Phrasal verbs for business: F

to face up to

to accept something unpleasant: We’re going to have to face up to the fact that we’ve just lost our biggest client.

to fall back on

to use in an emergency: If this plan doesn’t work we’ll fall back on plan B.

Similarly the compound noun/adjective “fallback” means an alternative.

to fall through

to fail: Unfortunately the plan fell through at the last minute.

to fall out

to quarrel / disagree / stop being friends: David and John we’re getting on fine until that business with the tax inspector caused them to fall out.

to farm (something) out

to contract work to someone else / to outsource: As the graphics department is already working to capacity on the ABC project we’ll have to farm out the design work on this new project.

Cf. “to contract out”

to feel up to

to feel capable of doing something: I’m not going to make it to the party tonight, I’m afraid. I just don’t feel up to it.

to fend for

to take care of yourself or others / to cope: You’ll be able to fend for yourself while we’re away at the conference won’t you?

to fend (something) off

to defend against something: Do you think we will be able to fend off a hostile takeover?

Cf. “to fight off”

to ferret (something) out

to look for and find: The invoice must be in the files somewhere. Angela, can you try to ferret it out?

to file for

to make a legal application / submission: The company filed for bankruptcy three months ago.

to fill in for

to do someone else’s work for them: I’ll fill in for Sarah while she’s away.

Cf. “to cover for”

to fill (someone) in

to provide information to someone: Please ask Laura to fill you in with the details.

to fill (a form) in /out

to complete a form: Please fill in this form while you’re waiting.

to firm (something) up

to make something clearer, better understood: We need to firm up our standpoint on this issue before we enter negotiations.

to fit out

to provide necessary equipment / complete and furnish premises: The Lessee will fit out the premises upon the handover of the premises from the Lessor.

Similarly the compound noun “fit-out” means the equipment.

to fizzle out

to end unsuccessfully: The project fizzled out due to lack of interest from the management board.

to flag (something) up

to draw attention to / highlight an issue: Make sure you flag up the outstanding electricity bill in the meeting with the tenant.

to flesh (something) out

to add information or detail: You need to flesh out the non-competition clause with exact descriptions of the activities the employee cannot undertake.

to flush (something) out

to clean the inside of something: The pipes were blocked until the plumber flushed them out with a very strong chemical solution.

to get something or someone out of hiding: Somebody in the marketing department must have divulged the idea. But Who? Joanna, do you think you can flush him out?

to flog (something) off

to sell (usually cheaply): I heard that he flogged off his shares in the company for half their value.

(also “to flog”)

to fob (somebody) off

to tell a lie: He fobbed the boss off with a story about his washing machine leaking, but actually he just spent the morning in bed.

to follow (something) through

to continue until something is completed: There’s no point starting a project unless you intend to follow it through.

to follow (something) up

to take action on something: He said the bank had made a mistake and had taken $500 out of his account. But he never followed it up. It’s probably too late to do anything about it now.

to forge ahead

to make a lot of progress: We’ve been forging ahead with our international expansion plans, with branches opening in Dubai, Moscow and Beijing all within the last two months.

to freshen (something) up

quickly improve the appearance of somebody or something: Can you freshen up our standard advice letter and make it look like we’ve produced a bespoke document for this client?

to frown on

to disapprove: The boss really frowned on Robert taking that call during the meeting.

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Phrasal verbs for business: E

to ease off

to reduce pressure on somebody/something: I think you should ease off on this issue or it might be a deal breaker.

to calm down: The storm should ease off soon.

to eat away/into

to destroy slowly: The fall in sales is eating away at profits.

to eat (something) up

to consume all of something: The income tax rise is going to eat up all my bonus.

to egg (someone) on

to encourage: If we can egg them on a little with some additional incentive, I think they’ll agree to our terms.

to eke out

to make something last as long as possible: We should be able to eke out this income for another couple of months.

to earn enough only for a basic existence: She eked out a living taking in laundry for over 20 years.

to embark on/upon

to start doing something: Make sure you check the regulations before you embark upon the project.


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Phrasal verbs for business: D

to deal in

to do business: John deals in timber. He’s got big business interests in Siberia.

to deal with

to be about something: The article deals with various tax and foreign exchange issues.

to take action with regard to something: The bank just called me about the interest payment. Apparently something’s wrong. It’s really annoying as I thought I’d dealt with that yesterday.

to dial in

to join a teleconference: If you have any problems, your IT helpdesk will be able to help you dial in to the call.

to die down

to decrease or become quieter: We faced some difficult questions when the scandal broke, but now it’s beginning to die down and we’re able to return to business as usual.

to dig up

to find information: Check the internet and see what you can dig up about their involvement in the transaction.

to dip into

to read parts of something: I’ve dipped into the book, but I haven’t read it all.

to spend some savings: If profits don’t improve next month I’m afraid we’ll have to dip into savings to keep the company afloat.

to dive in

to do something without much planning: Sorry everybody, but due to time pressure we’re going to have to dive straight into this project.

to do away with

to get rid of: I don’t believe they’ve done away with the entire contractual clause. I suggested they only delete the final sentence.

to do without

to manage without someone/something: Dave has just called in sick. He says he’ll be off work all week, so we’ll just have to do without him.

to double as

to have a second function: As Dave’s away, Jack will double as graphic designer this week.

to drag on

to be unnecessarily long: The CEO’s speech dragged on for ages. I nearly fell asleep.

to draw down

to reduce or deplete by consuming or spending: We can deal with the deficit by drawing down our cash reserves.

