soften … up

To become or make someone soft or softer.

To make someone less powerful or effective, especially in a gradual or insidious way so that they will be vulnerable or more vulnerable.


sop … up

To soak up liquid by using something such as a cloth, sponge, etc.


sort … out






sort through

To deal with someone who causes difficulty or annoyance, e.g. We sorted out a misunderstanding over the terms of an agreement by discussing in great detail.

To deal with something such as a problem, difficulty, etc., e.g. The staff stayed on late to sort the pile of printed documents out into individual reports.


To classify or categorize or arrange things into an order.


sound off

sound … out

To express one’s opinions in a loud or forceful way.

To seek the opinions of others before undertaking something.


soup … up

To improve something by making it more interesting or impressive.


space … out

To feel disorientated or confused, e.g. He doesn’t seem to concentrate on what he is saying; he’s spaced out because it doesn’t make sense.


speak for



speak of



speak out



speak to



speak up

To express one’s opinions, thoughts, feelings, position, beliefs, etc.


To be a clear indication of the existence of an incident or event, e.g. the large presence of policemen spoke of trouble.


To publicly protest by expressing one’s opinions frankly, especially when this could be a risk to oneself.


To talk to someone in order to advise, inform about something, etc.


To express one’s views publicly or speak in favour of someone or something.

To ask someone to speak loudly or more loudly.


speed by


speed up

To pass very quickly, e.g. The months and years speed by and soon we are not young any more.

To move or work, or make something move or work faster, e.g. They have to speed up to meet the deadline.


spell … out

To say or write the letters that made up a word.

To explain something clearly and in detail.


spill over

(Conflict, etc.) to spread and affect other places or people.


spin … off


spin out



spin ... out

(A parent company) to turn a subsidiary into a new and separate company.

(Vehicles) to be out of control, e.g. fast-moving car spins out of control on the wet road.


To make something such as money, food, etc. last as long as one possibly can, especially because one has limited amount of it.


splash down

splash out on

(Spacecraft) to return to Earth by landing in the sea.

To spend vast sum of money on something, e.g. They splash out on more decoration of their house.


split off

split on

split up

To separate or break away from someone or something.

To commit betrayal by informing on someone.

To end a marriage or a relationship.

To divide into groups, parts, sections, etc.


spread out

(People) to move apart from each other so as to occupy a bigger area.

To open out something on a flat surface such as a table.


spring from

spring … on



spring up

To originate or come from somewhere.

To present or give something such as information, etc. to someone suddenly or unexpectedly that causes surprise or shock.


To suddenly appear or start to exist.


spruce up

To make someone or something neater, tidier or smarter.


spy … out

To seek out secret information on someone or something.


square … away

square off

square … off

square up to

square with

To finish something in a satisfactory way.

To assume an aggressive attitude.

To calm or pacify someone.

To face and deal with a difficult situation or person.

To reconcile two ideas, situations, facts, etc. to show that they can exist together.


stack up

To measure up or compare.


stake … out

To keep someone or some place under close observation, especially because of suspected criminal activities.


stamp … out

To forcibly put an end to something.


stand against

stand alone

stand around




stand by







stand down



stand for







stand in


stand off


stand out



stand out against


stand over


stand to


stand up




stand ... up



stand up for


stand up to

To contest against another candidate in an election.

To be unequalled.

To stand somewhere and not do anything, e.g. He grumbles that the supervisor has nothing to do but stands around watching him every minute.


To look on without getting involved.

To stay loyal and support someone, e.g. will always stand by him.

To maintain the validity of one’s words or action, e.g. He stands by what he said earlier.

To be ready to do what is required, e.g. A lifeguard always stands by at the swimming pool.


To leave one’s position or office.

To leave the witness box in court after giving evidence.


To represent something in the form of abbreviation, symbol, etc., e.g. I think most people know what UN stands for.

To not tolerate or endure something, e.g. More and more people the world over will not stand for racism.

To support a particular set of ideas, values, or principles, e.g. Voters should demand that candidates state what they stand for so that they (voters) know what they are voting for.


