Phrasal Verbs Lesson 6

In lesson number 6 we’re going to have a look at the following phrasal verbs: Call back, fall apart, hold on, hang on, throw away, use up.


(Rick and Heather* are tidying their bedroom)

*See lesson 5 for an introduction to Rick and Heather.

Rick: This desk is falling apart; what should we do with it?

Heather: I think we should throw it away.

Rick: I hate doing that, but I guess it’s the best option.

Heather: Rick… how many cans of shaving foam do you need?

Rick: Hang on, I’ve got a call. (Rick picks up the phone) Hey mum, can I call you back in 30 minutes, we’re just tidying at the moment.

Heather: There are 7 cans of shaving foam here and they’re not empty! Why do you never use them up?

Rick: I didn’t know I had that many. I was going to buy some more today too, but I should use these up first.

Heather: Good! OK, I’m going to take a look at my clothes and see what I can give away.

Fall Apart

When something is falling apart it means that it is breaking down or collapsing. In the conversation Heather talked about a desk that was falling apart. Here you can imagine a broken draw, a crack on the surface, and loose legs. More examples:

  • We have to spend a lot of money on our house because it’s falling apart.
  • We need a new car, this one just keeps falling apart.

Fall apart can also be used to describe an idea, a team, or a business that isn’t doing well:

Another way it can be used is to talk about someone having a breakdown:

  • He started to fall apart after his divorce.
  • I’m worried about Simon, he’s starting to fall apart.

Throw Away

To throw something away means to put it in the bin. A good example is food: Sometimes there are a lot of things that need throwing away, especially things at the back of the fridge that you forgot about. Here are more examples:

  • We threw away a lot of things when we moved house.
  • I hate throwing things away, I shouldn’t have bought them in the first place.
  • You should try to recycle and compost instead of just throwing things away.

Hang On + Hold On

These are used when you want someone to wait for a short period of time. When I ask my wife a question, she often tells me to hang on so she can finish writing or reading something. More examples:

  • (In a restaurant) Can you just hang on/hold on a sec, I’ll be right there.
  • (On the phone) Hang on/hold on mum, there’s someone at the door.

A more formal way of using hang on during phone conversations (think of call centers) is the phrase, “Can you please hold.” This isn’t normal during regular conversation.

The phrase, “Hold/hang on a second (sec)” is used a lot when someone is surprised about what someone said and wants confirmation:

  • I’m moving to Spain next month -> Hold on a sec, what did you just say?

Hold On – Alabama Shakes

Call Back

To call someone back means to call again or to return a call. If there is a bad connection during my Skype lessons, I ask my students if I can “call them back.” “Can I call you back?” is the question I use.

It is also used to return a call:

  • Paul called when you were out, he asked you to call him back.
  • I need to call back my mother, I forgot that she called yesterday.
  • You should call him back, he’s waiting for an answer.

Use Up

To use something up means to consume something completely. This is related to throw away:

  • You should use up all of the sauce before we throw it away.

Here are more examples (notice ‘all of the’):

  • I’ve used up all of my holiday money, can you lend me some?
  • What will happen when we use up all of the oil?
  • We’ve used up all of the firewood, can you get some more?

This is similar to the phrasal verb, ‘run out of

  • We’ve run out of sugar, can you get some more?
  • We’re going to run out of toilet roll soon.


Complete the sentences using the following phrasal verbs: fall apart, throw away, hold on, call back, use up (only some are used twice).


1. You shouldn’t _____ it _____, you can recycle mobile phones these days.

2. Let’s try to __________ all the milk before we go away.

3. Could you ___________ a second, I just need to take this call.

4. It’s a terrible investment, the house is __________.

5. I _____ so much ______ last week. It’s good to have a lot of space again.

6. Damn. I forgot to _____ my mum _____ yesterday. I’ll try calling her now.


1. throw / away

2. use up

3. hold on or hang on

4. falling apart

5. threw / away

6. call / back