Using a range of sophisticated vocabulary is an important factor that might help to get a higher band in your IELTS Academic Writing. At the same time, it is crucial to know the difference in the register and level of formality when using complex language such as phrasal verbs.
Phrasal verbs are very common in spoken English. Native speakers use phrasal verbs without giving them a second thought. However, they become a challenge for non-natives. We might often confuse their meanings and misuse them in the sentences. The reason for this is that they often have more than one definition and more than one context of proper use.
What are phrasal verbs?
They are multi-word verbs and can be separable or inseparable. They consist of two or three words from different grammatical categories — usually a verb and a particle, such as an adverb or a preposition. When we combine them, these words receive a different meaning, which is frequently considered too informal for academic writing. This is one of the main reasons why we shouldn’t use them in academic writing, as it has to be informative, concise and clear.
How to use phrasal verbs in IELTS Academic Writing
If you are not sure if the phrasal verb is formal, informal or neutral, we recommend that you replace it with a single verb equivalent. Here are some common phrasal verbs with the verbs that you can use instead.
1. Leave out — omit
To not include someone or something.
e.g. She was omitted from the list of contributors to the report.
2. Carry out — conduct
To do or complete something.
e.g. More research on the subject needs to be conducted.
3. Come out — publish
To become available for people to buy or see.
e.g. The examination results are published in August.
4. Look at — investigate
To think about a subject carefully so that you can make a decision about it.
e.g. The UN is investigating new methods of population control.
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5. Fill in/out — complete
To write or type information on a document in spaces that are provided for it.
e.g. Companies will encourage customers to complete questionnaires about themselves.
6. Come about — happen/occur
To happen, or start to happen.
e.g. Such a confusing situation occurred.
7. Hand out — distribute
To give something out to several people, or to spread or supply something.
e.g. Washington began distributing money to struggling farmers during the Depression.
8. Make up — constitute
To be or be considered as something.
e.g. The long-term unemployed now constitute a sort of underclass.
9. Put up with — tolerate
To be willing to accept someone or something that is unpleasant or not desirable.
e.g. The country will tolerate a certain number of economic sanctions.
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10. Find out — discover
To obtain knowledge of something.
e.g. Scientists have discovered how to predict an earthquake.
11. Stamp out — eradicate
To get rid of something that is wrong or harmful.
e.g. The new legislation is intended to eradicate child prostitution.
12. Go up — increase/ rise
To move higher.
e.g. The area has recently become very fashionable and house prices are increasing.
13. Keep up — maintain
To continue to have; to keep in existence, or not allow to become less.
e.g. Several of the teachers were quite unable to maintain discipline.
14. Set up — organise/ arrange
To organise things.
e.g. A fund was organised as a goodwill gesture to survivors and their families.
15. Pick out — select/ recognize
To recognize, find, or make a choice among different people or things in a group
e.g. Over 200 people applied for the job, and we had to select ten to interview.
16. Pick up — resume
To start again after a pause.
e.g. The company resumed production of the vehicle again after a two-month hiatus.
17. Use up — exhaust
To finish a supply of something.
e.g. How long will it be before the world’s fuel supplies are exhausted?
18. Get across — communicate
To manage to make someone understand or believe something.
e.g. This is the message that we want to communicate to the public.
19. Cut down — reduce
To do or use less of something.
e.g. Wearing the correct type of clothing will reduce the risk of radiation.
20. Talk about — discuss
To talk or write about a subject in detail, especially considering different ideas and opinions related to it.
e.g. In this essay, the influence of social media will be discussed.
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21. Put forward — propose
To state an idea or opinion, or to suggest a plan or person, for other people to consider.
e.g. A number of theories about the possible causes of cancer have been proposed.
22. Bring about — cause
To cause something to happen.
e.g. The 20th century caused revolutionary changes in our lifestyles.
23. Fall apart — disintegrate
To break into pieces.
e.g. Families and communities disintegrate under the crushing burden of drug addiction.
24. Get along — communicate
To have a friendly relationship.
e.g. It is crucial for co-workers to communicate within the team as well as with the customers.
25. Break down — explain
To explain in more detail, separate into smaller pieces.
e.g. Negotiations may end successfully if both parties clearly explain their expectations.
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