Phrasal verbs for business: U, V and W

to use (something) up

to finish or consume all of something: The training budget for this year has been used up, so the company cannot pay for your attendance at the conference.

to usher (something) in

to begin something significant: This merger is a major decision which ushers in big changes for the company and its employees.

to vouch for

to guarantee: I can vouch for him. George is reliable and hard working – he’ll be an asset to your team.

to wade in / into

to get involved in something without much thought: I’m really worried Jack is going to wade in and try to take over the project.

to wade through

to get to the end of something with a lot of difficulty: The new trainee is a hard worker – he waded through all the documentation on the Briggs case in just two days.

to want out

to want to leave an arrangement: As a result of the changes to the law on fracking, BigOilCo wants out. They’re not going to invest in the country after all.

to water (something) down

to make something weaker, less effective: I understand your point of view, but if you don’t water down your proposal a bit, we’re going to get nothing at all.

to weed (something) out

to remove: This organisation is never going to increase efficiency if we don’t weed out some of the older, more expensive employees.

to weigh (something) up

to evaluate: We need to properly weigh up the advantages and disadvantages of the expansion plans before we take them any further.

to wind (something) down

to slowly close a business or organisation: The board plans to start winding the company down from January next year.

to wind (something) up

to bring something to an end: That all I wanted to say. Let’s wind up the meeting now and get back to work.

to put things in order: She wound up all her business affairs and moved to an island in the Caribbean.

to arrive in a place or situation as a result of a certain course of action: He borrowed a huge amount of money to establish the business, but it totally failed and he’s wound up with enormous debts that’ll he never be able to pay off.

to write down

to record a reduced asset value: We have been forced to write down the shares after they lost value on Friday’s downturn.

to write (something) off

to record as a loss or expense: As our total fees for the project are over budget we will have to write off all translation costs.

to disregard as unimportant: I couldn’t believe he would just write off my idea without giving it any consideration!


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Phrasal verbs for business: T

to take (something) down

to write / make a note of: This is important – make sure you take it down.

to take in

to hear and understand information: You remember what he said about our marketing strategy? It took me a while to take it in. But when I did, I realised it is brilliant!

to deceive: Do you really believe what the politician said? You shouldn’t allow yourself to be taken in!

to take (somebody / something) on

to employ: The accounting department is going to take on two new employees this month.

to assume responsibility: Do you think you can really take on a mentoring role, on top of your current training commitments?

to take off

to make great progress: Business has really taken off this year, despite the wider economic slowdown.

to take over

to assume control of an organisation: Have you heard that BigCo is planning to take over SmallCo?

Similarly, the compound noun “takeover” refers to the procedure of taking control of an organization.

to start a new job previously occupied by someone else: He takes over as CFO in December, when Harry is planning to retire.

to talk (something) up

to exaggerate: We’ll have to talk up our role in the GenCo merger negotiations, if we’re to have a chance of being instructed by XCo on its merger plans.

to talk (something) over

to discuss: We can talk over your idea later this afternoon when I’m not so busy.

to talk (someone) through

to explain something to someone: As Fiona was away last week, I need someone to talk her through the project.

to team up

to come together as a team: Jack, can you team up with Sandra and Chris and do some research on this idea?

to think (something) over

to consider something carefully: Give me a day or two to think it over. I’ll get back to you on Thursday.

to thrash (something) out

to discuss for a long time until reaching an agreement: They trashed out the negotiations all night and finally came to an agreement at six in the morning.

to throw (something) together

to make or arrange very quickly: Here’s the sales brochure we threw together last night.

to tide (someone) over

to make something last if used carefully: The research grant isn’t a lot of money, but it should be enough to tide us over for a couple of months.

to tip off

to secretly inform the authorities: There’s a rumour that Benny tipped off the tax authorities about BentCo’s offshore accounts.

Similarly, the compound noun “tip-off” refers to information.

to tone (something) down

to make something seem less extreme, more moderate: Can you tone down what Simon said about “skyrocketing sales” in your article? Simon does tend to exaggerate.

to touch upon

to mention: We touched upon that issue in the meeting, but didn’t come to any final decision.

to track (something) down

to find after a long search: Have you tracked down that lease agreement yet? I remember you were looking for it last week.

to trigger (something) off

to cause something to happen: There’s a risk that the course of action you suggest would trigger off all sorts of tax-related problems.

to turn (something) down

to reject: We were really expecting to win the tender, but they turned us down.

to turn up

to make an appearance: It was a total waste of time going to court today. The defendant didn’t even turn up.


