If phrasal verbs are making you crack up, never fear. Tim Bowen is cracking down on these pesky little words.

‘The government has announced a crackdown on multinational companies that use loopholes in the law to avoid paying tax on their earnings’. A crackdown involves firm action taken by the government, the police or other agencies of authority to stop a particular activity. 

The phrasal verb crack down can be used with the same meaning as in ‘Violent crime is rising in this area. Isn’t it time the government cracked down hard?’ or ‘Legislation will be introduced to crack down on companies that use cold calling to promote their products’. The phrasal verb clamp down can be used with the same meaning, as in ‘If there are any further protests, the authorities are expected to clamp down even harder’. 

If you crack on, you continue doing something as quickly as possible, as in ‘There’s not much time left so we’d better crack on’. If a particular activity is mentioned, the preposition with is used, as in ‘Well, it’s been nice chatting to you but I’d better crack on with this painting’. 

When stress-related problems become too much, people sometimes crack up under the pressure, meaning that they suffer some kind of psychological break-down. If something cracks people up, on the other hand, it makes them laugh a lot, as in ‘Some of the things little children say really crack me up’. If something is not all it’s cracked up to be, it isn’t as good as people say it is, as in ‘Despite the freedom it can give you, working from home isn’t all it’s cracked up to be’.