To temporarily take over the work of someone who is away.


To move or keep away.


To be conspicuous or clearly noticeable.

To be clearly better than someone else.


To be strongly opposed to an idea, plan, etc.


To watch someone closely to ensure they work properly.


To move to a position, ready for action.


To be in a standing position, e.g. As soon as she finished singing, everyone stood up to give her a standing ovation.

To be able to withstand close scrutiny, test, etc.


To fail to keep an appointment, etc., e.g. I was supposed to go fishing with Jack today, but he stood me up


To speak or act in support or defence of someone or something.


To defend oneself against or refuse to be unfairly treated by someone.


stare … out/down

To look at someone at length until they feel forced to look elsewhere.


start in

start in on


start off





start on



start on at



start out/up


start over


start up

To begin doing something.

To begin to do or deal with something.

To attack someone or something verbally.

To begin in a certain way, e.g. The event started off in fine weather but midway through it began to rain.

To begin a journey, e.g. We will start off as soon as they arrive.


To begin doing some of the things, e.g. We will start on the mowing first before we proceed to the planting.


To start to talk by criticizing someone and their behaviour, e.g. She started on at him for always returning home late from work.


To begin a business enterprise or undertaking.


To restart doing something in order to do it better.


To begin operation, e.g. I usually start up the car’s engine to warm it up before driving it.

To begin something, e.g. He started up a restaurant in the neighbourhood, but closed down after six months.


starve … into

starve … out

To force someone to do something by denying them food.

To force someone out of a place by denying them food.


stave in



stave ... off

To break something inwards or be broken inwards by something.


To avert something bad or dangerous happening to one.


stay off


stay on



stay out






stay up

To keep away from, e.g. Visitors to the temple were advised to stay off the grass whenever or wherever they walk.

To continue doing something such as working, studying, etc. after the usual time or the others have left, e.g. He decides to stay on in the library while the others leave for home.


To decide to return home late, e.g. On weekend, Jack stays out late boozing with his mates.

To not get involved in a situation, especially a bad one, e.g. The neighbour’s wife and mine have been quarrelling for the past days, I choose to stay out of it.


To go to bed later than normal, e.g. He is a night owl who enjoys staying up late.


steam … open/off



steam up

To make use of steam to do something such as opening and removing a stamp from an envelope, etc.


To cover or become covered with steam.

To be or become extremely agitated or angry.


stem from

To originate in or be caused by something.


step down

step forward

step in


step on




step out


step ... up

To resign from one’s official position.

To volunteer one’s services.

To get involved in a difficult situation in order to help.

To act or serve in place of someone.

To place one’s foot on something, e.g. My big fat auntie accidentally stepped on my toe; it’s terribly painful that tears roll down my cheeks.


To go out of a room or building, etc., usually for a short time, e.g. He steps out for a smoke.


To increase something such as amount, speed, etc. of something.


stick around




stick at


stick by


stick ... on


stick out










stick out for


stick to






stick together


stick ... .up






stick up for


stick with

To stay for a while longer, e.g. We were asked to stick around for a while so as to have a drink together, but we’ve already waited for half an hour.


To continue to do what one is doing with the same determination.


To continue to support someone.


To blame someone for a mistake or wrongdoing.


To be particularly noticeable, e.g. His two oversized ears stick out more than usual.

To extend from a surface, e.g. Be careful when you handle that plant, it has sharp thorns sticking out.

To extend a part of one outward, e.g. This dog certainly looks rather tired, with its tongue sticking out dripping with saliva and body shaking.

To tolerate an unpleasant or difficult situation, e.g. I found the roller coaster ride more scary than exciting, but I stuck it out.


To refuse to accept less than what one wants


To continue to do what one thinks or believes is proper, e.g. He always considers very carefully before making a decision, and once a decision is made he sticks to it.

To talk or write relevantly, e.g. A speaker or writer should stick to the subject in question, and not wander off to something else.


To cooperate or remain united for mutual benefit.


To rob someone at gunpoint, e.g. No one was aware that a couple of men were sticking up a store until police arrived.

