Don’t let the fear of phrasal verbs hang over you; Tim Bowen’s here to help.

A newspaper report talked about young people hanging out in street cafés (spending lots of time in a particular place). Presumably, the young people in the report were hanging out with their friends and peers (spending lots of time with particular people). Hang around with also means to spend time with someone, as in ‘My mother doesn’t like the people I hang around with’. A hangout is a place where a particular group of people like to spend time, as in ‘That bar is a popular student hangout’.

If something hangs over you, you worry about it or feel upset about it, as in ‘A sense of fear hangs over the city as the threat of civil war grows’. The associated noun hangover normally means the feeling of being tired and sick after drinking too much alcohol, but it can also be used to refer to an idea or attitude from the past that is no longer suitable today, as in ‘Disputes of this nature are just a hangover from the bad old days’.

If you hang up, you end a telephone conversation and if you hang up on someone, you end the conversation while they are talking, as in ‘I was in the middle of explaining what happened when he hung up on me’. You can also hang up various items of sporting equipment (usually footwear) when you retire from a particular sport or activity, as in ‘After a highly successful career in which he scored more than 200 goals, Brown has finally decided to hang up his boots’.