Want to improve your English for professional reasons? You’re in the right place. When working in English, it’s common to use a lot of specific business-related vocabulary and expressions. This includes phrasal verbs too!

If you don’t know already, phrasal verbs are a combination of a verb + adverb / preposition. And for some, they can be difficult to learn and remember.

To help you get started, we’ve put together a list of 12 of the most useful business phrasal verbs in English. We’ve also included an explanation and example for each!


Different types of phrasal verbs


Before we look at some examples of business phrasal verbs, it’s important to know one small thing. Phrasal verbs can be transitive or intransitive.

  • Transitive phrasal verbs take an object e.g. pick up your clothes.
  • Intransitive phrasal verbs don’t take an object e.g. the plane takes off at 5 p.m.

*Be aware that transitive verbs can be separable or inseparable. That means that sometimes you can put the object in the middle of the phrasal verb, and other times you can’t. Intransitive verbs, on the other hand, cannot be separated.

Now you know the difference, let’s look at those business phrasal verbs we were talking about:


1. Bring forward


When you would like to move a meeting or event to an earlier date or time, then we say that you can ‘bring it forward’. [Transitive]

Example: The client has asked to bring the meeting forward from Friday to Thursday.


2. Call off


If you need to cancel an event or a meeting, you can use the phrasal verb ‘call off’. [Transitive]

Example: She has called off the meeting so I now have some free time this afternoon.


3. Put off


Scenario: You’ve got a meeting scheduled for 1pm, but you have a doctor’s appointment at that time and you need to postpone the meeting. Here you can ask to ‘put it off’ until a later time. [Transitive]

Example: Would you mind if we put off the meeting until tomorrow?


4. Weigh up


In the workplace, you may be presented with a number of different options for projects or proposals etc. Therefore, you need to think carefully about the strengths and weaknesses of each option, and then decide what the best option would be. [Transitive]

Here, the phrasal verb ‘weigh up’ is used to mean that you have to consider the pros and cons surrounding the topic to make a judgment.

Example: We need to weigh up the benefits and pitfalls of each project before choosing one.


5. Call back


If you miss someone’s call or are too busy to take it at that moment, then you may have to return it at a later time or date. Here, you can use the phrasal verb ‘call back’. [Transitive]

Example: I’m sorry, I can’t take your call right now, but I will call you back later when I have more time.


6. Take on


If a company is looking for new employees, then they will be aiming to ‘take on’ new staff, meaning contract or hire someone. It can also mean to accept work or responsibility, as in to ‘take on a new project’. [Transitive]

Example: Unfortunately, we’re not taking on any new staff at the moment, or taking on any new clients.


7. Run by


You may have an idea for a new project or something you’d like to do that may be useful for a client. However, before you do anything, it’s a good idea to ‘run it by’ your colleagues, boss or client. Here, you want to tell someone else about it to check their opinion or reaction to it. [Transitive]

Example: I’ll have to run the proposal by my boss first to see what she thinks.


8. Catch up (with/on)


Imagine this scenario: You’re very busy at work, and haven’t had the chance to complete all your tasks. As a result, you may need to work overtime or during the weekends to ‘catch up’. This means that you need to meet some deadlines, or do some tasks that you haven’t done yet. [Intransitive/Transitive]

Example: I’m swamped with work, I need to spend the weekend catching up with it.


9. Branch out


The noun ‘branch’ is a part of a tree which grows out from the trunk. Imagine the main trunk as the central function of a business. Then think of the branches coming out as new paths or routes that the business may take. [Intransitive]

In this sense, the business may ‘branch out’ to other industries, markets or services.

Example: My business is thinking about branching out from selling only one product to three!


10. Step down


When someone decides to leave or resign from a position due to circumstances such as bad health, poor performance or the wish to pursue another role, we say that they ‘step down’. [Intransitive]

Example: The CEO was forced to step down due to personal reasons.


11. Take off


Many are familiar with the general English meaning of ‘take off’ – when a plane leaves the runway and becomes airborne.

However, fewer people know the business English meaning of ‘take off’, which is to become popular or successful fast. [Intransitive]

Example: Her new business has really taken off in the last month!


12. Look forward to


A common expression, ‘look forward to’ is used when someone is excited about something in the future.

Yet, this three part phrasal verb can also be used in a business context. It is common to end an email or letter with the phrase ‘I look forward to hearing from you.’ This is a formal way of expressing interest in the recipient’s response. [Transitive]

Example: Thank you for your attention. I look forward to hearing from you soon.


Looking for more business English resources?


Check out the following posts to help you learn more business English:

Small Talk For Business English

10 Business Idioms For The Workplace

Useful Expressions For Negotiating In English

8 Resources To Build Your Business Vocabulary

How To Write The Perfect CV

If you’d like to improve your business English, why not sign up to one of our Business English courses?

Glossary for Language Learners


Find the following words in the article and then write down any new ones you didn’t know.

pitfalls (n): an unexpected difficulty or disadvantage.

Tricky (adj): difficult.

overtime (n): time worked in excess of your typical working timetable or contracted hours.

swamped (v): to feel overwhelmed with work or tasks, be very busy.

trunk (n): the main stem of a tree.

airborne (adj): transported into the air after taking off.

n = noun

v = verb

adj = adjective

exp = expression

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