To put up something such as a sign, notice, etc., e.g. Someone stuck a picture of Popeye up on the public toilet wall.

(Something) to point out from a surface.


To defend oneself or someone else when others will not.


To stay close to someone physically or romantically.

To do something as planned despite the difficulty.

(Something) to remain in one’s memory, e.g. The nightmare I had has stuck with me since.


sting … for

To overcharge someone for something, e.g. The mechanic stung him for a big amount for a minor repair to his car.


stink … out

To fill a place with a particularly unpleasant smell, e.g. The new coat of paint is stinking out the whole office.


stir … up

To deliberately cause conflict between people by spreading rumours or gossip, etc.

To cause something to rise, e.g. The strong wind stirs up a lot of dust.


stitch up



stitch ... up

To apply stitches to cloth or wound in order to fasten or cure.


To satisfactorily finalize a deal or agreement.

To handle a situation in such a way as to disadvantage someone.


stock up

To accumulate a supply of something, e.g. They stock up on whisky for the forthcoming celebration.


stoke up

To add coal or wood to a fire.

To stir up strong emotions among people

To eat a large amount of food to get the energy required for sustained activity.

To stock something such as clothing, etc. for one’s needs.


stoop to

To lower one’s dignity so far as to commit a morally wrongful act.


stop back

stop by


stop … down



stop in



stop off



stop out


stop over



stop up

To return to a place one has previously been.

To visit a place or person briefly when on one’s way to somewhere else.

To reduce the lens aperture in a camera to allow less light in when one is photographing.


To visit a place or person briefly when on one’s way to somewhere else.


To make a brief visit to a place, especially to rest or visit someone, en route to one’s destination, e.g. We stopped off at our parents’ house for a day on our way to the island.


To stay out later than usual.


To make a short stay somewhere before resuming one’s journey, e.g. We stopped over at our grandparents’ house for a drink on our way home.


To stay up late.


stow away

To hide oneself on a ship, aircraft, etc. in order to travel secretly or without paying.


straighten … out









straighten up

To make something straight, e.g. The workers are working to straighten out the winding road.

To deal with the causes of a difficult problem with a view to resolving it, e.g. They meet for discussion to straighten out the remaining issues.

To help someone overcome their bad behaviour or personal problems, e.g. We don’t condemn the kids’ behaviour or punish them, instead we try to understand them and help them to straighten out.


To decide to change one’s way of behaving and become a better person.


stretch out

To lie down in order to rest or sleep.


strike back

strike … down


strike off




strike on/upon


strike out




strike up

To retaliate.

To cause someone to fall by hitting them very hard.

(Disease) to make someone die or seriously ill.

To stop doctors, lawyers, etc. from practising their profession by removing their names from the official list of those who are allowed to practise.


To discover something such as a good idea, etc.


To remove an item from a list by drawing a line through it.

To do something new on one’s own such as living alone, starting a business, etc.


To begin to play a piece of music.

To start a friendship or conversation with someone.


string along

string … out



string together




string ... up

To deceive someone over a length of time.

To prolong something.

To be anxious or tense over something.

To be joined or spread in a straight line, e.g. pearls, islands.

To be able to put two things such as words, sentences, etc. together to make sense to other people, e.g. Can a drunk string two words together to make sense?


To put someone to death by hanging, e.g. He was finally strung up for the multiple murders he committed.


strip away



strip ... of

To gradually get rid of something such as habits, customs, etc.


To deprive someone of something such as rank, power, property, citizenship, etc.


struggle on

To continue obstinately a course of action in spite of difficulty or opposition.


stub … out

To snuff out a cigarette butt by pressing the lighted end against something.


stumble on/across

To find something or meet someone by chance and unexpectedly.


stump up

To pay a sum of money.


subject … to

To cause or force someone to undergo something unpleasant or difficult.


subscribe for

subscribe to

To accept to hold shares in a company.

To agree to receive something, especially a periodical, regularly by paying in advance.

To believe and support an idea, view, belief, etc.


suck up

To be completely obedient and attentive to the comfort or wishes of others in order to gain a personal advantage.


sucker … into

To fool or trick someone into doing something.


suffer from

To be affected by an illness, especially one that lasts a long time.

