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Cheer Up! Phrasal Verbs and Emotions

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When was the last time you experienced a wide range of emotions over something – from sadness to happiness, or even a sense of relief when a problem was solved?

Perhaps you moved to a new city or returned home. Maybe you lost or gained something valuable. Or you may have overcome a serious personal issue or enjoyed success after defeat.

If you are like most people, there are things in life that can take your emotions in many directions. And, in English, there are a lot of phrasal verbs to help express those emotions. Today we will tell you about some of them.

You will remember that a phrasal verb is a verb made of two or more words: a verb and a preposition or adverb, or both.

Phrasal verbs for emotions can be used in many different situations. But let’s begin with a situation that is very relatable: a family gathering.

In many countries, extended families gather only a few times each year. Children and their parents join up with one or more grandparents, aunts, uncles and other relatives. They often gather in one place, perhaps someone’s home, to enjoy a special dinner and quality time as a family.

And, with everyone together, things are not always perfect. There are almost guaranteed to be many reactions -- laughter, smiles, maybe even some crying.

For many Americans, Thanksgiving is one of the few times each year when extended families gather for a special meal.
For many Americans, Thanksgiving is one of the few times each year when extended families gather for a special meal.

Get to

Loosen up

OK, now imagine that a large family is seated together at a dining table. They are having that special meal.

As they eat, predictably, the talk turns to work and careers. Everyone praises one of the youngsters for getting accepted to a university. They praise another family member for landing a job they worked hard to get.

But then, the talk turns to a young man and his sister. The brother has some interesting words about her career. Listen to this short exchange:

Brother: Next month, Zadie is going to culinary school! Haha, culinary school! Let us know how that goes.

Zadie: You know, your jokes are really getting to me. Maybe you should loosen up. Not everyone wants to be an engineer. And, by the way, I’m planning to become an executive chef!

Zadie’s brother’s words got to her. If something “gets to” you, it bothers you and fuels anger. She tells her brother to “loosen up” – to be more easy-going, to lighten up – about her personal choices.

A few other family members then show support for Zadie’s decision. They tell her how much they wish they had followed their dreams at her age.

Calm down

Lash out at

Now, at the other end of the table, a heated exchange is taking place.

Uncle Louis has strong opinions and loves to speak his mind at family dinners. Some family members like his openness. Others find him obnoxious. They think he is being a pain.

Listen to a short exchange:

Uncle Louis: …And that’s why, even though the lamb roast looks great, I’m not having any. Red meat is bad for the climate. Starting tomorrow, all of you should make a plan to--

Niece: Uncle Louis, you’re giving me a headache! You always say things at the wrong time! Let the rest of us enjoy the meal, please.

Uncle Louis: OK, OK, but calm down. It’s fine that you disagree. But that’s no reason to lash out at me. Now, can we shake hands and agree to disagree?

Niece: Uh...OK, sure.

Uncle Louis had told his niece to calm down. To 'calm down' means become less emotional or excited – or to help someone else to feel this way.

“Calm down” is often used in imperative statements: It is used as a command. In imperative statements, we usually do not separate the words 'calm' and 'down.' But in other kinds of statements, the verb may be separated by an object.

You may recall that some phrasal verbs are separable – they can be separated by objects.

We could, for example, say, “The father calmed his baby down by singing to her.” The words “his baby” are the object.

Uncle Louis also tells his niece not to lash out at him. Did you understand the meaning of “lash out at”? Listen to the sentence again:

It’s fine that you disagree, but that’s no reason to lash out at me.

To “lash out at” someone means to make a sudden and angry attack on them.

Get over

Cheer up

Back at the center of the table, Grandpa is remembering the way things used to be. Let’s listen in:

Grandpa: I don’t think I’ll ever get over the fact that I only see you all a few times every year. I remember when we all lived in the same state. (sighs)

Michelle: Aww, Grandpa, cheer up. You are always welcomed to stay with us in Washington. We have an extra bedroom…with a television. And don’t forget, there is video chat! I talk with Zadie on video all the time.

Michelle tells her grandfather to cheer up. To “cheer up” means to become happier or to make someone else happier. In most imperative statements, we do not separate the words “cheer” and ”up.” But in other statements, the verb can be separable. For example, one could say, “I’m cheering Grandpa up.” The word “grandpa” is the object.

Choke up

Now, it’s time for the big news of the family gathering. Let’s listen:

Shawn: I have an announcement to make: We’re having a baby! A little girl. She’s due in late June.

Aunt: Oh my goodness, Shawn. That’s exciting. I’m so happy for you that I could cry. See, now I’m choking up.

To “choke up” means to have difficulty speaking because of strong emotions. In American English, we often put the verb “get” before “choke up.” We also often add the word “all.” Let's hear how that sounds:

See, now I’m getting all choked up.

When we say it this way, the words “choked up” act as an adjective.

There are a lot of ways to express emotions in English. And phrasal verbs can help us express them more fully.

I’m Alice Bryant.

Alice Bryant wrote this story for VOA Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

Now you try it!

Use the Comments section to try using a few of these phrasal verbs in statements or questions.

Words in This Story

rangen. a group or collection of different things or people that are usually similar in some way

culinaryadj. used in or relating to cooking

chefn. a professional cook who usually is in charge of a kitchen in a restaurant

roastn. a piece of meat that is cooked with dry heat in an oven or over fire

headachen. an ache or pain in the head

awwinterjection. used to express sympathy

due – adj. expected to be born

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