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Phrasal verbs for business: S

to saddle (somebody) with

to give some a difficult task or responsibility: It’s going to a nightmare sorting out all that documentation. Apparently Jack’s been saddled with it.

to sail through

to find something very easy: Don’t worry about the final exam. You’ll sail through it.

to save (something) up

to collect or store something (usually money) for future use: Henry’s not going skiing this year. He’s saving up to buy a motor boat.

to scale (something) down

to make smaller than originally planned: Due to the recession, we’re scaling down our operations in Indonesia.

to scale (something) up

to make larger than originally planned: Due to the favourable exchange rate we’re scaling up our operations in Singapore.

to sell (something) off

to sell something, often cheaply because you need the money: Due to falling profits the company is forced to sell off its holdings in Italy.

to sell out

to run out of something because it has all been bought: The snack bar has sold out of cookies.

to give up artistic/creative integrity in return for commercial success: Small companies are often accused of selling out when they’re bought by big firms.

to sell up

to sell a house and move somewhere else or sell a business and do something else: Dave has apparently decided it’s time to sell up and move on.

to shake up

to upset or shock: The news about Deutsche Bank has really shaken up the market.

Similarly the compound noun “shake-up” means a shock.

to shape up

to improve: The market has shaped up a lot in the past year, and we’ve seen corresponding growth in profits.

to shell out

to spend a lot of money on something: I don’t understand why the boss thinks it’s OK to shell out so much money on renovating the conference room.

to shop around

to look for a good deal: If you want to find value-for-money office space you’ll need to spend a lot of time shopping around.

to shut (something) down

to close a business: BigCo was shut down two years ago after a hostile takeover.

to sign up

to subscribe: Ten people have signed up for the weekend training.

to be snowed under

to have a lot of work: We’ve been snowed under all week working on the Geronimo project.

to sort (something) out

to resolve a problem: HR have finally sorted out the problem with Sharon’s work permit. She can start work on Monday.

to spark (something) off

to cause something (usually unpleasant) to happen: The case has sparked off nationwide industrial action.

to stand in for somebody

to act as a replacement: While Douglas is away on sabbatical Andrea will stand in for him.

Similarly, the compound noun “stand-in” means a replacement.

to step down

to resign: Douglas won’t be coming back from his sabbatical. He’s decided to step down.

to step (something) up

to increase: Next year we aim to step up activity in the Middle East.


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Phrasal verbs for business: Q and R

to quit on

to stop working/functioning especially at a time of trouble: Please don’t quit on me now, just when things are getting difficult. 

Typical! I’ve got a deadline in 20 minutes and my computer’s quit on me.

to rake in

to earn a lot of money: Bob set up his own business 3 years ago. It was difficult at first, but I hear he’s raking it in now. 

to ramp (something) up

to increase, boost: This year we plan to ramp up sales, so we’re employing 3 more sales staff.

to read up on

to research: I’d like you to read up on entering the Chinese market.

to ride (something) out

to get through a difficult time: If we can just ride out this recession, we should be well positioned to take the lead on the competition.

to rip (somebody) off

to charge an excessive amount of money or obtain money unfairly: Look at this umbrella. I bought it half an hour ago from a guy at the train station and it’s already broken. He ripped me off!

Similarly the compound noun “rip-off” means something that was not worth what you paid for it.

to roll out

to launch: We’re planning a big party when we roll out the new product.

to rule (something) out

to exclude a possibility: The merger is on hold for the moment, but it may happen in the future. We’re not ruling it out entirely.

to run into

to meet somebody without planning to: I ran into Fiona in Starbucks the other day. She’s working at BigCo now.

to run through

to practise: Can I run through my presentation with you this evening. I’d really value your opinion.

to run up

to spend money on credit: Anna has run up a huge debt on her company credit card. 

