Number one for English language teachers

Your English: Phrasal verbs: shoot

Type: Article

Before you shoot off to teach your next class, read this batch of phrasal verbs by Tim Bowen.

Although a number of particles form phrasal verbs with the verb shoot, those most commonly used are up and down.

Shoot up has a number of meanings. In the sense of 'to increase rapidly by a large amount' it is used to refer to prices, costs, use and consumption, as in ‘Oil prices have shot up in the last six months’. It can also mean ‘to appear suddenly’, as in ‘There were fast food restaurants shooting up all over town’. The phrasal verb spring up can also be used in the same way. If a child seems to grow taller very quickly we can say that they have shot up, as in 'She's shot up since the last time we saw her'. Drug users who take illegal drugs using a needle shoot up, as in 'Drug addicts had been shooting up in the shop doorway’ and if criminals destroy something by firing bullets into it, we can say that they shoot it up, as in ‘They shot up his car as a warning’.

Planes can be shot down by anti-aircraft fire and people unfortunate enough to be in the path of a lunatic with a gun may also be shot down, as in ‘He took out how gun and one by one he shot them down'. If you shoot down an idea, a proposal, a suggestion or a plan, on the other hand, you refuse even to consider it, as in ‘Whatever proposition was put forward, he shot it down on principle'.

Of the other phrasal verbs formed with shoot, perhaps the most frequently used is shoot off, meaning 'to leave a place quickly or suddenly'. An example of this is 'I'm afraid I have to shoot off straight after the meeting'. The phrasal verb dash off can also be used in this context. The phrase to shoot your mouth off means to say something you shouldn't (often without thinking about it), as in 'Sally went and shot her mouth off to Kelly.  Now the party won't be a surprise any more.'

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