Want a higher score on your IELTS Speaking test? Using phrasal verbs could help you get band 7+. Native English speakers often use phrasal verbs in conversation, and so should you!
In this study guide, you will learn the meaning of 30 useful phrasal verbs for IELTS Speaking. First, we will explain them and show you how to use them in a sentence. Then we will demonstrate how to include some phrasal verbs in your answers to real IELTS speaking tasks. Check out the exercises at the end to test your understanding!
What you will learn: (quick nav links)
Phrasal verbs are formed with a verb and a particle (a preposition or an adverb). For example, ‘wake’ and ‘up’ together form the phrasal verb ‘wake up’. Phrasal verbs often have a completely different meaning to the verb on its own.
Phrasal verbs are a type of idiomatic expression and using them helps you sound more informal and natural in English. You can use them in the IELTS speaking exam if they are relevant to the tasks or topics. This can help you achieve a higher band score! Let’s take a look!
The phrasal verbs listed below are all commonly used in everyday speech. Each phrasal verb is given with a definition and an example sentence. In the next section, you can see how you might use these phrasal verbs in some real IELTS speaking tasks for parts 1, 2 and 3.
1. Bring up – to look after a child and to educate them
I was brought up by my grandparents.
2. Bump into someone – to meet someone without planning to
I bumped into John when I was in town.
3. Carry on – to continue
He carried on talking while I watched TV.
4. Catch up (with) – to reach the same standard as someone else
I caught up with my schoolwork after I returned to school.
5. Check in – to show your ticket and other documents at the airport
We checked in at least two hours before the flight.
6. Cut down on – to eat less of something
Pete is cutting down on fast food.
7. Dress up – to wear smart clothes for a special occasion, wear costumes
We decided to dress up for the party
Note: Remember that this is not the same as “get dressed”! We only use “dress up” when we are talking about a special occasion or a situation involving a costume/disguise – birthday, Halloween, etc.
8. Eat out – to eat in a restaurant or cafe
I love eating out, but cooking food at home is cheaper.
9. End up – to do something without having planned to
We met at the park but we ended up going to the cinema.
10. Fall out – to stop being friends with someone
I fell out with Susan when she forgot my birthday.
11. Get along – to be good friends with someone
Me and Simon have got along well since school.
12. Get away – to go on holiday
It was great to get away last weekend, after spending so much time at home.
13. Get together – to meet up with someone
I finally got together with my old school friends last weekend.
14. Give up – to stop doing something
I gave up smoking last year because it was affecting my health.
15. Grow up – to get older, to change from being a child to an adult
I grew up in London.
Children grow up very quickly these days!
16. Join in – to participate in an activity with other people
The children all joined in the game at the end of the party.
17. Live on – to eat a particular type of food all the time
Tony is not a healthy man. He just lives on takeaway pizza!
18. Look back (on) – to think about something that happened in the past
I look back on my childhood as a very happy time.
19. Move in – to move to a new home
We moved in last Wednesday, but the house still needs a lot of work.
20. Pay back – to give back some money that you have borrowed
I’m really pleased I got paid today. Now I can pay back the money my dad lent me.
21. Run out (of) – to not have any more of that item
Oh no! I’ve run out of coffee. I’ll have to go to the shop.
22. Save up (for) – to keep money so you can buy something with it
Maggie is saving up for a house.
23. Sell out – when all items have been sold, no availability left
The tickets for the match sold out within just a couple of hours.
24.Shop around (for) – to look in lots of different shops before you buy something
Sal is going to shop around for the cheapest shoes she can find!
25. Take off – when a plane leaves the ground and starts to fly
The plane took off suddenly!
26. Take out (a loan) – to borrow some money
Dave and Sue can’t afford a new car; they are taking out a loan.
27. Tidy up – to tidy the house
I always tidy up before my parents come to visit.
28. Try on – to put some clothes on to check if they are the right size
I tried on a jacket in the shop.
29. Warm up – to heat something in an oven or microwave
She warmed up the soup because it had gone cold.
30. Work out – to exercise, particularly at a gym
I work out twice a week.
In IELTS Speaking task one, the examiner asks you questions on familiar topics. Here are some examples of the types of questions you may be asked, showing how you could use phrasal verbs in your answers.
Q. Do you live in a nice neighbourhood?
A. I only moved into my flat about a month ago, when I started studying at university. It seems like a nice area. There are lots of shops and restaurants near my flat.
Q. Are you a tidy or messy person at home?
A. Ideally, I would love to live in a very neat house, but actually my house is quite untidy. I am a bit lazy and I only tidy up properly at the weekend. During the week, I’m quite busy with work, so the house is a bit of a mess!
