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Your English: Phrasal verbs: some lonely phrasal verbs

Type: Article

Tim Bowen has been beavering away to bring this interesting discussion of some lonely phrasal verbs: verbs that only combine with one particle and only have one meaning.

While verbs like take combine with various particles to form numerous phrasal verbs (take in, take on, take up, take out, etc.), there are a number of verbs that only combine with one particle and only have one meaning. The verb to beef up (make bigger) is an example, as in ‘Security has been beefed up for the summit meeting in London’. Barge in is another ‘lonely’ phrasal verb – ‘He just barged in without knocking’, meaning that the person entered the room suddenly and noisily, probably interrupting someone in a rude way. Apart from its use in the phrasal verb baulk at, the verb baulk is comparatively rare. If you baulk at something, you are unwilling to do it or to accept it because you think it will cause problems, as in ‘They really wanted the house but they baulked at the price’.

The dam-building rodent the beaver, gives us the colourful phrasal verb beaver away, meaning to work very hard, as in ‘Meanwhile the talented young director has been beavering away on his new film'. Blurt is another word that is rarely encountered in any other form than the phrasal verb blurt out. If you blurt something out, you say it suddenly and without thinking about the effect it will have, usually because you are nervous or excited: ‘She blurted out his name, then gasped as she realized what she’d done.

Music can blare out (make a loud and unpleasant noise, as in 'That radio has been blaring out all day'), rain can bucket down (pour down), fumes can belch out (be emitted in large quantities) and fires can blaze away (burn brightly and strongly).

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