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Your English: Phrasal verbs: build

Type: Article

Our excitement is building as Tim Bowen builds up these phrasal verbs.

‘We remain confident that our efforts in implementing the integrated strategic approach will build on our successful track record of conserving endangered species.’ Here, the phrasal verb build on means to do something in addition to what has already been achieved.

Build in is often used in the passive voice and means to include or incorporate something such as a piece of furniture, as in ‘If you want bookcases, they could easily be built in’, or to make something part of a plan, system or calculation, as in ‘The cost of hiring equipment should be built in to the overall costing of the project’.

If something bad or unwanted builds up, it gradually increases in size or amount, as in ‘Since early afternoon, traffic has been building up on all the major routes out of London’, or ‘It is never a good idea to allow feelings of resentment to build up’.

Build up can also be used in a more positive sense to gradually improve or increase something, as in ‘Over the years the company has built up a reputation for reliability and good value’. Apart from a reputation, various other qualities and attributes can be built up, including confidence, expertise, immunity, profile, resistance, stamina and strength.

If you build someone up, you talk about them in a very positive way so that people are impressed, as in ‘They’ve built him up to be something that he isn’t’.

If you build up a picture or a profile of someone, you gradually gather information to know what they are like, as in ‘Statements from eye witnesses enabled us to build up a picture of the attacker’.

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