Growing up / childhood
Q. Is it better to grow up in the countryside or in a city?
A. I was brought up in a busy area of the city, so I love city life. Growing up in a city means there is always a lot to do and plenty of new people to meet.
Q. What activities did you use to enjoy doing when you were a child?
A. I was quite sociable and I enjoyed joining in with board games with my brothers and sisters. I also loved dressing up – sometimes I was a princess or sometimes a pirate!
Family and friends
Q. Do you prefer spending time with your family or friends in the evening?
A. I usually spend evenings during the week with my family, watching TV or chatting. At the weekend, I really like catching up with my friends. We often meet for a drink and if it’s a special occasion we get together for a meal.
Q. What do you enjoy doing with your friends?
A. I usually get along well with sporty people and I love doing things outdoors, like climbing and swimming. I fell out with one friend recently because he only wanted to sit on the sofa and watch TV all day. I prefer to lead an active life!
Q. Do you prefer eating at home or in a restaurant?
A. I love my Mum’s cooking, but I also love eating out! Sometimes I meet my friends at our favourite restaurant and we order pizza.
Q. Do you enjoy cooking?
A. I do like cooking, especially if I am cooking for a friend, or making a new dish. But when I run out of ingredients, I usually just warm up a ready meal in the microwave!
In part two of the IELTS Speaking test, you have to give a short talk – also known as “the long turn” – on a topic given to you by the examiner. The examiner will give you a topic card, which includes four points to talk about. You should try to talk for 1-2 minutes.
The topics nearly always relate to personal experiences, giving you a good opportunity to use some phrasal verbs to describe events in your life. The following examples show how you can use phrasal verbs in part two of your speaking exam.
Q. Describe a journey that did not go as planned.
A. Two years ago, I travelled to America with my best friend. We had made a plan to get away together for a week as we hadn’t seen each other since university. At first, everything went smoothly. We left plenty of time to travel to the airport and we checked in early. Looking back, I can’t believe how relaxed we were!
We went to a coffee shop, bought a newspaper and were enjoying watching everyone rushing around the airport. After some time, my friend went to check the departure information. As she walked back towards me, I couldn’t work out why she looked so upset. She told me that the plane was delayed by four hours. I couldn’t believe it!
We ended up staying in the café for ages. Finally, the plane took off five hours late. I will always remember the holiday because we had a fantastic time, but I will also remember the journey that did not go to plan!
Q. Describe a time when you unexpectedly met someone you know.
A. I went into town last week to try to find a new coat. I was shopping around so I tried lots of different shops but I couldn’t find anything I liked. I was just thinking about giving up and getting the bus home when I bumped into my friend Mandy.
She loves shopping and she always manages to find a bargain. She said she would help me to find a coat! Mandy took me to the most expensive shop in town. I tried on a red coat and I loved it, but unfortunately, they had sold out of my size.
Mandy told me there was one more shop to try. We arrived at the shop and carried on looking at coats. Finally, I found exactly the same coat, but for half the price! I’m glad I bumped into Mandy and I really love my new coat.
In part three of IELTS Speaking, you have a discussion with the examiner. He or she will ask you a few questions on a given topic. Check out the examples below showing how you might include some phrasal verbs in your answers!
Q. What problems does money cause in society?
A. The main problem is that there is a big difference in people’s income in society. Some people are well-paid and have plenty of money, while other people have to take out loans just to pay their bills.
Q. Is it easy for young people to save money?
A. I actually think it’s very difficult for young people to save money because the cost of living is high and people need most of their income to pay for accommodation and bills. However, it is a good idea to save up for something you really want, rather than borrowing money to buy it.
Q. Is it ever a good idea to borrow money from friends or family?
A. I think it’s ok to borrow money from your family, as long as you pay it back, but I would never ask a friend to lend me money – it could cause problems with our friendship further down the line.
Food and health
Q. Do you think people today have a healthy diet, or were people’s diets healthier in the past?
A. There are so many different types of food in supermarkets these days and I think some people just eat too much. Another factor is that many people eat out regularly. If you eat out, it is very difficult to eat healthily because food in restaurants is often high in fat and portions are large. People probably ate more healthily in the past because they cooked food at home.
Q. Should young people learn how to cook at school?
A. Yes, I think it’s really important that young people learn to cook at school so that they can prepare their own healthy meals when they are older. After all, they can’t just live on takeaway pizza and beans on toast!
Q. Do people pay enough attention to their health these days?
A. It depends on the person. Some people are very health-conscious, plan healthy meals and do plenty of exercise. However, some people need to pay more attention to their health. They need to cut down on takeaways and cook healthy food at home.
Want more info on this topic? Check out our other posts about phrasal verbs on the OTUK blog!
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