Lindsay McMahon
"The English Adventurer"

Have you heard people use phrases such as “check in” or “write down” in English?

Is it confusing to know when to use words such as “in” or “up” at the right time?

Today we are looking at phrasal verbs, particularly those that you might use when talking about travel.

You will learn how to use them, which ones are common, and how these can really help to boost your language skills and conversation.

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We have a question about these words and how to use them properly in conversation.

Hello Lindsay,

I love your show and am so grateful for everything I learn! I am coming to you with a question that I am hoping you can help me with. I’m struggling every day with certain terms that I hear. I hear up and down, in and out, and things like that in conversation all the time.

I always confuse them and feel unsure about which ones to use. For example I hear things like “check in”, “print out”, “write down”, and “caught up.”

Do you have a tip that I can use to know when to use each one in the right way? I’m sure there are a lot of English learners in the same situation, so maybe this could help a lot of people.

Thanks in advance,


Some Background To Help

We did an episode in the past that you will want to check out because it can really help you to get started.

Check out episode AEE 899: Get In A Tizzy About Phrasal Verbs

There are a lot of things covered on this episode, but it all starts with understanding the basics.

We’re going to look at this as terms that relate to travel or any part of the process of getting from one destination to another.

So let’s start by understanding, what is a phrasal verb?

Simply put, this is a verb with a particle.

Adverbial particles are an important concept to understand, and there are a few common ones that you likely use all the time.

Adverbial Particles include words such as: Up, in, on, off, down, out, through.

Then there are prepositional particles such as: at, for, to, with.

There are many ways to study phrasal verbs, but this is a good starting point.

You could study them by verb as one approach that works really well.

If you went this route, you could look at one verb such as “check”, and then you will find that there are plenty of examples of this.

You would see examples just with this one verb such as:

Check in

Check out

Check up

Check on

Check through

Check for

Check with Check over

However though these all have the same verb within them, each phrase has completely different meanings.

It can sometimes be difficult to keep these all straight, but each one makes up an entirely new verb.

Each one has a different meaning and a different use in conversation.

It may feel as though it’s hard to keep them all straight, but just take it one at a time.

You may find it easier to learn them by topic or situation that each one would be used in.

Breaking This Down

So if you look at a phrasal verb you want to break it down into smaller and easier parts.

This is how you can start to understand how each one works from the lists above.

They all serve different purposes, they all contribute to a sentence and a conversation, and they all work in slightly different ways.

We’re going to look at a couple of common examples that you are likely to hear and use all the time.

These examples are all common when it comes to talking to travel, as that is the focus today.

That’s a great way to approach this is to go with some of the most common ones, and then you can see what you are most likely to try out yourself.

  • Pick up: This is something that you will get or retrieve. It’s something that you are going to grab or use in some way. Let’s look at a couple of examples of things that you could pick up.

– Pick up a friend on the way to the airport – Pick up your food in the terminal

– Pick up a drink before taking your seat

You could even split this up and say that you are going to pick up my friend or pick my friend up. Both work in this instance.

  • Drop off: This is giving something or getting it out of your possession. It may be that you are going somewhere and therefore need to get taken there. Let’s look at a couple of examples of things that you might drop off.

-Taxi dropping you off somewhere

-Luggage getting dropped off at the counter

  • Check in: This is getting yourself into somewhere or ensuring that things are going okay. It’s a step in the process or a way of following up. Let’s look at a couple of things that you may check into.

– You could register upon arrival at a hotel or on a flight, so check in is a step to initiate the process

– You might check in with the babysitter or your loved ones back home if you are away

  • Write down: This is taking pen to paper and writing something important down. You may write it as instructions or so that you don’t forget it like on a list. Let’s look at how you might use write down.

– You may write down directions or flight details for somebody that you ant to keep in the know

-You might write down what you need at the store like on a grocery list

  • Get on: This is the act of you stepping onto or into something. An example of this is simple but so common.

-You would get on the plane so that you can get to your travel destination

  • Take off: This is a bit more specific as it means that you are going and moving towards your next stop or destination. A good example of this is something that you have likely done a number of times.

-You get on the plane and get in your seat so that you can take off on time

Roleplay To Help

As always a roleplay can really help you to see how to use these phrases.

Though they are common, you want to know which one to use at the right time.

In this roleplay, Lindsay and Aubrey are talking about some travel plans and all things related to that as you might prepare for a trip.

Aubrey: “How did your flight go?”

Lindsay: “Great! I checked in the night before, so I didn’t have much to worry about once I got to the airport!”

Aubrey: “That’s nice – if you don’t have to check in when you arrive, it’s pretty quick to get through security and you can just go straight to your gate.”

Lindsay: “Totally! After the cab dropped me off, I picked up some food from an Italian eatery and then was able to read my book for an hour!”

Aubrey: “Sounds amazing. Whenever I’m in an airport these days, I’m constantly checking in with my kids or with their grandma or whoever is babysitting. I try to write down everything they’ll need to know while I’m gone, but something always comes up!”

Lindsay: “That’s always how it is with travel, right? I check in with my family a lot too when I’m out of town just to make sure everything’s ok back home.”

Aubrey: “So once you got on the plane, did everything go smoothly?”

Lindsay: “Yeah, I always get a little nervous during take off, but it was really smooth.”

Aubrey: “Awesome! And you made it! Did you check in to your hotel already?”

Lindsay: “Yep! I checked in and dropped off my bag, and then I picked up a drink at a coffee shop around the corner.”


Phrasal verbs can be extremely difficult, because verbs have different meanings for each particle.

The difficult part is that these meanings are often totally unrelated, and so it can add to the confusion!

Try learning phrasal verbs in context, like today’s verbs that are used when traveling.

This way, you’ll be able to remember each one more easily and then be likely to use them correctly.

This is one of those things that you learn as you go, so the more practice that you put in the more you will master these.

If you have any questions, please leave them below in the comments section.

We’ll get back to you as soon as we can.

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