Work off the stress of the day with another of Tim Bowen’s handy guides to phrasal verbs.

‘A number of MPs argued that to intervene now would work against British interests in the region’. Here work against means to make something less likely to succeed or make progress.

If you work at something, you try hard to develop or improve something, as in ‘Successful relationships don’t just happen. You have to work at them’. To work away means to keep working hard or keep trying hard to do something over a period of time, as in ‘She’s still working away on her assignment’.

If you work something in, you incorporate it into something else, as in ‘If you can work in the word “objective”, that would be good’, or ‘They work a lot of Brazilian sounds and rhythms into their music’. Work in can also be used in a culinary context to mean to mix one substance gradually into another one, as in ‘Butter or cream are sometimes worked into the cheese to give a more rounded taste’.

You can work off a debt by a doing a job for someone instead of giving them the money that you owe them, as in ‘After leaving university, he was forced to work off his debts’. You can also work off a feeling such as stress or get rid of some weight by doing something that involves a lot of physical activity, as in ‘If you swim for an hour every morning, you’ll soon work off some of that excess weight’.

If you work on someone, you try and influence them, usually to get information or something else that you need, as in ‘They’re working on him to try and find out what’s going on’.