Phrasal Verbs in Research Papers


Have you been told that phrasal verbs are informal words?

Have you been told that you should avoid using phrasal verbs in formal/ academic writing?

Many English learners and international grad students often think that phrasal verbs are informal and not appropriate for a manuscript, a research paper or an essay.

Phrasal verbs, in fact, are neutral and there are many that are widely used in academia, research and other formal settings.

In this post I will share with you a list of common phrasal verbs that are commonly used when writing a research paper.

Phrasal verbMeaning*Example
account forto form the total of something…that coding RNA accounted for the largest proportion
allude toto mention someone or something without talking about them directlyFinally, we allude to potential interventions…
arrive atto reach an agreement about somethingThe emphasis is on the convoluted pathway that was actually used by immunologists to arrive at understanding compared to the direct pathway that could have been used given the knowledge at that time. ..
attribute toto think that someone or something has a particular quality or featureThe participants attributed as little blame as to the environmental factors.
base onif you base something on facts or ideas, you use those facts or ideas to develop itMost definitions of quality are based on products….
bear outto support the truth of somethingStudies bear out early reports of mexiletine…
bring aboutto cause something to happenThis receptor is required for calcitrol to bring about its action…
build onto use a success or achievement as a base from which to achieve more successPapers that build on very recent ideas are NIH funded less often than are papers that build on ideas that have had a chance to mature for at least 7 years
carry outto do or complete somethingNursing research is usually carried out by registered nurses…
come aboutto happen or to start to happenThe current theme issue came about by chance.
compare to/withto consider how things or people are similar and how they are differentResults demonstrate massage therapy is effective for treating pain compared to no treatment/ The effect of adding glargine was compared with intensification of lifestyle
consist ofto be formed or made from two or more thingsEach light chain consist of one variable domain…
contribute toto be one of the cause of an event or a situation… genetics contributes significantly to the weight-gain susceptibility
devote (something)toto use time, energy or resources for a particular purposeDevoting time to teaching even the most basic management skills…
dispense withto stop using something or someone, or to get rid of something or someone, usually because you don’t need themCould Psychiatry Dispense with Involuntary Medication?
expands onto give more details about something that you have said or written… the authors expand on the frequency occurrence proportions of handwritten features.
factor into include something when you are doing a calculation, or when you are trying to understand something… studies related to immunosuppressive factors in response to stress…
find outto discover information or a factStatistical Analysis to Find out the Optimal Locations for Non Invasive Brain Stimulation
focus onto give a lot of attention to one particular person, subject, or thingForensic Psychiatry: Focus on Malpractice and Risk Management
follow upto try to find out more about something, or to do something more to deal with it… a cohort of 123 individuals; 82 (67%) were followed up by audiology.
narrow downto make a number or list of things smaller, by removing the things that are least important, necessary, or suitable… reactive changes serves to narrow down the various potential causes…
point outto tell someone about information, often because you believe they don’t know or have forgotten it… in order to point out its possible diagnostic limitations
point towardto show that something is true or probably trueThis points toward this bacterial consortium as a mediator between early lifestyle …
put forwardto offer an idea, opinion, reason etc, especially so that people can discuss it and make a decision… investigators have put forward a number of possible causes
rule outto stop considering something as a possibility
… we should suspect those fractures and rule out associated injuries, fractures in other vertebral segments, and acute spinal cord injury.
result into cause something, or to produce somethingIn the United States alone, approximately 1.7 million people suffer a TBI each year, with 275,000 being hospitalized and 52,000 cases resulting in death.
set upto make a piece of equipment ready for use… government has set up central isolation sites for all people entering the country from abroad to be placed under medical observation.
subject todependent on something else to happen or be trueAll organizations are subject to risk and uncertainty.
sum upto tell (information) again using fewer wordsTo sum up, miR-149 silencing promoted osteogenic differentiation of MSCs …
*Examples were found using the PubMed.gov data base (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov).
PubMed® comprises more than 33 million citations for biomedical literature from MEDLINE, life science journals, and online books.

Practice time

Choose 3 phrasal verbs and write three sentences using them.


Christmas Phrasal verbs


Yaaay! Christmas is coming. That’s my favorite time of the year.

I have prepared some flashcards with festive phrasal verbs that you will hear a lot throughout the holiday season. You can give it a try and use some of them in your conversations.

Practice time

  1. Review the flashcards
  2. Click on the red button to do the online crossword.

Want to download and print the flashcards and the crossword?


Introduction to Phrasal Verbs


Phrasal verbs are two-word verbs. They include a verb and a particle. The particle can be a preposition or an adverb. Common particles are: up, down, back, out, on, off, or in.

When a verb and a particle are put together the resulting verb phrase has a complete different meaning.


I usually eat out on Sundays. (I usually eat in a restaurant on Sundays.)

My computer broke down suddenly. (My computer stopped working suddenly.)

Mike works out every day. (Mike does exercise every day.)

Phrasal verbs are divided into 2 big groups:

  • Intransitive phrasal verbs
  • Transitive phrasal verbs

Intransitive Phrasal Verbs

  1. Intransitive phrasal verbs DON’T need an object to complete their meaning.

Remember that the object is the person or the thing that receives the action of the verb. The object of the sentence is the answer to the question who or what the subject does something to.

Example of objects:

Susan opened the door.I will invite Tony to the cinema.
Subject: SusanSubject: I
Verb: invitedVerb: will invite
object: the door (what)object: Tony (who)

Examples of intransitive phrasal verbs:

Sit down, please

Can you stand up for a moment?

They will come back tomorrow.

2. The particle always comes immediately after the verb.


Can you stand for a moment up?

Can you stand up for a moment? ✅

We will go next weekend away.

We will go away next weekend. ✅

Transitive Phrasal Verbs

Transitive phrasal verbs need an object. Transitive phrasal verbs can be divided in 2 groups:

1 Separable phrasal verbs

Some phrasal verbs have an object and are separable. That means that you can put the particle before or after the object.


Take out your shoes before getting in the house.

Take your shoes out before getting in the house.

  • When the object is an object pronoun (me, you, him, her, us, them), the pronoun always goes between the verb and the particle

Take out them before getting in the house.

Take them out before getting in the house. ✅

2 Inseparable phrasal verbs

Some phrasal verbs have an object and are inseparable. That means that you cannot put the object between the verb and the particle.


Look your keys for.

Look for your keys.

My friend is friend is sick, so I offered to take her dog after.

My friend is sick, so I offered to take after her dog. ✅


Practice time

Label the phrasal verbs T (transitive) or I (intransitive) according to their use in the sentence. Circle the object

  1. She walked into the room and then ran out.
  2. Her plane takes off at 12 o’ clock.
  3. She broke down in tears.
  4. Write down my phone number.
  5. My mom throws it away.
  6. Is the manager setting up a new project?
  7. Can you turn the radio down? I’m doing my homework.
  8. She decided to give up smoking.
  9. She’ll call back later.
  10. I don’t get along well with my neighbors.