To have a problem that hinders success.


suit … to

To make something appropriate for someone.


sum up

To summarize something briefly such as a report, speech, etc.


suss … out

To understand or realize the true character or nature of something.


swallow … up

To take in and cause to disappear, e.g. rise in earning being swallowed up by increases in food and other prices.


swarm with

To be crowded or overrun with people, animals, etc., e.g. the beach is swarmed with people.


swear by


swear … in



swear off


swear to

To have great confidence in something, e.g. He swears by the quality of the new model of a product.

To admit someone to a position or office by having them take an oath, e.g. the person elected as president having to take the presidential oath on assuming office.


To promise to refrain or abstain from doing something.


To make a formal declaration that something is true.


sweat out


sweat off

To continue doing something difficult until completion.

To do strenuous physical exercise.

To get rid of something such as bodily fat, illness, etc. by sweating through doing something such as aerobic exercises, etc.


sweep … aside


sweep … away


sweep up

To remove someone or something quickly.

To ignore what someone says.

To cause the death of someone and/or completely destroy something, e.g. floods sweep people and houses away.

To clean a place by using a brush, broom, etc.


swing around/round

swing by

To turn or make something turn around quickly.

To make a short visit to a place or someone for a particular purpose.


switch off




switch on



switch over


To use a switch to turn off something such as television, etc., e.g. It often happens here that no one switches off the television when no one is watching it.


To cease paying attention or listening to someone.

To turn on something such as electric light, television, machine, etc. by using a switch.


To change from something such as a system, dress, television station, etc. to another.


swot up

To study intensively and with perseverance, e.g. Students just have to swot up in order to pass their examinations.


tack … on

To add something to something else later when needed.


tag along

tag … on

To accompany someone uninvited.

To add something thought of later to something else.


tail away

tail back


tail off

To gradually become less and less in amount, intensity, etc.

(Traffic) to become more and more congested until it forms a long queue that is very slow in moving or not moving at all.

To become less, smaller, weaker, etc.


take aback


take  after


take against



take ... apart



take away from



take back






take ... down



take in





take ... in




take off



take ... off






take on



take ... on





take ... out










take over








take to




take up












take up on

To be very surprised about something, e.g. She was really taken aback by what he had just said.

To bear a close resemblance to an older relative such as a parent, etc.


To begin to develop a feeling of dislike of someone.


To dismantle something.

To easily defeat an opponent in something, such as a game, sport, etc.


To reduce the worth or belittle the quality of something.


To withdraw what one has said or written, e.g. If it is not true, I’m sorry and I take back what I’ve said.

To return something that is unsatisfactory back to a shop for exchange or refund, e g. The sales assistant said I could take it back within a week if there is any problem with it.

To bring back what one owns, e.g. Visitors are advised to take back their umbrellas when they leave the premises.


To jot or write down something spoken.


To include something, e.g. The bill has not yet taken in the additional charges of transporting it.

To be cheated or deceived by someone, e.g. Many were taken in by the vendor’s claim that the craft products were handmade.


To let someone stay in one’s house, e.g. Our cousin has no place to stay, so we take him in.

To understand and retain something such as facts, ideas, etc.


(Aircraft, etc.) To leave the ground for the air.

(Business) to become more and more successful.


To remove a piece of or all of one’s clothing.

To make a deduction of an amount.

To be absent from work, e.g. I’ll take the whole of next week off.

To leave hastily without informing anyone.


To assume a quality or appearance without any specific reason, e.g. to take on a very upset, worried, etc. look.


To engage new workers.

To be ready or willing to meet an opponent in a contest, competition, etc.

To undertake a task or responsibility.


To remove something from a container, etc., e.g. He took out a hundred dollar bill from his wallet and gave it to the cashier.

To bring someone with one to some place such as a restaurant, beach, cinema, etc. Every weekend my dad takes me out to the park or some other place.

To vent one’s feelings on others, e.g. He takes it out on his children wherever he gets angry.

