That’s cute!)

1% Collocation Coaching In Practice – A 3-Step Process

  1. Think about a noun or verb that you use a lot in English – for work or in your daily life. Go and look it up in a dictionary or look online. My recommendation is to search for the word, then type collocation next to it. For example:

job collocation in English

You’ll probably get a link to a collocations dictionary, from where you can see common collocations with that word.

2. Now take a look at the entries. Are you using this noun or verb correctly? Are you using it with the right collocation? Make a note of it and see how you can apply it in your own examples.

3. Then, the next time you use this noun or verb in English, pause for a second so you can remember the correct way to use it.

You can eliminate vocabulary mistakes easily one at a time by checking the collocations. Over time, these improvements add up to a much greater impact.

Want help in finding your 1% English improvements? Book a free 20-minute coaching call with me in the link below!

Yes – I’m ready for this!

4 Easy Ways to Remember English Phrasal Verbs

As a Cambridge ESOL Speaking Examiner, I can tell you that one of the things that great candidates do – at any level – is understand and use phrasal verbs. In fact, using them well will make you sound more like a native speaker.

But, using phrasal verbs accurately (or at all!) is one of the biggest problems most people have with English.

It wouldn’t matter so much if you only read academic or serious texts, or didn’t speak English in everyday situations. But if you do have conversations in English, sooner or later you’ll need to understand and use phrasal verbs.

And that’s where the problems start. The three biggest difficulties with phrasal verbs is that they aren’t logical, there are lots of them, and they generally occur in fast-paced conversation.

So, to make life a little easier, I’ve got a guide for you. I’ll show you the different types of phrasal verbs, and how to remember them.

What is a phrasal verb, anyway?

A phrasal verb is a verb in two or three parts. It has a verb, followed by a particle:

“take up” (take + particle up)
“work out” (work + particle out)

Sometimes the meaning of the phrasal verb is easy to guess. So you “turn up” the volume (make it louder) and you also “turn down” the volume (make it quieter).

But sometimes phrasal verbs aren’t logical. So while we “put on” a coat (put it on our bodies), we don’t “put it off”. In fact, the opposite of “put on” is “take off”.

But, before we get in to how you can learn and remember phrasal verbs more easily, you need to know about their grammar. In fact, if you don’t know what type of phrasal verb it is, you won’t be able to use it correctly.

The 4 types of phrasal verbs

When you know its type, you can use it accurately and confidently.

1.  With no object

With these phrasal verbs, you don’t need anything else after the phrasal verb:

Watch out! There’s a car coming.

What time did you wake up?

I wanted to speak to her, but she ran away.

2. With an object, which you can separate

With these phrasal verbs you have an object, and it can come before or after the particle.

For example: work out

I need to work out this calculation. (calculation is the object)

I need to work this calculation out.

Or: look up

She looked the word up in a dictionary.

She looked up the word in a dictionary.

But: when the object is a pronoun, it must follow the verb:

I need to work it out. (NOT “I need to work out it.”)

She looked it up. (NOT She looked up it.)

3. With an object, which you can’t separate

With this type of phrasal verb, the object must come after the verb – not after the particle.

He went into the room. (NOT He went the room into.)

4. Three-part phrasal verbs

With these verbs, you have a particle and a preposition:

put up with (= tolerate)

look up to ( = admire)

You can’t separate these parts. So you always “look up to someone”, not “look up someone to”.

4 easy ways to remember phrasal verbs

Because phrasal verbs are so common, you need to be alert to them. Here are four ways you can do this:

1.  See and hear them

Fortunately, when you hear people using them, the particle is always stressed.

Get ON the bus.

He looks UP TO his father.

This makes phrasal verbs easier to hear, and of course you can always ask someone what they mean.

2. Read informal English

Because phrasal verbs are used so much in conversation, read informal English. You can read blog posts, tabloid newspapers (the smaller ones with big, red headings) rather than academic writing or serious newspapers.

3. Check the meaning

Use a good dictionary to check the meaning of a phrasal verb. Remember that one phrasal verb can often have more than one meaning. Here’s an example with the verb “take”:

take off = remove clothing

take off = go into the sky (aeroplane)

take off = start to do well (business, company)

take off = imitate a person

4. Learn the meaning of the particle

This is a quick way of being able to guess the meaning of a phrasal verb – especially when it’s a more “logical” phrasal verb. Here are a few examples:

You check in to a hotel when you arrive, so when you leave you check out.

