Phrasal verbs

Phrasal verbs! 6 meanings of put down

In this lesson I’m going to give you advice on the best way to learn phrasal verbs. We’re going to look at the phrasal verb ‘put down‘ and discover 6 different meanings of this one phrasal verb! Listen to the audio and read the lesson and then try out the quizzes and the writing task at the end. Enjoy!

Listen and read

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Phrasal verbs are always a sticking point* for English learners. Sometimes they seem so logical, when the preposition demonstrates the movement, like sit down, stand up. However, the more advanced your English becomes, the more you will realise that most of the time the preposition doesn’t mean much at all! (Or rather, it does, but the meaning isn’t always immediately obvious). So how can you figure out the meaning? And what’s the best way to learn phrasal verbs?

sticking point = an obstacle to progress towards an agreement or goal.

Hi, this Kerin at English Digital Academy and this lesson is dedicated to my lovely students Stefania and Catherine! 

My advice? Don’t learn phrasal verbs in lists 

Writing down lists of phrasal verbs will not only make you hate them! It won’t be effective without context. Here’s what I mean. Let’s take ‘put’ as example:

If you try to learn phrasal verbs in this way, without any context,  it’s totally going to do your head in!*

do your head in = annoy you

  • put down
  • put up
  • put out
  • put away

Even if you write a definition of sorts:

  • put down – place something on a surface or the ground
  • put up – raise something 

… not only is it really difficult to learn vocabulary like this, or at least it is for me,  it’s not very accurate. A lot of these verbs have several meanings. Put down doesn’t just mean place something down, it can mean reduce, decrease, write, make someone feel inadequate and more! We’re going to look at this verb in a moment. The meaning depends on the context.

How do you learn phrasal verbs?

Do learn phrasal verbs in context. Read on to see what I mean.

How do you understand the meaning of phrasal verbs?

Learning phrasal verbs in context by reading, watching TV or YouTube videos or listening to podcasts is so powerful because you can see how we use these verbs in real life.

Let me show you what I mean. If you hear a child saying: “Mummy! Mummy! Put me down. I want to play over there!” … It’s clear from the context that the child is asking to be placed back on the ground, instead of in her mother’s arms.

Whereas, “We got the test results back from the vet. I’m devastated … it looks like we have to put our dog down.” Clearly has a different meaning. Here put down means euthanise.  

We are hardly likely to confuse the meaning of  “Mummy! Mummy! Put me down.” From the context it’s obvious that the child is asking to be released and not euthanised!

Steps to learning phrasal verbs

The next time you are reading something in English (or watching a TV series, or listening to a podcast) follow these steps:

  1. Try and pick out (so identify) phrasal verbs and try to catch the meaning from the context. 
  2. Next, look up the meaning in a dictionary (I like Cambridge)
  3. Head over to Phrasal Verb Demon and click the ‘Lists’ option – this is a brilliant resource. You just pop in the phrasal verb you are learning and it will generate a load of different examples. Here’s a screenshot of what you’d get if you typed in ‘put down
Phrasal verbs

4. Use them: write sentences showing how you would use the phrasal verb in a context that is meaningful for you. If you are creative, try writing a story or a dialogue – this will help you create connections between the words and experiences and it will help you to remember them much more easily.

Bear in mind, there is no magic method for learning phrasal verbs. It takes time, effort, patience and commitment. But if you do take the time to practise phrasal verbs, you’ll become more confident using them and you’ll sound natural and fluent when you speak English.

Give these techniques a try and to help you get started, try out the quiz and the writing task below. Share your work in the comments and I will get back to you with feedback.

Phrasal Verb Lesson: 6 meanings of ‘put down’

Task 1

Task 2

Task 3

Write your own sentences using the phrasal verbs above to show how you would use them. Share in the comments for feedback 👇

Or, if you are feeling creative, write a short story or dialogue!

Kerin Goodall Founder English Digital Academy

ps. Want to improve your English and move towards English proficiency? Discover all my courses here

11 thoughts on “Phrasal verbs! 6 meanings of put down”

  1. “You know, son, jealous people will always try to put you down”
    “I know, at school Micheal puts me down in front of my friends every other day”
    “However, you shouldn’t give him a taste of his own medicine! Rather write him a letter to explain him how you feel”
    “You are right! I’m going to put some words down and give him the letter tomorrow”

    1. Great job Sofia! Sounds very natural 👍
      (watch out with the verb ‘explain’ – explain something TO someone. So, write him a letter to explain how you feel… Or: write him a letter to explain to him how you feel. 👌?!)

  2. 1-Because of the crisis he had to put down the price of his house to sale it.
    2-People who put down their partners to be funny are not funny at all.
    3- As soon as she wakes up in the morning, she puts down her dream on a piece of paper.
    4-He put money down on the poker table to see his cards.
    5-They had to put down the horse when its leg broke.
    6-When the teacher said to put the pens down, John had barely answered half of the questions.

    1. Super examples here Sara 👍 well done.
      (probably a typo, but it should be “sell” instead of “sale” in first phrase)

  3. 1. They haven’t been able to sell their house and they’re not willing to keep putting down the price.
    2. If your boss or a colleague tried to put you down you’d have to stand up for yourself.
    3. I’ve been putting down some ideas for the new App we’re building at work.
    4. Luckily, we only had to put down 5% as a deposit to buy house first house.
    5. The decision of putting down your pet is pretty hard.
    6. When I’m in de-cluttering mode I put everything down from the shelves and then put back only the things that spark joy.

  4. We decide to put down the charges so that hopefully more orders can be received.
    I am lucky that my boss accepted this idea to put down prices because when I share my idea with all colleagues I afraid to be put down in front of the team.
    Our boss plan to organize a team building workshop in an expensive hotel. I wonder how much he has to put down for this event.

    1. Very good examples Catherine!
      A few grammar points:
      1. We decide to put down the charges ….. (you’ve used the present simple here, which isn’t correct. Any ideas how to fix it?)
      2. I afraid to be put down in front of the team. (afraid is an adjective, so you are missing a verb and the verb pattern should work like this: I’m afraid of being put down …)
      3. Our boss plan to organize …. (I’d need the third person ‘s’ here, or even better – which tense should I use when planning for the future?)
      We can discuss in class this evening!

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