To kill someone, or destroy something, e.g. The police sharpshooter took out the hostage-taker with a single shot.

To get an official service, e.g. taking out an insurance policy.


To take responsibility for something, usually from someone, e.g. Jack takes over the running of the company while his father is away.

To bring something from one place to another, e.g. I help my colleague take some office files over to his house.

To gain control of a place, country, town, etc., e.g. The invading army took over the city after the defending troops abandoned it.


To begin to develop a liking for someone, e.g. He began to take to her after working for six months together.

To acquire a habit, e.g. He took to drink after his wife left him.


To start a new job or have a new responsibility, e.g. He took up the supervisory post when the former supervisor left.

To accept a challenge from someone, e.g. He took up the challenge of not smoking for a whole week.

To do selected subjects in school, e.g. She took up history as it is one of her favourite subjects.

To fight using weapons, e.g. Many villagers took up arms and join the rebel group.

To pursue a course of action, e.g. They are taking up this matter with the local authority.

To occupy one’s time, attention, etc., e.g. Building the kennel may take up two weekends.


To accept an offer, e.g. Jack was disappointed that Jill refused to take him up on his offer of a dinner.


talk around



talk back


talk ... down




talk down to



talk ... into



talk ... out


talk … out of



talk ... over




talk ... through


talk to

To convince someone to change their opinion and accept a specific point of view.


To reply defiantly, rudely or disrespectfully.


To belittle or dismiss the good quality or worth of something, e.g. The opposition leader was booed in parliament when he talked down the government’s economic management of the country.


To speak condescendingly to someone, e.g. His habit of talking down to others has alienated them.


To persuade someone to do or not to do something, e.g. If you had not talked me into smoking, I wouldn’t be such a heavy smoker today.


To discuss an issue or problem and how to tackle it.


To persuade someone not to do certain things, e.g. They talked her out of taking her own life.


To have a thorough discussion about something before adopting a decision, e.g. They talk it over many times before deciding to migrate.


To discuss something completely with regard to every detail in order to gain a better or complete comprehension of it.


To converse with someone, e.g. He loves talking to people and can talk at length on any subject.


tamper with

To interfere with something without authority in order to cause damage to it.


tangle with

To get involved in an argument or fight with someone.


tank up

To fill the tank of a vehicle with fuel.


tap … in

To press buttons or keys on telephone, computer, etc, to begin operating it.


taper off

To gradually become less, smaller or fewer in size, amount, intensity, or degree.


tart … up

To improve something but only on the surface of it.

To make oneself look attractive by wearing makeup, jewellery, or through better dressing.


tax … with

To blame someone for or accuse them of a fault or wrongdoing.


team up

To work jointly with someone on an activity or project.


tear … apart





tear at



tear away




tear ... down



tear into




tear off



tear ... up


To be violently broken into pieces, e.g. vultures tearing a carcass apart.

To cause serious conflict between people within a family, group, organization, etc., e.g. Dispute over family property is tearing the siblings apart.


To pull violently at someone or something.


To leave suddenly, quickly and in an uncontrolled manner, e.g. The car tore away noisily attracting much attention.

To leave a person or place despite a strong feeling of wanting to stay.


To pull or knock down something, e.g. Some of the buildings will be torn down as the area is earmarked for redevelopment.


To launch a strong verbal attack against someone.

To attack someone or something fiercely, e.g. two wolves tearing into each other.


To leave suddenly and quickly, e.g. He tore off when he realized he was almost late for a meeting.


To pull or rip apart or to pieces, e.g. He angrily tore up the letter from a company’s lawyer demanding payment from him.

To damage something, e.g. They tore up the seats in the stadium when their team lost the match.


tease … out

To extract, obtain or ascertain information from a large amount of material by painstaking effort.


tee off

To hit the ball off the tee to begin a game of golf.


teem with

To be full of or swarming with people, fish, animals, etc.


tell against




tell ... apart




tell of



tell ... off


tell on


To make one unsuccessful in one’s endeavour to achieve, e.g. He wants to be a basketball player but his height tells against him.


