Common Idioms: How to use Phrasal Verbs (Part1) – TURN

What’s the difference between “turn off” and “turn on”? How about “turn up” and “turn in”? If you want to know, this topic will interest you.

Phrasal verbs are idiomatic phrases or expressions that use a verb and an adverb (down, up) or preposition (to, in, on, at). A simple format looks like this: verb + adverb or preposition.

Learning common phrasal verbs is vital to improving your English fluency. Over time, there have been many idioms or slang added to the English language. So, it’s important to understand and learn the meaning of common phrasal verbs. And usually, phrasal verbs have more than one meaning. Let’s start with the word TURN and its idioms.

1. Turn down means reducing the volume of voices, noise, or music. You can say, “Please, children, turn down your noise. We are talking.” Another meaning of “turn down” is to refuse something. For example, “I turned down a job offer even if it pays higher because they require me to relocate to a new city.”

2. Turn up is the opposite of turn down. It means making something louder, like turning up the music. Another meaning for turn up is to appear. For instance, “I invited 20 people to my birthday party, but about 30 guests turned up.” This means about 30 people came or attended.

3. Turn on is an easy one to remember. It means you turn on the lights, radio, vacuum, or any electronic equipment. The other usage of this phrase is actually slang, which means to get someone excited or to create interest. So, for instance, a lady wearing a tight-fitting red dress that shows most of her legs is a “turn-on” for most men. That lady knows how to turn on men. But if you’re a Calculus teacher, you can also turn on your students’ interest in your subject. You can do some activities that will turn them on to Calculus lessons.

4. Turn off means to turn off or cut off the power of the lights, the radio, or any electronic device. The other meaning of “turn off” is to make someone lose interest. For example, a bad smell or a dirty place will turn off anybody. People will not be interested in anything that smells bad.

5. Turn over means to physically turn something over. Like when cooking a fried chicken, whenever one side is cooked, you turn it over so the other side will also be cooked. It means to flip something over.

This is also used in a business setting. If you have a restaurant, you want a fast “turnover” of your tables.  Notice that the phrase is written here as one word. This means that, because your food is so good and the price is not high, many customers will come in to eat. So, many diners will use one table more than once. After a customer uses a table, you clean it up, and another one comes in to eat. Your restaurant has a high “turnover”.

6. Turn in means to submit a result when you’re finished with a task. For example, “The students turned in their papers after the exam.”

Another meaning of this is reporting someone to the police. This means you know that this person robbed the store, so you turn him into the authorities. It also means going to sleep. For example, “I am exhausted. I’ll turn in early. Good night.”

7. Turn to means asking someone’s help or assistance when you’re having a hard time. For example, if you have a problem or need someone to talk to, you “turn to” your family or friends.

8. Turn out means to result in something, and the result is accidental. It’s a result that you did not expect. For instance, “As I did more research, it turned out that the first reports we heard were wrong.”

The other meaning of this phrase is attendance, but this time you write it as “turnout”, not “turn out”. You can say, “The band performed in the club, and the turnout was great.”

9. Turn around means to change. For instance, “Last week she told me she’s coming with us to our trip to Malaysia. But today, she turned around and decided not to come.” So, she changed her mind.

Just like vocabulary, the most effective way to remember phrasal verbs is by repetition. Keep practicing them in your sentences, keep reading more examples, keep making sentences of your own, and these idioms will be easier to use and remember. You can ask your LingualBox teacher to help you practice these idioms by including them in your free conversation lessons.

I have a passion for the English language because it is such a powerful tool for creativity and personal development. I've been writing articles since I was in High School. I represented my school in English writing competitions in the city, regional, and national levels. When I was in college, I wrote a short story which was published in the University Literary Portfolio. In 2006, I worked as a call center agent in Cebu City. In 2007 up to 2008, I worked as an English accent trainer in a startup call center company. I have also been offering ESL lessons as a freelance tutor since February 2016.