Phrasal Verbs: To Set Up

February 14, 2015

To Set Up is to establish, arrange, construct.


He set up a new business last year and it is already turning a profit.

Let’s set up a date to discuss it in more detail.

I had difficulty setting up my new computer so I called the IT department.

set up 1


Business English: To cut back (on)

December 4, 2014

To cut back on/to is to reduce.  We use “on” + substance/ product/ habit & “to” + level.


I have cut back on coffee

I have cut back to 2 cups a day.

cut back on

Business English: Look forward to

November 3, 2014

Look forward to” is a three-word phrasal verb which means to be enthusiastic about or eagerly anticipate.   Note: “to” is followed by verb-ing not an infinitive.


I look forward to receiving your proposal next week.

After finishing the project, he was really looking forward to his vacation.

We are looking forward to the next networking meeting!

look forward to friday

Business English: Pitch/chip in

October 24, 2014

Pitch/chip in” means to help – usually a group of people each of whom only have to do a bit of work.


If everyone pitches/chips in 5 dollars, we can get a pizza.

If everyone could just pitch/chip in and throw away their own trash, the conference organisers would appreciate it.

Pitching/ chipping in is a basic tenet of teamwork.

pitch in

Business English: Go out

October 10, 2014

Go out” isn’t directly related to business English, but people confuse it with some business English expressions.   There are many definitions of  ” go out”.  We will just focus on the most common usage.  “Go out” typically means “recreation/entertainment” – specifically, “nightlife”.  Many people get confused and think it just means “leave” or “leave the city”.  This causes confusion (see explanation below examples).


I have had a tough week, I can’t wait to go out with my friends.

I don’t want to go out Saturday night because I will be running a 10 km race on Sunday morning.

Going out is a waste of money; it’s better to relax at home with a movie.

And the confusion?  I asked a student recently what he did on the weekend.  He said, “I went out”.   Naturally, I imagined him at clubs or pubs.  I said, “Oh how was it?”.  He responded, “Good, I spent most of the time talking to my grandmother”.  At that point, I imagined him at a disco with his grandmother – a strange mental picture.  It turns out that my student thought that “go out” meant to leave the city.  In this case, he thought it meant to go to his grandmother’s pueblo.  If you simply use a phrase like, “I got out of the city”, it solves the problem.

Another typical example is when students say things like:  “I go out my office late”.  Once again, with “go out” we imagine nightlife.  When they add “my office late”, we just get confused.   Did you leave your office late and then go directly to a nightclub?  Did you go out to a nightclub with people from your office until late?  What is this person trying to say?  If you simply used the verb “leave” it solves the problem: “I left the office late”.  That sentence makes perfect sense!

Why is this grandma at a nightclub?

Why is this grandma at a nightclub?

Business English: To give up

October 8, 2014

To give up” is a phrasal verb which has more than one meaning.  1. To lose hope.  2. To quit a habit or addiction.

Examples for 1:  

When starting a business, never give up!

Can you imagen what the world would be like if Steve Jobs had given up after some of his mistakes?

The problem is that most people give up before they even start!

Examples for 2:

After giving up coffee, I actually found I was more productive.

I tried studying Chinese but quickly gave up.

Giving up additions isn’t that difficult if you know how to do it.

give up mouse

Business English: To figure out

October 7, 2014

To figure out” is a phrasal verb which means to find the solution or understand.  Remember “figure” means number.  A typical sentence is: “The report was full of facts and figures”  “Facts and figures” is another  standard phrase.   “Figure out” can be to literally do calculations  or to solve any other sort of problem .


I need to figure out this math problem.

Can you figure out how to get to the airport?

Figuring out the import tax was really tricky in this case!

figure out