7 Phrasal Verbs and Multiple Uses of ‘Run’ in English

Nov 18, 2020 | Advanced Vocabulary, Phrasal Verbs

This Confident English lesson was originally published in 2016.
It was updated with new content on phrasal verbs and a video lesson in November 2020. 

One of the great challenges in English is understanding words with multiple meanings. For example, the meaning of run is completely different in the following sentences:

  • I love to go for a run in the mornings.
  • I’m sorry – I have to run to a meeting. I’ll see you later!
  • I’m going to run to the cafeteria downstairs – do you need anything?
  • Oh no! I have a run in my stockings! This looks terrible!
  • The house on the corner with the ivy running up the side is for sale.
  • Did you hear that Joseph is going to run in the election?

In fact, did you know that if you look up the word ‘run’ in the dictionary, you’ll find over 90 different uses or meanings!?!? And that is just as a verb.

On top of that, ‘run’ is used in multiple phrasal verbs and as a noun as well.

In today’s Confident English lesson, you’ll learn to use the most common meanings of the word run plus 7 common phrasal verbs. Throughout the lesson, you’ll hear practical example sentences and get the chance to practice with some of your own sentences.

Meanings of Run as a Verb

Run: to move legs quickly, more rapidly than a walk

I run every morning for exercise. It also helps clear my mind and reduce stress!

Run: to move or act quickly

Run to the kitchen to get the stain cleaner! This red wine will stain the sofa if we don’t clean it immediately.

I’m sorry, I’ve got to run. I have a meeting in 10 minutes but I’ll call you tomorrow so we can finish talking.

Run: to make a quick trip, an informal and short visit

I’m going to run to the grocery store for some milk and apples. I forgot to get them earlier. Do you need anything?

You should run next door to wish Jon a happy birthday. They are leaving soon but I know he would really appreciate seeing you.

Run: to be in or to campaign in an election

Can you believe there are 12 candidates running in this year’s election? That is just too many people!

I’m thinking about running for president of the neighborhood association. What do you think?

Run: to flow as a liquid, to flow along, or to empty liquid contents

The river is running very strong right now after all the rain!

The Volga River is over 2,000 miles long and it runs into the Caspian Sea.

The river runs right through the middle of the city.

Run: to creep, trail climb, or grow as vines

I’ve always loved homes with ivy running up the sides of the house.

Using ‘Run’ in Phrasal Verbs

To run around: to move quickly around an area

You can run around in the backyard before dinner.

When I travel, I like to run around a new city to get familiar with it.

To run after: to chase or pursue

I woke up late this morning and had to run after the bus to catch it.

To run into: to meet someone unexpectedly; to hit/encounter something unexpectedly

I ran into Janet at the store and got to catch up on her new job. It’s been so long since I’ve seen her.

Yesterday’s job interview was mortifying. At the end, I stood up and run into the glass door.

This week our team ran into a major technical problem at work.

To run on: to be powered by

This lamp runs on batteries.

Electric cars run on electricity.

To run out of: to use or finish something until it’s gone

It’s a crisis at my house when we’ve run out of coffee!

Oh no, we’ve run out of printer ink but I have to make copies of these documents now.

To run through: to review or practice

I’d like to run through my presentation one more time.

Let’s run through the agenda to make sure we haven’t missed anything.


To run by: to share an idea/information with someone for feedback/input

I’d like to run this idea by you before I share it at the meeting tomorrow.

Can I run something by you?

Meanings of Run as a Noun

Run: the act, the length of time or the distance for running

He just finished his 5-mile run.

Will you join the 10-k run to help raise funds for Breast Cancer?

Run: the line or place where stitches in a fabric come undone

I just bought these stockings and they already have a run in them! I’m so frustrated.

Here is my challenge for you this week:

Choose 2-3 new uses of the word run. Create your own sentences using the word. Try to use sentences that you might use for your normal life in a conversation or business situation. Can you think of any examples?

Share your examples below. I will help you if you are not sure. And then try to use these sentences this week. Remember: the number 1 secret to learning a new word is repetition, so try to use this new meaning until it is natural for you to use it.

Then repeat with another new meaning.

I’m excited to read your example sentences!


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