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Phrasal verbs for business: P

to pack (something) in

to stop doing something: Have you heard that John has packed it in? After six weeks working on the project he’s decided it’s not worth continuing with it.

to pack (something) out

to fill up a venue: The conference hall was packed out for the CEO’s speech. There was standing room only.

to pack up

to stop doing something and put things away: It’s midnight. Time to pack up and go home!

to stop working: My computer’s packed up again.

to pad (something) out

to make a text longer by adding irrelevant content, repeating information: I don’t know why they padded out the document with all that unnecessary information.

to pan out

to develop, result: Let’s wait and see how the situation pans out before we make a final decision.

to paper over

to try to conceal a problem without fixing it properly: Isn’t there some way we can paper over the problem so the client won’t notice?

to pass (something) on

to give a message to someone: OK – no problem, I’ll pass it on when he gets back to the office.

to pass (something) round

to distribute: Can you pass round the handouts while I set up the projector?

Cf. to hand out

to pass (something) up

to not take an opportunity: Let’s do it. We don’t want to pass up a chance like this.

to patch (something) up

to mend something, make something better: The program doesn’t work because there’s a bug in the software. IT is going to patch it up somehow.

to pay (something / somebody) back

to repay money: John and Robert have to pay the company back for their night out during the training weekend.

to take revenge: John plans to pay Dave back for reporting on him.

The compound noun “payback” means a return on an investment or revenge.

to pay (something) down

to pay a debt over time: You pay down both the principal and the interest on your mortgage each month.

to pay (something) into

to deposit money: Please pay the fee into the account listed below.

to pay (something) off

to completely repay a debt: I suggest you try to pay off that high-interest loan as quickly as possible.

to result in success: I’m very glad your investment paid off.

to pencil (something) in

to make a provisional appointment: OK, I’ll pencil in our meeting for 3 pm Thursday. No problem if you need to change it.

to phase (something) in

to gradually introduce something new: The board plans to phase in the new management system over a period of three months.

to phase (something) out

to gradually remove something: The board plans to phase out the old management system over a period of three months.

to pick (something) up

to improve: Sales have picked up in recent months.

to learn fast: He picked up the language in only a couple of months.

to collect: Can you pick up the children from school this afternoon?

to receive: My phone’s not picking up a signal.

to pile up

to accumulate: A lot of work piled up while I was off sick.

to pitch for

to make a bid for work: Today we pitched for our biggest contract to date.

Similarly “a pitch” is a bid.

to pitch in

to work together towards an objective: If we all pitch in we should be able to meet the deadline for this project.

to play out

to progress, develop until an end result is known: Let’s wait and see how the situation plays out before we decide what to do.

to pop in

to make a brief visit: I’ll pop in to your office on my way home.

to pop out

to leave somewhere briefly: I’m sorry, John’s not at his desk at the moment. I think he’s just popped out for a sandwich.

to press ahead / press on

to continue with something: Despite the new zoning plan we’re going to press ahead with the construction project.

“to push ahead” has a similar meaning

to press for

to make an effort to persuade someone to allow something: We’re going to press for a change to the zoning plan, which will allow residential building.

to price (something) in

to include possible future costs when calculating a value: Don’t forget to price in the legal fees when calculating the full project cost.

to prop up

to support something, physically or financially: Although it’s making big losses FashionCo is being propped up by its parent company.

to pull ahead

to move in front: We’ve got to significantly increase sales this month if we’re going to prevent the competition from pulling ahead.

to pull back

to decide not to do something or end involvement in something: Due to the fall in oil prices GasCo is pulling back on its Siberian operations.

to pull (something) off

to succeed: Big thanks to Anna for pulling off a really difficult deal.

to pull out of something

to withdraw: Due to the fall in oil prices GasCo is pulling out of Siberia.

to pull together

to work efficiently together as a team: It’s a tight deadline, but if we pull together we can pull off this project.

to pump (money) into

to invest lots of money in something: Despite pumping a lot of money into this company we’re not seeing any returns.

to push (somebody) out

to force somebody to leave: The new CEO plans to push out the HR director.

to push (something) through

to force something to be accepted: Even if the boss doesn’t like it we’re going have to push it through somehow.

to put across

to communicate a message: I’m not sure I fully understand what you’re trying to put across.

to put (something) back / to put (something) off

to postpone: Due to delays in the building’s construction we will have to put back the opening date.

to put (something) forward

to suggest, propose: Robert put forward a great idea. Tell us about it Robert.

to put (someone) through

to connect on the telephone: Please hold the line while I put you through.

to put (something) together

to assemble: He was up till three in the morning trying to put together some Ikea furniture.

to put towards

to contribute money: If our application for EU funding is successful we’ll put the money towards research.



