Number one for English language teachers

Your English: Phrasal verbs: kick

Type: Reference material

Tim Bowen considers the set of phrasal verbs formed when the verb to kick is combined with various particles.

Apart from its literal meaning, the verb kick has a range of other uses – in expressions like kick the habit (give up a habit), kick one’s heels (waste time waiting for something), kick the bucket (a euphemism for die) and get a kick out of (take pleasure from) amongst others. It is also used with different particles to form a set of phrasal verbs that for the most part have little, if anything, to do with the literal meaning of kick.

In a business meeting, for example, the person chairing the meeting might invite one of those attending it to kick off (meaning to start) or, with the same meaning, he or she might say 'Let's kick off'. Having kicked off the meeting, the participants might then kick around a few ideas (meaning to discuss these ideas in an informal way). If the participants were feeling a bit sleepy as a result of the meeting's early start, they might ask for strong coffee to be brought in order to give them a kick (make them feel more lively). The effects of the coffee might take a while to kick in, however (to begin to be felt). Anyone misbehaving in the meeting would run the risk of being kicked out (or asked to leave in no uncertain terms). That person would probably be annoyed at being asked to leave and would kick up a fuss or kick up a stink (complain angrily about the situation) and say that they didn’t want to be kicked about (treated badly) in this way. And finally, to return to a non-phrasal verb use of kick, any ideas that had been kicked around at the meeting that were not accepted might be kicked into touch (abandoned).

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