Number one for English language teachers

Your English: Phrasal verbs: bump

Type: Article

Find yourself bumping up against these tricky phrasal verbs? Let Tim Bowen help you out.

‘Some economies have been bumping along the bottom for several years now’, meaning that they have continued at the same low level, rising and falling only slightly.

If you bump into someone, you meet them unexpectedly, as in ‘I just bumped into your flatmate in Reception’, but if you bump into something, you collide with it accidentally, as in ‘I turned round quickly and bumped into a filing cabinet’.

Often used in the passive voice, bump off means to murder someone, as in ‘He often talked about paying a hit man and having his business partner bumped off’. If, on the other hand, you are bumped off a flight, you have a ticket for that flight but you lose your seat because the flight is full or over-booked. You can also be bumped off a computer system thereby losing your connection with the internet.

If you bump something up, you increase it, as in ‘She’s doing some extra teaching in the evenings to bump up her income’. It is not always used in a positive sense. Unscrupulous traders often bump up their prices if they spot gullible customers, as in ‘Some shopkeepers in this resort will bump up their prices if they see that you are a tourist’.

If you bump up against a problem, you experience or encounter something that slows down your progress, as in ‘The business was coming along quite nicely until we bumped up against an unexpected cash flow problem’. The phrasal verb come up against can be used with the same meaning.

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Readers' comments (1)

  • Thanks Tim, very useful!

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