Lindsay McMahon
"The English Adventurer"

Have you heard people say that they feel like they are going to “burn out” in English?

Do you hear people using certain phrases in a work setting, and often feel a bit confused?

Today we are talking about phrasal verbs that you could use to talk about work or use in a conversation in a work setting.

You may find that these are more common than you think, and these will help you to have effective conversations in this area.

This is the next episode in our series on phrasal verbs, and you may find these to be very useful and come up often.

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Phrasal Verbs To Talk About Work

In our last episode in our series, we talked about phrasal verbs that you would use in a telephone conversation.

Today we are looking at phrasal verbs that you might use to talk about work.

These are the type of phrasal verbs that you can use to discuss various actions, and there are more than you might realize.

Some examples include the following, most of which you have probably heard used in conversation.

Fill up

Fill up on

Fill out

Fill in

Fill in for

Fill in on

These each have very different meanings, and it can be difficult to keep them straight.

Each one is a whole new verb in and of itself, and so it’s best to take it one at a time to ensure you understand each one well.

Instead, in this series we’re choosing a situation and learning the phrasal verbs that are used in that situation.

Today we’ll teach you six phrasal verbs we use to talk about work, and these will be sure to come in handy in your conversations.

Six Phrasal Verbs To Use In This Type of Situation

These are all great phrasal verbs that are sure to come up in your conversations a lot.

You may have even heard people use them already, and so they may be easy to identify.

These are the phrasal verbs that you can expect to use to talk about work, and so they are likely to be a part of your more professional situations.

1. Run by: This means to tell someone an idea in order to get their opinion. You want them to hear what you have to say, and you are hoping to get their feedback. It’s even better if they agree with your point of view or share the same views as you do. You just want them to hear what you have to say though either way. You could say “I’ve got something I need to run by you.”

2. Fill in for: This means to perform someone’s job while they are away. This isn’t your typical or usual job, but you are helping out in somebody else’s absence. You could say “I’m filling in for Maria while she’s out!”

3. Take on: This has a couple of different meanings. It can mean to employ someone or to take responsibility for somebody else. You are bringing them into your job setting and taking responsibility over them as an employee. You could say “He was taken on as a trainee.” You could also say something like “She asked me to mentor her, so I took her on as my student.” It can also mean to accept additional responsibility. It’s as if you are taking on your job and somebody else’s responsibilities. Though this can be a bit overwhelming, it can also speak to your skills and capabilities which is good. With this meaning, you could say “When my coworker quit, I had to take on her duties.”

4. Take over: This means to take control of something. You are taking it on and becoming the lead for it. It’s similar to take on, but it’s a bit more extreme as you are taking over for who was previously working on this, and it is now your responsibility moving forward. You might say “When my coworker quit, I had to take over her duties.” You could also say something like “She is expected to take over the family business when her parents retire.”

5. Slack off: This means to give less effort or energy than is needed. You may let your guard down, not really care about what is going on, or have a reason to not put in the usual effort. This doesn’t look good, and it is definitely a negative thing to say or think about somebody. It is also not at all complimentary when somebody says this about you. You could say “My kids slack off when they’re supposed to be doing chores.”

6. Burn out: This is when you are extremely tired, mentally exhausted, or lacking motivation or caring. You may feel stressed to an extreme degree, or as if you have been working nonstop. You often lack the energy or motivation when you get to this extreme stage, and it can be hard to get out of it. You might hear “Anyone can burn out if they work too many hours!” You could also say something like “I have to take breaks throughout the day or I’ll burn out.”

These are all very common phrasal verbs to talk about work or use in a work setting.

Practice them so you get the hang of them and can use them in your own conversations at the right time.

Roleplay To Help

In this roleplay, Lindsay and Michelle are talking through situations at work and using phrasal verbs to do so.

Lindsay: “I’m worried I’m going to burn out–I’ve taken on so many extra tasks this week!”

Aubrey: “Oh no – are you filling in for someone at work or something?”

Lindsay: “Yes, one of my colleagues is sick so I had to take over all of her tasks. Plus we took on a couple of interns and I’m training them!”

Aubrey: “Wow, that makes me feel like I’m really slacking off! I’ve had a pretty easy week!”

Lindsay: “I don’t know if I can get it all done. I may need to ask someone to take over a few things.”

Aubrey: “Well, I was going to run something by you, but it can wait until next week since you’re so buried!”


Learning phrasal verbs is one of the most difficult things about learning a language, but you just need to take your time and practice a lot.

The hard part is that with each particle added to a verb, it creates a different meaning, and these meanings are often totally unrelated.

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

This way, you’ll more easily be able to remember the meaning of each one and use them correctly.

A slower and more careful approach can help you to figure out how to use each one, and to make it a more natural part of conversation.

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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