Number one for English language teachers

Your English: Phrasal verbs: pack

Type: Article

Tim Bowen packs in a plethora of phrasal verbs to keep your brain busy.

‘Agatha Christie’s play The Mousetrap is still packing them in after 50 years in the West End’. In other words, the play is still attracting very large audiences. If you pack something like a job in, on the other hand, you stop doing it, as in ‘I’d love to pack this job in but I can’t’.

Pack in can also be used in the same way as cram in, meaning to fill a space with a lot of people or things, as in ‘The more people they can pack in, the more money they make’. It can also be used to mean to fill a period of time with a lot of activities, as in ‘We were only in Vienna for a couple of days but we managed to pack in a lot during that time’.

The expression pack it in is a fairly mild way of telling someone to stop doing something that is annoying you, as in ‘Pack it in, will you! I’m trying to watch the news’.

If a place is packed out, it is very crowded, as in ‘By the time we got there, the stadium was packed out and we couldn’t get a seat’.

If you pack someone off, you send them away somewhere, as in ‘To avoid family disgrace, Frank was packed off to India’ or ‘Every summer they pack the children off to their grandparents’. 

If a piece of equipment packs up, it stops working, as in ‘I was just finishing the report when my computer packed up’.

Finally, if you pack up for the day, you finish work, as in ‘It was already 7 o’clock so we decided to pack up for the day’.

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