Have you ever been to an airport or train station where the official language was English? What was your experience – easy, difficult or in between?
Today, we will explore some common phrasal verbs that can be useful as you travel to or through English-speaking places.
A phrasal verb is made of two or more words: a verb plus a preposition or adverb, or both. Together, the words get a new meaning. For example, the phrasal verb get in means to arrive at a place.
Listen to two friends talk about a recent trip. There are six travel-related phrasal verbs. Try to find them and think about their meanings.
Hey, how was your trip?
Well it was…great! But getting there was a pain. The airport was so crowded because of flight delays. We tried to check in at a kiosk but the machines were down. So, we stood in line for 45 minutes just to pick up the tickets.
Then, our flight had a two-hour delay. The plane finally took off at 9:00.
What time did you get in?
Around 4:00. Our driver picked us up on time and was super sweet. He dropped us off at the hotel and we checked in without any trouble. The rest of the trip was wonderful!
That’s great. I’m looking forward to my next big trip!
Did you find all six of the verbs? Before we look at each, here are some good things to know.
What is ‘transitive’?
Phrasal verbs in English are either transitive or intransitive.
A transitive verb needs a direct object to express a complete thought. A direct object is a person or thing that receives the action of the verb.
For example, the sentence “I brought my suitcase” is transitive. The words “I brought” do not make a complete thought without the direct object “my suitcase.”
An intransitive verb does not need a direct object to express a complete thought. For example, I can say, “The plane landed” and it makes perfect sense.
Are they separable?
Phrasal verbs can be separable or inseparable. But what does that mean?
If a phrasal verb is separable, the direct object may appear in the middle of the verb. If it’s inseparable, the direct object must come after. I’ll show you what that means today.
Transitive or not, separable or not – it sounds complex but it’s very simple, as you’ll see and hear shortly.
Check into (something)
Our first verb is check in. Like many phrasal verbs, check in has more than one meaning. The one we are exploring today is intransitive – it gets no direct object. Listen again to how it was used:
We tried to check in at a kiosk but the machines were down.
The speaker also used it about the hotel:
…and we checked in without any trouble.
To check in means “to report to someone when you arrive at a place to let them know you are there.”
When we check in at a kiosk, the machine gives us a plane ticket. When we check in at a hotel, someone gives us a room key.
A verb with very close meaning and usage is check into. We use it for hotels, hostels, AirBnBs and the like.
The difference is that check into must have a direct object. But it’s inseparable. Have a listen:
We checked into the hotel without any trouble.
The direct object is “the hotel.”
pick up (someone)
pick (someone) up
Next, you heard the verb pick up. It is transitive and separable.
We used two of its meanings today. Here’s the first:
So, we stood in line for 45 minutes just to pick up the tickets!
It means “to go somewhere to get something.” Note that the direct object “the tickets” comes after the verb. But, because it’s separable, we can also put the object in the middle, like this:
So, we stood in line for 45 minutes just to pick the tickets up!
You also heard the speaker say:
Our driver picked us up on time and was super sweet!
This meaning of pick up is “to let or put people or things into a car, bus, ship or something else.”
Note the wording “pick us up.” The pronoun direct object “us” is in the middle of the verb pick up. When a phrasal verb is separable, pronoun direct objects go in the middle.
Okay, onto our next verb – take off. It’s a verb with many meanings but today’s meaning is easy: It is intransitive and means “to begin to fly.” Here’s how the speaker used it:
The plane finally took off at 9:00.
Next is the verb get in, another intransitive verb. Let’s hear how it was used:
What time did you get in?
You may remember that get in means “to arrive at a place.”
look forward to (something)
And finally we have look forward to. This verb is made of three words. It is transitive and inseparable. Here’s how you heard it used:
That’s great! I’m looking forward to my next big trip!
To look forward to something means “to expect it with pleasure.” The direct object is “my next big trip.”
Join us next week for Part II: useful travel words and phrases.
We’re looking forward to it!
I’m Alice Bryant.
Alice Bryant wrote this story for Everyday Grammar. Caty Weaver was the editor.
Now, you try it!
When was the last time you traveled? Did you have a good time? We want to read about your trip! Write a paragraph about it and use two or three of today’s phrasal verbs. Remember that some of the verbs take direct objects and some do not. And, placement of the direct object depends on whether the verb is separable.
Words in This Story
phrase – n. a group of two or more words that express a single idea but do not usually form a complete sentence
preposition – n. a word or group of words that is used to show direction, location or time
adverb – n. a word is often used to show time, manner, place or degree
kiosk – n. a small structure that provides information and services on a computer screen
down – adj. not working
hostel – n. an inexpensive place for usually young travelers to stay overnight
pronoun – n. a word (such as I, he, she, us) that is used instead of a noun or
tense – n. a form of a verb that is used to show when an action happened