Similarly the compound noun “drawdown” means the act/process of a reducing or depleting.

to draw into

to become involved in something negative: Don’t let them draw you into something you might regret.

to draw on/upon

to make use of something: We hope to draw on Rebecca’s vast experience in the telecommunications sector.

to draw (something) up

to prepare documents: We’ll ask the lawyers to draw up all the relevant documentation.

to drive up

to make something increase: The rise in the oil price is likely to drive up commodity prices.

to drop in/round/over:

to visit: If you could drop round to the office tomorrow we’ll sign all the necessary papers.

to drum up

to obtain support/interest: Do you think you can drum up support for this idea at head office?



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Phrasal verbs for Business: C

to call (something) off

to cancel something: Bob is ill, so we’ll have to call off the meeting.

to cancel (something) out

to have an opposite effect, causing a return to the original situation: The new tax cancels out the rise in the interest rate, so my earnings will stay the same.

to carry (something) forward

to apply e.g. a loss to the following year’s taxable income in order to reduce the tax burden (also carry over): We’ll have to ask the lawyers if we can carry this loss forward to next financial year.

to transfer an accounting entry to the next column, page etc.

to carry (something) off

to successfully achieve something (cf. bring off): Congratulations to the team for carrying off such a successful campaign.

to carry (something) out

to follow, put into practice: He carried out our instructions perfectly.

to cash (something) in

to benefit financially from something, to sell: He’s got a considerable number of shares which he’s planning to cash in when he retires.

to chase (something) up

to find information on something: We need to know the tax status on this. Tom – can you chase up the lawyers on this?

to persuade/remind someone to do something: Do we know the tax status yet? Where’s Tom? Not here? Jack, can you chase up Tom on this?

to claw (something) back

to get money back: The client won the case – the insurance was miss-sold. We should be able to claw back the agent’s commission.

Similarly “clawback” means the money got back.

to close (something) down

to permanently shut: He closed down the business last year.

to cobble (something) together

to make something in an improvised way: The client wants a sales brochure by tomorrow. Kate – can you stay late tonight and help us cobble something together?

to come up

to happen/occur: That was Tom on the phone. He said something came up at home and he has to take the afternoon off.

to come up against

to face a problem: The project was going very well until we came up against the strict customs clearance requirements.

to come up with

to have an idea: The lawyers have come up with a plan to reduce the tax bill on the transaction.

to contract (something) out

to employ a contractor to undertake work: As we don’t have any in-house translators we’ll have to contract that part of the project out.

to count on

to rely on somebody: We’re counting on the lawyers to find some tax loophole, otherwise we’ll have to halt the transaction.

to cover for

to do someone else’s work while they are absent: Do worry about taking Friday afternoon off – I’ll cover for you.

to provide an excuse: Don’t worry about being late this morning. I covered for you at the meeting. I told them that your little boy was sick.

to cut back on

to reduce: Profits are down on last year, so we’re going to have to cut back on your Christmas bonuses.

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Phrasal verbs for business: B

Phrasal verbs that include (someone) or (something) are separable. Others cannot be separated, so the object must come after the entire phrasal verb.

to back (someone) up

to give someone help and support: My old boss would always back me up if I suggested a new idea.

Similarly the compound noun “backup” means help or support.

to back (something) up

to make a copy of a computer file on a CD or external hard drive: Don’t forget to back up your work before you leave the office.

Similarly “backup” means the additional copy of the file.

to bail (someone) out

to get somebody or something out of trouble: The government bailed out the banks during the financial crisis.

The compound noun “bailout” describes the support provided.

to bank on

to rely on somebody or something: We’re banking on this new product to boost profits.

to branch out

to take up something new, start a new business interest: We need to branch out to new customers if we’re to remain competitive.

to break into

to enter a field of activity: At 35 he broke into advertising after a previous career as a teacher.

to spend money out of necessity: We’re going to have to break into emergency funds if profits don’t improve next quarter.

to bring (something) forward

to reschedule an event for an earlier date: Due to a change in circumstances we have brought forward the shareholders’ meeting.

Cf. “to put back”: to reschedule for a later date.

to bring (something) off

to successfully make something happen: Congratulations to the team for bringing off such a successful campaign.

to bring (something) up

to introduce an issue: We’ve already discussed the issue of reduced bonuses. There’s no need to bring it up again.

to take care of and educate a child

to burn out

to work to exhaustion: John’s regularly working 16-hour days. At this rate he’s going to burn out.

