#267: 18 Phrasal Verbs to Express Ideas in English

Mar 1, 2023 | Advanced Vocabulary, Phrasal Verbs

Note: March is International Ideas Month – an international effort that encourages people to recognize the potential of their ideas. All innovation begins with a simple idea.

When was the last time you needed to express ideas in English to

  • Solve problems at work
  • Make a decision for a family vacation
  • Address a challenge at your child’s school
  • Help your kids with math homework
  • Prepare a budget with a partner/spouse
  • Consider a career change

Idea-generation conversations in English are full of phrasal verbs – those idiomatic phrases that  include a verb and adverb or a preposition. 

Phrasal verbs are notoriously difficult because the combination of the verb + preposition/adverb creates a completely different meaning, just like an idiom.

Plus, there are more than 5,000 phrasal verbs in the English language! 

Given the number of phrasal verbs and the reality they’re used extensively in English conversations, they’re impossible to avoid.

To easily learn and remember new phrasal verbs, I recommend using a theme – such as phrasal verbs to express ideas in English. 

Doing so highlights similarities, helps to make connections between the phrasal verbs, and makes them relevant to your daily life and conversations.

In this Confident English lesson, we’ll explore three key phases in idea activation and expression. Along the way, you’ll learn 18 essential phrasal verbs to express ideas in English.

Related SCE Lessons:


18 Phrasal Verbs to Express Ideas in English

Phase #1: Brainstorming

When brainstorming, our minds focus on generating or building on an idea. 

For some, the brainstorming phase can be a challenge. This is the phase when every idea – even if it isn’t fully formed – is expressed.

If you struggle with brainstorming in English, I get it. I do too. And I have two quick recommendations for you: 

You can find both of these lessons at the SCE Website – I’ll leave a link to them in the notes below the video.

And now, let’s get to common English phrasal verbs to use in the brainstorming phase of idea generation.

Scenario #1: Imagine your team needs to think of a quick solution for a client issue. 

To discuss and brainstorm, you might use the following phrasal verbs to problem-solve:

  • To figure out
    • Def: to completely and finally understand all aspects of something or someone
    • Ex. “We should figure out the root of the issue so we can respond in the most appropriate way.
  • To work out
    • Def: to resolve through reasoning and or calculations
    • Ex. “I think our first step is to work out the issues in our product before contacting the client.
  • To run up against
    • Def: to unexpectedly experience a difficult situation
    • Ex. “We might run up against more problems if we respond with half-baked ideas.
  • To zero in on
    • Def: to focus or direct all attention to something/someone
    • Ex. “I know there are several problems to address but I think we should zero in on the budget first.
  • To stumble upon
    • Def: to find or learn about something unexpectedly
    • Ex. “I stumbled upon a potential problem area, but I’m not sure if it’s a big deal.


    Scenario #2: Now, imagine you’re speaking with a friend who needs your help with finding a job. 

    You may use the following phrasal verbs to brainstorm and express possible actions:

    • To look into
      • Def: to explore
      • Ex. “Have you looked into the virtual assistant role? That might be a better option.”
    • To run [sth] by [sb]
      • Def: to present or inform for evaluation or opinion
      • Ex. “Perhaps, I could run your resumé by my manager. Maybe there’s an opening.”

      Phase #2: Asking For Time

      While brainstorming, we may need a moment to collect our thoughts and generate more ideas. 


      Scenario #3: Imagine your son/daughter shares that they would like to travel and work abroad for the summer. They might ask you to help them consider the pros and cons.

      If you need time to think about your answer, you might use the following phrasal verbs:

      • To think about [sth/sb]
        • Def: to consider 
        • Ex. “I need some time to think about the pros and cons.”
      • To mull over
        • Def: to ruminate on and consider
        • Ex. “I need a moment to mull over this.”
      • To touch base with
          • Def: to communicate or follow up
          • Ex. “Could I touch base with you in the morning?”
        • To sleep on [sth]
          • Def: to think more about something overnight and make a decision about it later
          • Ex. “That’s a good course of action. Let me sleep on it and get back to you tomorrow.”


          If you need additional details you might use:

          • To fill in
            • Def: to give someone extra or missing information
            • Ex. “Could you fill me in on what you’ve thought of so far?”
          • To circle back to
            • Def: to get back to or return to something
            • Ex. “Let’s circle back to the cons on your list. Could you tell me more about them?”
              • Pro Tip: Combine this phrasal verb with think about to create a request for brainstorming time with a definite timeline.
                • Ex. “I’ll think about it and circle back to you later today.”
            • To take in
              • Def: to process and/or understand information
              • Ex. “I’m still taking in everything you’re saying. What else is on your list?”

        Phase 3: Expressing Complete Ideas

        Finally, after brainstorming and taking time to reflect, you might be ready to express a complete idea or opinion. 


        Scenario #4: Imagine you’re leading a team and you’d like to share your thoughts on taking on another project. 

        To express these firm thoughts, the following phrasal verbs may be useful:

        • To weigh in
          • Def: to make a statement of opinion 
          • Ex. “I’d like to weigh in with my thoughts and the pros and cons of taking on this project.”
        • To put across
          • Def: to convey effectively and forcefully
          • Ex. “I believe it’s necessary to put across the fact that this project will be beneficial for us.”
        • To take on
          • Def: to adopt or accept responsibility for something
          • Ex. “We have the skills and resources to take on this project.”
        • To focus on
          • Def: to concentrate on or direct all attention to something
          • Ex. “Let’s focus on the steps we need to take to complete it successfully.”

        Questions for You

        After watching this lesson, I’d love to know

        1. Which phrasal verbs from today’s lesson have you used, or heard, in your English conversations?
        2. How would you use these phrasal verbs in your own sentences? Choose 2 or 3. Create a sentence you would use to express an idea in English. 

        You can share your answers — as well as your questions — with me in the comments below.

        ~ Annemarie


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