Which phrasal verbs can be used in academic English?

This is the third and final lesson about Phrasal Verbs. To complete this course, read each lesson carefully and then unlock and complete our materials to check your understanding.   

– Provide the most common phrasal verbs and their types

– Divide phrasal verbs into general and academic categories

– Discuss how to avoid phrasal verbs in academic writing

Lesson 3

This final lesson on phrasal verbs provides detailed lists of the most common constructions that may be used in both general and academic English.


1. General English Phrasal Verbs

The phrasal verbs which are used in general English tend to be more idiomatic and less formal than their academic counterparts. Very common in speech, particularly between friends or out on the street, the following list provides you with the twenty most-used phrasal verbs, indicating also the variables of transitivity and separability that were discussed in Lesson 2.

Remember when using the following lists that ‘I’ = intransitive (that the phrase cannot take an object), ‘T’ = transitive (the phrase takes an object) and S = separable (the object may come between the verb and the particle). 

Phrasal Verbs 3.1 General English Examples

2. Academic English Phrasal Verbs

Many textbooks and tutors of academic English may warn students against using phrasal verbs at all, and while it is true that academics must be very cautious about using such words in their assignments, these constructions should not be avoided altogether. Although not nearly as commonly found in academic texts as in speech, phrasal verbs still reportedly appear in academic writing every 1,250 words. Generally, however, the type of phrasal verbs that are used in this context are more formal ones that lack in idiomaticity.

One reason that phrasal verbs may be less common in academic contexts is because, as we highlighted in Lessons 1 and 2, these constructions can sometimes have unclear meanings – and academic writing is about being as unambiguous as possible. Notice how the ten common academic phrasal verbs we’ve listed below are almost all transitive and inseparable and have fairly low levels of idiomaticity.

Phrasal Verbs 3.2 Academic English Examples

3. Avoiding Phrasal Verbs

Finally, if phrasal verbs are very common in speech and informal English but shouldn’t be commonly used in academic writing, then how can students learn to avoid them? The quick answer to this problem is to say that the best method for avoiding phrasal verbs that you’ve already learned is to instead investigate and use a synonym for these words in your academic performances and writing. The most recommended and academic option is to use a one-word synonym for the particular phrasal verb you’ve selected (if one exists), such as in the examples below:

Phrasal Verbs 3.3 Synonyms A
Phrasal Verbs 3.4 Synonyms B
3 of 3 Lessons Completed


Once you’ve completed all three lessons about phrasal verbs, you might also wish to download our beginner, intermediate and advanced worksheets to test your progress or print for your students. These professional PDF worksheets can be easily accessed for only a few Academic Marks.

Our phrasal verbs guidance sheet (including all three lessons about this topic) can be accessed here at the click of a button.

Gain unlimited access to our phrasal verbs beginner worksheet, with activities and answer keys designed to check a basic understanding of this topic’s lessons.

To check a confident understanding of this topic’s lessons, click on the button below to download our phrasal verbs intermediate worksheet with activities and answer keys.

Our phrasal verbs advanced worksheet with activities and answer keys has been created to check a sophisticated understanding of this topic’s lessons. 

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