In this study guide, we will teach you 17 common phrasal verbs with ‘call’. Keep reading to find out their many meanings, explore real native examples of phrasal verbs in context, and try our exercises at the end to test your understanding!
To give a child the same name as someone else, especially someone from the same family The baby was called after her grandmother. She was called Sally after her great aunt.
2. CALL AROUND
To visit someone Let’s call around to see your mother later.
To call multiple people in order to get information about something We didn’t know which hospital he was in, so we had to call around.
There are many ‘call’ phrasal verbs to describe the act of visiting someone at their home for a short time. These are: ‘call in’, ‘call in on’, ‘call on’, ‘call round’, ‘call around’ and ‘call by’. They are all very similar in meaning and are often used in native conversational English.
3. CALL AT
To stop at a place for a brief period of time (usually referring to a ship or train) This train will call at: Eastbourne, Brighton and Croydon… The ship will call at several ports en route to the Bahamas.
4. CALL AWAY
To ask someone to leave somewhere or stop what they’re doing in order to go somewhere else, usually urgently. The doctor was called away during dinner to attend to a patient. She was called away from the meeting to take an urgent phone call.
5. CALL BACK
To return a telephone call I’m just in the middle of something. Can I call you back later?
To ask someone to return for another interview or audition for ajob We’d like to call you back for a second interview next week.
To go and see someone again, usually just briefly I’ll call back later when you have more time.
It is a common mistake to confuse the word ‘recall’ with ‘call back’. The suffix ‘re-’ usually means: to do something again. However, the word ‘recall’ means: to remember or to officially order the return of an item. You cannot ‘recall someone on the phone’. Instead we say ‘call back’.
6. CALL BY
To visit someone briefly on your way to somewhere else Would it be ok to call by this afternoon on our way to the theatre? Let’s call by Alice’s place on our way back from town.
7. CALL DOWN
To telephone or shout to someone downstairs Call down to reception and ask for some more cups for the meeting.
To pray for something bad to happen I shall call downGod’s wrath upon you!
To reprimand or tell off (old-fashioned) The teacher called me down for being late.
8. CALL FOR
To publicly demand or ask for an action to happen After the fire, the residents called for better health and safety procedures.
Something that is required or necessary The job calls for excellent communication and networking skills.
To deserve a particular action This good news calls for champagne!
To pick someone up from somewhere to then go somewhere else I’ll call for you at 8pm and we can go to the party together.
9. CALL FORTH (Old-fashioned, formal)
To summon, bring into action or existence Mary called forth all her courage and jumped from the plane. That film always calls forth happy memories.
10. CALL IN
To telephone somewhere (often a television or radio station to give your opinion, or your place of work) Call in to tell us about your funny pets and you could win £100! Sally called in to work sick today.
To ask someone to come and carry out a job We had to call in the electrician as all the lights went out.
A common phrase in British English is ‘call in sick’. This is used to inform your boss that you won’t be coming into work because you are ill or unwell. In UK slang, ‘pull a sickie’ is used when someone pretends to be ill in order to have a day off work! For example, ‘I had a heavy weekend so I pulled a sickie on Monday!’.
11. CALL IN ON
To visit someone (usually for a short time) Let’s call in on your brother for a cup of tea on our way home. Shall we call in on Hannah to drop off those DVDs?
12. CALL OFF
To cancel a plan or event that is happening or will happen The rain meant we had to call off the tennis match. Due to the fading light, the police called off the search.
To tell an animal to stop attacking or chasing someone/something We had to get the owner to call off his dog.
13. CALL ON
To formally ask a person or organisation to do something The UN has called on America to act swiftly.
To use something that someone can offer you We may need to call on your excellent diplomacy skills in this meeting.
To summon or use a quality in yourself She called on all her years of experience to face the challenges ahead.
To visit someone (usually for a short time) We called on Maggie on our way to the local cinema.
14. CALL OUT
To shout or speak loudly in order to get someone’s attention I called out her name, but she couldn’t hear me over the music.
To ask someone to come and carry out a job/do something We had to call out the plumber when there was no water in our house.
To challenge or criticise someone She called out his actions, and he apologised. If I think you’ve done something wrong, I’ll to call you out (on it).
15. CALL ROUND
To visit someone Let’s call round on the Smiths later as we’ve been meaning to see them for ages. I was thinking of calling round later, if you’re going to be home.
16. CALL UP
To telephone someone I called up Tom yesterday as we hadn’t spoken in months.
To be summoned for military service I was called up when I was just 17!
To bring back memories That music calls up summers in the Lake District.
To use magic to try and make the spirit of a dead person appear One Halloween we tried to call up the ghost of my step-mother!
To open something on the computer, bring up (Brit. Eng) If you want to call up the document, we can go through it together.
17. CALL UPON
To formally ask a person or organisation to do something He was called upon to give a speech at the awards ceremony. The UN will call on Sweden to lead the negotiations.
Exercises: phrasal verbs with ‘call’
Choose the correct phrasal verb to complete the sentences below:
Shall we call after/call round/call out to see Harry later?
This train is calling at/calling upon/calling up Sheffield so we don’t need to change in Manchester.
I’ll call you round/ back/by later as I’m very busy at the moment.
You’re getting married! I think this calls for/calls up/calls out a glass of champagne!
I think we should call up/call off/call back the football match because it has started snowing!
Journalists called out/called back/called on the Prime Minister to give a statement after the terror attacks.
It was noisy in the street so when I called out/called back/called up to Mark he didn’t hear me.
I called round/called at/called up Mary at the weekend to see if she wanted to play tennis.
Match the phrasal verbs 1-8 with their correct meanings a-h:
To ask someone to leave somewhere or stop what they’re doing in order to go somewhere else, usually urgently
To challenge or criticise someone
To return a telephone call
To visit someone
To stop at a place for a brief period of time (usually referring to a ship or train)
To formally ask a person or organisation to do something
To give a child the same name as someone else, especially someone from the same family
To telephone somewhere (often a television or radio station to give your opinion, or your place of work)
Fill in the gaps with an appropriate ‘call’ phrasal verb: (Note: in some answers there is more than one possible answer)
Your grandfather was __________ when he was only 17 years old.
I didn’t realise I’d done something wrong until I was __________ on it.
__________ your dog! He’s scaring me!
The hot water stopped working so we had to __________ a plumber.
The position __________ excellent IT skills and a good eye for detail.
Let’s __________ your mother later as she’d really like to see us.
I think we should __________ the two strongest candidates for a second round.
She was very happy the baby was __________ their uncle.
Alex Jude is the Founder & CEO of Online Teachers UK. He holds a BA hons degree in Linguistics from The University of Manchester and is a life-long English teacher. Following graduation, he spent 2002-2012 living and teaching in Russia, where he lectured in General Linguistics and Translation Studies. Alex is a fluent Russian speaker and worked with the BBC at the World Cup in 2018. In his spare time, he enjoys camping/bushcraft, playing guitar and watching rugby league.