10 Business English Phrasal Verbs

You might have heard that phrasal verbs are informal (not always true!) and maybe you think that means you don’t need to learn them in a business setting. But you do! Business English is just English, and all English native speakers use phrasal verbs all the time.

In this article we’ll teach you some common business English phrasal verbs with examples of how to use them. First, here’s a quick test so you can see if you need to study or not.

Business Phrasal Verbs Practice

Just a short test to see if you know these common phrasal verbs used in business English situations.

Business Phrasal Verbs Practice

Question 1 of 5.

Mariah Carey was laid off from her job as a professional baseball player. True or False?

1. True.
2. False.

Mariah Carey was never a pro baseball player, so she was never laid off. She did throw this terrible first pitch in a game, though.

Guess what? She has 18 number 1 singles in the US charts. Only The Beatles have more. Wow!

Question 2 of 5.

Complete this newspaper headline:

Manchester United manager wants to ____________ three new players in January.

1. ritually sacrifice
2. head up
3. bring in

Let's hope they bring in Messi, Ronaldo, and Neymar.

Question 3 of 5.

Which company might say this:

"We've come across a serious problem with our main product."

1. Apple.
2. BMW.
3. Procter and Gamble.
4. Every company in the world except Pizza Hut.

All companies have a crisis every now and then. There are bugs in Apple's software, BMW lie about pollution, P+G cuts down huge forests so we can have more shampoo.

But Pizza Hut pizzas are perfect in every way. You will never come across someone who says 'oh that was a bad pizza'. It's impossible.

Question 4 of 5.

L'Oréal and Prada __________________ long-term licensing agreement

1. enter in
2. enter into
3. enter the dragon

It means L'Oréal will be able to make perfumes using the Prada brand.

Question 5 of 5.

We won the contract. Good job, everyone! All our hard work really ___________________ .

1. paid off.
2. laid off.
3. kept down.

Of course, sometimes you work hard and it doesn't pay off. Only one person gets the gold medal in the Olympics, for example.

Next question 1 of 5

All 5 questions completed!

Business Phrasal Verbs Practice

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Inseparable Phrasal Verbs

It’s probably easiest to start here. ‘Inseparable’ might sound complicated but it isn’t. It just means you can’t put anything between the words in the phrasal verb (i.e. you can’t separate the words).

For example, look into, meaning investigate.

As in, ‘Vietnam is growing very quickly. We should look into setting up a factory there.’

You can’t put anything between the word look and the word into.

#1 – break down (stop working)

The printer has broken down again!

This lift breaks down once a week.

Note: it’s normally a machine that breaks down. Something with moving parts. It’s strange to hear a smartphone has ‘broken down’. I’d say ‘my phone has broken’.

Another common business use is about negotiations that go badly. ‘Talks between the unions and management have broken down.’

#2 – come across (find by accident)

I came across this article yesterday. It says drones might be made illegal soon because there are too many idiots using them near airports. Maybe we should postpone building that drone factory in Vietnam?

If you come across Karen on your way to the canteen, tell her to come and see me.

#3 – end up (reach the end of a journey)

Great for talking about your career.

I started in the call centre as a temp, but ended up running the whole department!

Did you ever think you’d end up as a nurse?

#4 – enter into (start a negotiation)

Apple has entered into talks to buy Netflix.

The new government has entered into talks to sell every hospital in the country to American hedge funds.

#5 – pay off (1. get a reward 2. repay a loan)

I took a big risk putting all my money into Bitcoin, but it paid off! I made 10% profit in one day.

It will take us 8 years to pay off this loan, but interest rates are very low right now.

Separable Phrasal Verbs

These are phrasal verbs where you can put an object between the words. If it’s a noun, it can go in the middle or after. If it’s a pronoun it can only go in the middle. Example time!

fill in (complete a document)

  • Can you fill in this questionnaire, please?
  • Can you fill this questionnaire in, please?
  • Can you fill this in, please?

So, you can’t say ‘fill in this, please’.

#1 – bring in (use someone else’s skills)

The Leeds branch is going to be very busy this weekend because of the football match so we’re going to bring in some workers from Manchester.

  • We don’t have someone with html skills so we’ll have to bring in a web development company to do the redesign.
  • We don’t have someone with html skills so we’ll have to bring a web development company in to do the redesign.

#2 – head up (lead a team)

I’m leaving my current position to head up the new web server project.

He’s been heading that division up for 2 years and it’s still total chaos. We need to fire him.

#3 – keep down (stop something increasing)

Especially about costs! But also prices, wages, and so on.

Cocoa prices are rising because of global warming. How can we keep our prices down?

My biggest achievement in my last job was keeping costs down. I’d wake up every day fizzing with ideas about saving money. I was very popular.

#4 – take on (1. get more responsibility/work 2. hire)

I shouldn’t have taken on that new project. I’m working 14 hours a day!

Why did you take that new project on? You’re never home.

We’re going to take on some new staff in January. That’ll help our workloads.

#5 – lay off (cancel someone’s job)

We can’t keep costs down! We need to lay off about 50 people or go bankrupt.

Good news, honey! I got laid off. Now I can finally play all those video games I bought.


I got laid off yesterday, so I’ve been working on my resume.


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