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Phrasal verbs for business: N and O

to nag at

to repeatedly complain or criticise: The boss keeps nagging at me to find more clients, but I’ve already found more than anyone else.

to nail (something) down

to understand fully: I want to nail down exactly how this new legislation will affect us.

to achieve something: Well done everybody, I’m really glad we nailed that project down.

to narrow (something) down

to reduce the number of options: We’ve got over fifty potential sites for the new office premises, so let’s narrow down our options and produce a short list.

to nip out

to go somewhere for a short time: Sorry, Mr Matthews is not available right now. He’s just nipped out of the office for a moment. He should be back in 10 minutes.

to nose out

to discover (secret) information: I heard a rumour that the competition is planning to start operations here. John – see what you can nose out about it.

to note (something) down

to write brief information: What I’m going to say next is important, so please note it down.

to open up

to start talking freely about something: I didn’t think she would tell me anything about the merger plans, but after a couple of glasses of wine she really opened up.

to allow access to the market: Since the sanctions were lifted the country has opened up for foreign imports and investment.

to opt for

to choose: Fiona prefers the red one, but I would opt for the blue.

to opt in

to choose to join something: The country opted in to the free trade area in 1996.

to opt out

to choose not to join something: Britain chose to opt out of the Schengen zone.

The compound noun “opt-out” means an option not to take part in something.

to order (somebody) around

to tell somebody to do something in an unpleasant way: I hate the way the boss orders me around all the time.

to own up

to confess: You know who broke the coffee machine? It was Michael – he owned up yesterday. He put the beans into the wrong container and completely jammed it.


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Phrasal verbs for business: M

to make do with

to accept something that is unsatisfactory because you have no choice: Sorry guys, but you’ll have to make do with the old coffee machine. The company hasn’t budgeted for a new one this year.

to make it

to arrive: Although his plane was over three hours late, John made it to the meeting on time.

to succeed: Although we had a really tight deadline the team finished the project on time. Thanks guys – I knew you could make it.

to make of

to understand: I don’t know what to make of the client’s behaviour. It doesn’t make any sense.

to make off with

to steal: We’ve just found out that Dave made off with two company laptops before he was fired.

to make (something) out

to be able to see or hear something: The phone line was so bad I could hardly make out a word he said.

to see a detail: If you look closely at the satellite photograph you can just make out my house.

to understand a person’s character (make somebody out): The new guy started in the office today. I can’t make him out. He wears really cool clothes, but he acts like a total geek.

to make (something) up

to invent a story: You know that new guy in the office? He’s been fired. It turns out his CV was totally made up.

to make up for

to compensate: I really sorry I was available to help yesterday. Let me make up for it. Can I buy you lunch?

to mark (something) down

to reduce the price: Supertech has marked down ipads by 20%.
The compound noun “markdown” means reduction.

to mark up

to increase the price: They always mark up products by a big margin in tourist shops.
The compound noun “mark-up” means reduction.

to measure up (to)

to reach the required standard: We always interview candidates at least three times to ensure they measure up.

to meet up (with sb.)

to meet somebody briefly: I met up with the client when I was in London.

to mount up

to accumulate: The firm’s profits have not met targets for two years and debts are mounting up.

to move (something) ahead / along

to progress: We’re moving along with the project nicely, and provided there are no problems we should be able to meet the deadline.

to move on

to make a change: My ten years at the firm have been an unforgettable experience, but now it is time for me to move on.

to muddle through

to achieve something without the required knowledge or experience: I hear your personal assistant is off sick this week? I’m sure you’ll muddle through somehow – you always do!

to mug up (on)

to study something quickly: Apparently the play is entirely in French. He says he’s going to mug up on his French before he goes.

to muscle in (on)

to become involved in something despite opposition to your involvement: Richard is now muscling in on the marketing department, despite Andrea telling him very clearly that she does not need his help.

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