Similarly the compound noun “burnout” means a collapse brought on by physical or emotional exhaustion.

to buy into

to buy an interest in a business: John has just bought into some new real estate venture.

to buy (someone) out

to buy all of someone else’s interest in a business: Some big real estate investor wants to buy John out.

The compound noun “buyout” describes the event.

to buy (something) up

to buy all of a certain stock: Shares in MaxCo are down. Let’s buy up all we can get our hands on.



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Phrasal verbs for business: A

to abide by

to follow the law, rules or a decision: We’ll have to change our business model in order to abide by the new regulations.

to account for

to explain or justify: The warm weather accounted for the fall in sales of winter clothing.

to act up

to malfunction: My computer’s acting up today – I can’t access the internet.

to behave badly: Sorry I’m late – my 3-year-old was acting up and I couldn’t get him dressed.

to act upon

to take action as a result of something: We must act upon the evidence, despite our reservations.

to answer for

to be responsible for a problem: The old IT manager has a lot to answer for. No wonder he was fired!

to speak on behalf of someone: Due to my client’s absence, I will answer for him.

to ask around

to ask lots of people for information or help: I need to find a graphic designer. Could you ask around and see if anyone can recommend one?


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How to use commas part 4

The bracketing comma

Bracketing commas usually come in pairs. They are used to mark information which is not essential to the meaning of a sentence. Such non-essential information is called a “non-restrictive phrase” or a “weak interruption”. E.g.:

All the Partners, including the General Partner, have the right to participate in the General Meeting.

Note that the section between the commas can be removed and the sentence still makes sense. This is ALWAYS true with bracketing commas:

All the Partners have the right to participate in the General Meeting.

More examples:

The Purchaser represents that, as of the date of this Agreement, it is not aware of any breach of the Warranty.

We can conclude, in view of the above, that the application was correctly submitted.

This company, which is registered in Cyprus, has offices throughout CEE.

If the weak interruption comes at the beginning or the end of the sentence use only one bracketing comma:

In view of the above, we can conclude that the application was correctly submitted.

After a brief analysis of the documents you sent, we recommend a full due diligence.

A full-time employee’s salary may not be lower than the national minimum monthly salary, which is currently 1,276 PLN.

I have discussed the matter with David South, who is a specialist in renewable energy.

The sentences still make sense if the words set off by the comma are removed.


Bracketing commas with relative clauses

What is the difference in meaning between these two sentences?

The branch, which we established in Sofia, has 12 employees.

The branch which we established in Sofia has 12 employees.

The first contains a non-defining relative clause; i.e. the commas indicate that the relative clause (which we established in Sofia) is non-essential information and that the sentence still makes sense if it is removed:

The branch has 12 employees.

So there is only one branch.

The second contains a defining relative clause; i.e. the lack of commas indicates that the relative clause is essential information and that the sentence does NOT make sense without it.

The defining relative clause defines WHICH branch we’re referring to.

So there is more than one branch.

The branch, which we established in Sofia has 12 employees.
The branch which we established in Sofia, has 12 employees.

Another example: What is the difference in meaning between these two sentences?

The employees, who have been employed for more than 10 years, are entitled to an additional 6 days of annual holiday leave.

The employees who have been employed for more than 10 years are entitled to an additional 6 days of annual holiday leave.

First version (non-defining relative clause) – all the employees have been employed for more than 10 years; all are entitled to the extra 6 days of leave.

Second version (defining relative clause) – only the employees that have been employed for more than 10 years are entitled to the extra 6 days of leave.


It is a common mistake to add commas to relative clauses when they should not be there (thus making a non-defining relative clause when the sentence requires a defining one).

For example:

A small business is defined as a business, which employs fewer than 50 persons and whose annual turnover is less than EUR 10 million.

Putting the comma before “which” implies the relative clause contains non-essential information. But here the information is essential and the sentence does not make sense if the relative clause is removed:

A small business is defined as a business.

So the comma should be deleted:

A small business is defined as a business which employs fewer than 50 persons and whose annual turnover is less than EUR 10 million.


Bracketing commas with participle clauses

The rules for using bracketing commas with participle clauses are the same as the rules for relative clauses.

If the information in the clause can be left out – use commas:

Due to a recent amendment, executed in December 2014, the course of action you suggest would now be unlawful.

The Court decided to refer the matter back to the Prosecutor’s Office, instructing that it should reassess the grounds for opening a criminal investigation.

If the information in the clause is essential – do not use commas:

The agent gaining the highest sales average will receive a special bonus.

We would like to lease the shop premises situated closest to the food court.


Strong interruptions

I have explained that bracketing commas are used to set off “weak interruptions” in sentences.

Dashes are used in exactly the same way to set off so-called “strong interruptions”. For example:

Dotcom Sp. z o.o. – not Dotcom S.A. – is the owner of the shares.

In our opinion – which we strongly believe is the correct opinion – all the formalities have been fulfilled, but we cannot guarantee that the competition authority will agree with us.



Only use bracketing commas if the sentence will still make sense when the words set off by the commas are removed.

Remember to use TWO bracketing commas if the weak interruption is in the middle of the sentence.


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