Phrasal verbs with Be

Apart from being one of the most basic verbs in English, to be can be also an important phrasal verb. Today we are going to go through some of the most relevant examples in this respect, including definitions and some exercises for you to practice.

Be on: it can have different meanings. On the one hand it is used to say that a movie or a programme is being shown on the cinema or TV. For example:

  • Do you know what’s on TV tonight?
  • Star Wars is on the Odeon Cinema this week, do you want to come and see it?

On the other hand, it refers to events that are happening or are planned to happen, for instance There is a party on for this weekend at Mike’s house.

Be on is also used to express that machines or domestic appliances are functioning. For example: The washing machine is on, it will finish in 35 minutes.

Be off: it would be the opposite to the previous one. If an event is off, it means that it has been cancelled for some reason: The party is off I’m afraid, most people cannot come.

It is also used when machines or appliances are not working: The TV is off now, nobody wants to watch it. Additionally, it is a synonym for “leave” or “go away” as in the example I’m afraid it’s quite late, we are off. Goodbye!

Be up to: here we can find two main meanings. “Be up to someone” refers to someone’s decision, as in the example Do you want to come to the concert? It’s up to you. It also expresses someone’s responsibility in a particular area, for instance: It is up to BIll to pick the children after school.

“Be up to something”, on the other hand, refers to doing something considered wrong or secret. For example: He has been very quiet today, I think he is up to something

Be over is a synonym for “finish”: The party is over, you can return home now

Be can also be followed by prepositions of place: in, out, away

  • The doctor is in, you can see him now
  • Helen doesn’t answer the phone, she must be out
  • I’m away on holiday next week.

Last, but not least, we have be back as a synonym for “return”: My parents will be back home on Monday.

Any questions? Try now the following exercises:

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