Focus on Phrasal Verbs about Speaking

Hoxton/Tom Merton/Getty Images

This phrasal verb feature focuses on phrasal verbs we use when talking about speaking and conversation. Obviously, using "tell" or "say" or "speak", etc. is absolutely correct when relating conversations. However, if you want to stress HOW the person said something, phrasal verbs come in handy (idiom=be useful).

Phrasal Verbs About Speaking

Negative Speaking

  • go on: to continue to talk about a subject after the interest of the listener has been exhausted.
  • harp on : inf. to repeatedly talk about a certain subject
  • ramble on: to talk for a long time about something which is not very interesting to the other people in the conversation
  • rabbit on (British): as above
  • run on (American): as above

Speaking Quickly

  • rattle off: to say a list or impressive number of facts very quickly
  • reel off inf.: as above
  • whip off inf. (American): as above


  • butt in: to rudely enter another conversation
  • chip in: to add a specific point to a conversation

Speaking suddenly

  • blurt out: to say something suddenly, usually without thinking
  • come out with: to say something suddenly


  • come up with: to add a new idea to a conversation
  • to go along with: to agree with someone else

Not Speaking

  • shut up: to stop talking, often used as an imperative (very rude)
  • break off: suddenly stop speaking
  • clam up: to refuse to speak or become silent during a conversation
  • dry up: run out of ideas of interesting comments, finish speaking because you don't know what to say next or have forgotten what you would like to say

Speaking Rudely

  • talk at: to talk to someone without listening to what they have to say
  • talk down to: to verbally treat someone in an inferior manner
  • go off: to speak angrily about something
  • put down: to criticize someone or something

Sample Paragraph With Phrasal Verbs

Last week I went to visit my friend Fred. Fred is a great guy but at times he can really go on about things. We were speaking about some of our friends and he came out with this incredible story about Jane. It seems she had butted in while he was harping on his favorite complaint: Service in restaurants. Apparently, he had been running on for quite a while putting down almost every restaurant he had been to by rattling off a list of his visits to different restaurants in town. I guess Jane felt that he was talking at her and was fed up with it. She went off about what a rude person he was which shut him up pretty quickly! I thought about blurting out that maybe she was right, but decided to clam up in order to not upset him.

As you can see by using these phrasal verbs the reader gets a much better idea of the dynamics of the conversation. If the above story was reported by saying "she told him", "he said" etc., it would be pretty boring indeed. In this way, the reader gets a real sense of the personalities of the speakers.

mla apa chicago
Your Citation
Beare, Kenneth. "Focus on Phrasal Verbs about Speaking." ThoughtCo, Aug. 27, 2020, Beare, Kenneth. (2020, August 27). Focus on Phrasal Verbs about Speaking. Retrieved from Beare, Kenneth. "Focus on Phrasal Verbs about Speaking." ThoughtCo. (accessed May 29, 2023).