We turn up the volume to make it louder, so when you want someone to speak more loudly, you can ask them to speak up.

If someone is shouting and angry, you could ask them to calm down.

You sit down, and stand up.

Even when the meaning isn’t logical, understanding the particle can help.

So, often we use “up” to mean “increase”.

You add up numbers. (2+2 = 4)

When something is more expensive, the price goes up.

Often, “down” means “reduce”. So when it’s very hot, you want to cool down, or when you want to reduce the amount you spend, you cut down.

Over to you

Do you have any tips for remembering phrasal verbs? Let me know in the comments!

Do you need to speak English professionally? Let me help you!

2 Secrets For A Native English Vocabulary

“My English vocabulary is weak. How can I improve it?”

Do you also have this problem?

If your goal is to be able to speak English more fluently, you need to be able to find the right words quickly.

By the way, you don’t need a HUGE vocabulary to express yourself clearly. You can do a lot with even a limited vocabulary of 300 words.

But you do need to be able to remember the words you want to use – and not translate word for word.

So, how do you learn new vocabulary? Here are two effective things you can do:

1. Learn fixed phrases

When we speak English, we use a lot of “fixed phrases”. We don’t always invent a new phrase when we speak with others, but we use a phrase that’s already standard – a kind of default phrase that’s right for the situation.

Here’s an example. You say “Thank you” and I reply with “You’re welcome!”
You say “Can I take this chair?” and I say, “Sure, go ahead!”

The phrases “You’re welcome” and “Sure go ahead” are fixed phrases. I use them automatically when someone says thank you or asks me if they can use something.

Why are fixed phrases so important?

Using fixed phrases automatically like this means that you don’t have to stop and think for a reply. You can keep the conversation going without hesitating. So if you use them, you’ll also be able to speak more fluently.

The other thing about fixed phrases is that it’s often easier to remember a phrase (like “You’re welcome”) than thinking about each individual word. You just need to remember the phrase.

Fixed phrases are also very common (studies show that they make up from 40% to 80% of conversation). So using them will make you sound more like a native speaker.

Often, fixed phrases can start a sentence:

By the way… (when I want to add something to a conversation)

If I were you…
(when I want to give you some advice)

No way!
(when you say something that I think is shocking or surprising)

Sorry to bother you…
(when you want to ask someone a question, but you know they are busy)

Just looking thanks!
 (when a sales assistant in a shop asks if you want help – you can say “Just looking thanks” to mean you are happy to look)

2. Learn collocations

A collocation is when two words naturally go together. This could be a verb + noun, an adjective + noun, or an adverb + noun.

So we say
Good Luck! (not “good fortune” or “great luck”)
an only child (not a unique child or a sole child)
a part-time job (not a half-time job)
apply for a job (not “ask for a job”)

Collocations are similar to fixed phrases because they’re “standard”, easier to remember than lots of individual words; and natural. (You’ll sound more like a native speaker when you use them.)

If you use the wrong collocation in a conversation, the other person will probably understand you. But they’ll know that there’s something a bit wrong in what you say.

So if you say, “I’m a unique child”, a native speaker would guess that you’re an only child – that you don’t have brothers and sisters. But it will sound a little strange, because the collocation “only child” is completely natural and automatic.

Always learn how a new word “collocates” – that is, what words go with it. If you learn these collocations together, it will be easier for you to remember new vocabulary.

A good dictionary will also show you which words naturally go together. You can also check online: enter the word you want to check, then type “collocation” next to it.

The next step is to give yourself enough time to review and practise the phrase so that it comes to mind automatically.

3-step process for remembering new vocabulary

1. Look the phrase up in a dictionary or online. Make sure you know how to pronounce it.

2. Write an example sentence with your new word or phrase.

3. Review your example sentence regularly
I suggest reviewing the new word or phrase at least four times:
– the next day
– two days afterwards
– the next week
– the next month

Do you want even more ideas for practising new vocabulary. Don’t miss next week’s blog post!

Do you need to speak English professionally? Let me help you.