Introduction:

One of the most common topics or subjects that are talked about in business meetings is problems. Problems with a customer, problems with a project, problems with a department are all commonly discussed in meetings. There are lots of different phrasal verbs in English that are used when discussing problematic situations. In this online exercise on phrasal verbs in English, we will look at phrasal verbs that are used in business meetings when both explaining and trying to resolve problematic situations. Many of these phrasal verbs can also be used outside of meeting.

Exercise: Discussing Problems

Read the following internal business meeting in a company that publishes books. They are discussing a problem with an order to one of their customers/clients. Focus on and think about the meaning of the phrasal verbs in BOLD.

Chair:

'Ok, on to the next item on the agenda, the issue with the book order to Book Reader plc. Geoff, can you please fill us in on what happened. Tells us the main events.'

Geoff:

'Well, Book Reader plc are saying that we only sent them half of the books that they ordered from us. They ordered 1000 books and have only received 500. I've looked at their original order form and it is an order for 1000 books. I also checked our system and it says that we sent them the full order, 1000 books last Tuesday. I also have a copy of the signed delivery form which says that they received 1000 books last Wednesday.'

Chair:

'So, Geoff what's your opinion of what happened? Are Book Reader plc lying or is there a problem with our system? How should we deal with this?'

Simon:

'Last year another of our customers complained about the same problem with one of their orders. I believe that the problem then was with our ordering system.'

Geoff:

'I have been looking into the possibility of that over the last couple of days. And I believe it's more likely that we have screwed up than they are lying. I believe it's our fault.'

Chair:

'So, you're saying that we messed up their order?'

Geoff:

'Yes. What should we say to Book Reader plc?'

Chair:

'We shouldn't try to cover it up. We have to be honest with them and tell them it's our fault. We need to apologise for the order. It's taken years to build up a good relationship with this company and I don't want to throw it away by trying to not accept the blame for our mistake with the order.'

Geoff:

'I agree.'

Chair:

'We also need to see how this problem came about. It seems that it's happened before. Was it a typing error, a mix up at the warehouse or a problem with the ordering system?'

Geoff:

'As I said before, I think it's a problem with the ordering system.'

Chair:

'So, can you follow that up with the IT department as soon as you can?'

Geoff:

'No problem.'

Chair:

'But first I want you to sort out the delivery for Book Reader plc. Make sure that the order for the missing 500 books is ready to leave for tomorrow morning at the latest. I'll speak to them personally and apologise.'


Recommended Books For English Verbs

To improve your vocabulary/knowledge of English verbs, we recommend the following books:

  1. Oxford Phrasal Verbs Dictionary for learners of English.
  2. Oxford Business English Dictionary for learners of English.
  3. Business Phrasal Verbs.
  4. English Phrasal Verbs in Use: Intermediate.
  5. English Phrasal Verbs in Use: Advanced.

 Link to Dictionary

Quiz: Meeting Phrasal Verbs

Below is a definition or description of each of the phrasal verbs in bold from the above text. Now fill in the blanks with one of these phrasal verbs in bold. Only use one phrasal verb once and only write the words which are in bold in the above text. For example, the phrasal verb from the above text 'follow that up', should be written in one of the below answer boxs as 'follow up'. Click on the "Check Answers" button at the bottom of the quiz to check your answers.

When the answer is correct, two icons will appear next to the question. The first is an Additional Information Icon "". Click on this for extra information on the word/phrase and for a translation. The second is a Pronunciation Icon "". Click on this to listen to the pronunciation of the word/phrase and to do a pronunciation speaking test.


1. A phrasal verb that means to resolve a problem, is    

         

Deal with:
(phrasal verb) The infinitive is 'to deal with something'. It has different meanings. In this context it is used with the meaning of 'resolve' or 'fix' a problem/issue, e.g. 'don't worry, I've already dealt with the issue'. This is a Type 2 Phrasal Verb (transitive and inseparable with one particle). This phrasal verb is also used with the meanings of 'to talk about' and 'to do business with'. In Spanish: "resolver/solucionar".

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Deal with:

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2. A phrasal verb that means to create and develop a business relationship, is    

         

Build up:
(phrasal verb) The infinitive is 'to build something up'. In this context it is used with the meaning of establishing and developing business/professional relationship over a period of time (normally years), e.g. 'It's important that we build up a good working relationship with our suppliers'. It is used with a positive meaning. This is a Type 3 Phrasal Verb (transitive and separable with one particle). In Spanish: "labrarse/crear".