To be able to identify someone or something separately despite their close similarity or resemblance, e.g. The only way to tell twins apart is to call their names, which are the only thing that makes identical twins different.


To give a detailed account of someone or something, e.g. The novel tells of a mother’s heroic efforts to save her family.


To express one’s strong disapproval to someone of what they have or have not done.


To inform someone in authority of someone else’s wrongdoing, e.g. He smoked in the school toilet which is forbidden, and he is furious that someone has told on him.


thin out

To make or become less thick, e.g. As soon as the warehouse fire was put out, the crowd of onlookers began to thin out.


think about




think ahead


think back



thank of






think ... out


think ... over




think ... through



think … up

To consider the possibility or advantages of something, e.g. I have been thinking about migrating for the past ten years, and I’m still thinking.


To plan for one’s future, e.g. When I think ahead I decide not to get married.


To think of past events, e.g. She couldn’t help thinking back to the day she almost lost her life in a road accident.


To have an opinion of something, e.g. Many of them think highly of the new President.

To remember things, e.g. Some of them can’t think of the name of the country’s first President.

To have fond memory of someone, e.g. He often thinks of her whenever they are not together.


To think of all the relevant things before making a decision.


To consider carefully all factors before committing oneself, e.g. He prefers to think it over before he decides to join them in that commercial venture.


To consider carefully the possible consequences of getting involved in an activity.


To think of new ideas, plans, etc., e.g. He has to think up a way to be a famous magician in order to fulfill his ambition.


thrash out

To discuss something thoroughly in order to reach a decision.


throttle back

To control the flow of fuel or power to an engine.


throw … away






throw ... in





throw ... off


throw ... open



throw ... out







throw ... over


throw ... together


throw up

To dispose of unwanted or useless things, e.g. Please threw away the old newspapers including today’s which I haven’t read.

To waste or fail to seize an opportunity or advantage, e.g. I threw away an opportunity to befriend her and know her better when I was too shy to approach her at the party.


To include something extra, such as free gifts, with things which are being sold without an increase in their prices.

To inject a remark in a conversation without forethought.

To start to do something with enthusiasm.


To escape from someone or something that is pursuing one.


To allow people access to a place that is usually not open to them.


To expel someone from a place such as a school, organization, etc., e.g. A member of the club was thrown out for misbehaviour.

To dispose of unwanted things, e.g. The old newspapers and magazines are piling up and nobody cares to throw them out.

To terminate a romantic relationship with someone.


To make something quickly without any planning.


To cause people to meet and know each other.


To vomit, e.g. Whenever she is in a moving bus, she feels like she’s going to throw up.

To give up something such as home, job, etc. completely, e.g. He threw up everything and sought employment overseas.


thrust … aside

To refuse to consider about something, e.g. Our petition was thrust aside and we have never heard from the authority since.


thumb through

To look through something such as a book, magazine, etc. quickly, e.g. thumbing through a photo album.


tick away/by

tick … off




tick over

(Time) to pass away.

To express one’s disapproval to someone, e.g. They were ticked off for misbehaviour.

To mark the items on a list to indicate that they have been dealt with.


(Engine of vehicle) to run slowly without moving the vehicle.


tide over

To help someone through a difficult period, especially with financial assistance.


tidy … away

To maintain tidiness by not allowing things to lie around but returning them to the places where they are kept.


tie … down



tie in


tie up


To restrict someone or something, e.g. Now tied down with a wife and kids, he finds it hard to socialize.


To be or cause to be in harmony with something.


To restrict someone’s movement by binding their arms and legs.

To keep someone so busy that they are unavailable to do something else, e.g. He is going to be tied up the whole of next week because of the new project.

To invest in something so that the money is not immediately available for use, e.g. All his money is tied up in shares.


tilt at

To attack someone by what one says or writes.


tip off

To inform, especially the police, by passing them a piece of information about illegal activities.


tire … out

To make someone very tired.


tog … up/out

To put on clothes for a particular occasion or activity.


tone … down

tone  … up

To reduce the effect of a speech or piece of writing.

To give greater strength or firmness to the body or a muscle.


tool up

To be or become armed.