This week we answer a question we received in an email last week from Mohamad from Iran. He writes,
“I get confused by the meanings of the verb ‘deal with.’ Please explain about it if it is possible.”
Answer: Dear Mohamad,
Great question! Let’s deal with it right away. The verb you asked about is what we call a phrasal verb. We also call them two-part verbs, (or even three-part-verbs). They contain a verb, and adverb, and at times, a preposition.
Deal with as “taking action”
One meaning of “deal with” is to take action or do something. We often use “deal with” when talking about solving a problem. For example, let’s say someone forgot to close the office window before a rain storm hit. Listen:
Rain came in through that window. Can you deal with it?
Sure, I’ll get a towel and dry it.
The second person dealt with the problem by cleaning up the water and, hopefully, closing the window!
Deal with as “trade with”
We also can use “deal with” in relation to buying or selling goods or services.
This phone doesn’t work – and I just bought it last week.
I’ve dealt with that company before. I’m sure they’ll give you a new one.
Deal with as “about”
We also use “deal with” when talking about the subject of a report, film, book and other things.
The report deals with the problem of poverty among children.
Stephen Hawking’s work dealt with time and the universe.
The next time you hear or read the verb “deal with,” look at the words around it and decide if the meaning is one of these:
- take action
- trade with
- be about
If you want to learn more about verbs like “deal with,” search for “phrasal verbs” in our Everyday Grammar TV series.
I’m Jill Robbins.
Dr. Jill Robbins wrote this story for Learning English. Ashley Thompson was the editor.
Words in This Story
phrasal verb – n. a group of words that functions as a verb and is made up of a verb and a preposition, an adverb, or both
towel - n. a piece of cloth used for drying things
poverty - n. the state of being poor
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