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Build up:

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3. A phrasal verb that means to hide something that you have done wrong or badly, is    

         

Cover up:
(phrasal verb) The infinitive is 'to cover something up'. It has different meanings. In this context it means to try to hide/conceal something you've done wrong or badly from other people, e.g. 'the company tried to cover up its financial problems from its shareholders'. It's commonly used in business and political English. This is a Type 3 Phrasal Verb (transitive and separable with one particle). In Spanish: "ocultar".

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Cover up:

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4. A phrasal verb that means to make a big mistake, that begins with 's', is    

         

Screwed up:
(phrasal verb) The infinitive is 'to screw up'. In this context it means to do something very badly or make a big mistake. It has the same meaning as 'to mess up', but 'to screw up' sounds worse, e.g. 'I'm sorry that I've screwed up again'. Both are commonly used in business and social English. They are not appropriate in formal English, where 'I made a big mistake' is more commonly used. This is a Type 1 Phrasal Verb (intransitive and inseparable with one particle). In Spanish: "estropear/fastidiar".

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Screwed up:

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5. A phrasal verb that is used when you want to know why something happened, is    

         

Came about:
(phrasal verb) The infinitive is 'to come about'. In this context it is used to ask or explain why something happened. It is normally used in connection with problems or changes that someone isn't completely happy with. It is generally used in the past simple tense, e.g. 'how did this situation come about?'. When used as an explanation it is followed by 'because' or 'due to', e.g. 'it came about because of his friendship with the CEO'. This is a Type 1 Phrasal Verb (intransitive and inseparable with one particle). In Spanish: "suceder/ocurrir".

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Came about:

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6. A phrasal verb that means to inform/tell somebody about a subject/situation, is    

         

Fill in:
(phrasal verb) The infinitive is 'to fill somebody in'. It has different meanings. In this context it is used with the meaning of verbally 'informing' or 'updating' people about a situation or subject, e.g. 'Michael is going to fill us in on the latest with the new project'. It is very commonly used in business meetings. This is a Type 1 Phrasal Verb (intransitive and inseparable with one particle). It is often followed by the preposition 'on' and the subject of the information, e.g. 'she filled them in on the changes'. In Spanish: "poner a algn al corriente".

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Fill in:

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7. A phrasal verb that means to lose something by your own actions, is    

         

Throw away:
(phrasal verb) The infinitive is 'to throw something away'. It has many different meanings. In this context it is used with the meaning of losing or wasting a valuable situation/relationship by your own actions/stupidity. It is commonly used with jobs, career, business, business and personal relationships etc... It suggests that it has been has been lost permanently, e.g. 'by stealing the money from work, he has thrown his career away. He won't be able to find another job'. This is a Type 3 Phrasal Verb (transitive and separable with one particle). In Spanish: "desperdiciar/echar a perder".

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Throw away:

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8. A phrasal verb that means to look into something further/more, is    

         

Follow up:
(phrasal verb) The infinitive is 'to follow something up'. It has different meanings. In this context it means to look into or investigate something further, It is normally used in meetings to investigate/look into a situation or suggestion that has just been talked about, e.g. 'Peter, can you follow up Steve's idea to improve productivity with IT'. It is followed by 'with' when you want to say who it will be looked into with. This is a Type 3 Phrasal Verb (transitive and separable with one particle). In Spanish: "investigar".

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Follow up:

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9. A phrasal verb that means to make a big mistake, that begins with 'm', is    

         

Messed up:
(phrasal verb) The infinitive is 'to mess up'. In this context it means to do something very badly or make a big mistake. It has the same meaning as 'to screw up', but 'to mess up' sounds less serious , e.g. 'I'm sorry that I've messed up again'. Both are commonly used in business and social English. They are not appropriate in formal English, where 'I made a big mistake' is more commonly used. This is a Type 1 Phrasal Verb (intransitive and inseparable with one particle). In Spanish: "estropear".

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Messed up:

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10. A phrasal verb that means to organise something, is    

         

Sort out:
(phrasal verb) The infinitive is 'to sort something out'. It has many different meanings. In this context it means to arrange or organise a meeting, party, arrangements, plans etc..., e.g. 'don't worry, I'll sort everything out for the meeting'. Although it is very commonly used in business situations, it is informal. So it maybe better to use 'to arrange' or 'to organise' instead. This is a Type 3 Phrasal Verb (transitive and separable with one particle). In Spanish: "ordenar/organizar".

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Sort out:

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Practice

Now that you understand the use and meaning of these phrasal verbs, practice them by creating your own sentences in English.