Introduction:

Projects never go as well as planned. Unexpected problems and issues often happen during the length of a project. So, it's important to know how to describe what you did and what you will do. There are a lot of different phrasal verbs in English which are commonly used to do this.

In this second of two online exercises on phrasal verbs for problems, we will look at phrasal verbs in English which are used when providing a progress update for a project. The focus here is on those phrasal verbs which are used for talking about problems and how to resolve them. Many of these phrasal verbs can be used in other situations with the same meaning.

Click here to see the first part of this exercise on phrasal verbs for explaining problems.

Click here to see more online exercises on verbs and phrasal verbs in English.


Exercise: A project update

Read the following project update meeting which is discussing the current situation with a project which is installing a luggage delivery system in an airport for an external client.

From the context, try to guess what the meaning of the words/phrases in bold are. Then do the quiz at the end to check if you are right.

Director of Projects:'How's the installation of the first of the luggage delivery systems going at Skipton Airport? I hope to hear good news. You know that we're still three weeks behind schedule. If we're going to meet the deadline we're going to have to knuckle down, to work harder and longer.'

Project Manager:'Well, we've run into a few problems I'm afraid. As you know we've already installed the first of the conveyor belts to carry the passengers' luggage and there have been some problems.'

Director of Projects:'In what way?'

Project Manager:'In two ways. During the first week of testing, the conveyor belt broke down three times. Each time we had to replace a number of parts in order to make it work again. But we have figured out what was causing the problem. There was a faulty cable and since we replaced it, it hasn't broken down since.'

Director of Projects:'So that's been sorted out and it's working fine now, good. And the second problem?'

Project Manager:'The second problem is with the delivery rate for the luggage delivery system. When we were designing it, we figured on each of the conveyor belts would move 50 bags per minute, but now the client is saying that he wants 100 bags to be moved by it per minute. Although it does seem easy to simply increase the speed of the system, the whole system is only designed to move a maximum of 90 bags per minute.'

Director of Projects:'How did you find out about them now wanting 100 bags per minute? The client agreed in the contract to a maximum of between 70-80 bags per minute.'

Project Manager:'The airport manager told us that they want 100 bags per minute when he came to look at the conveyor belt earlier this week.'

Director of Projects:'Can it be done?'

Project Manager:'Well, we've been looking into it over the last couple of days and we've come up with an idea which should mean that it can move 100 bags a minutes. We haven't tested it yet. Although we can rule out the possibility that this change will be a risk to any of the passengers or operators who use the system. We've installed luggage delivery systems at other places with a similar velocity without any problems. We can't exclude the possibility that if we implement this idea, it won't damage the machinery and cause the system to frequently break down. The machinery wasn't designed for this velocity.'

Director of Projects:'Before you go ahead with doing the testing, I have to speak with the client. So, can you hold off doing anything for the moment. It's best to wait before we do anything. I'm going to tell her what you've told me. I'll try to speak to her this afternoon and let you know what the outcome of it is.'



Quiz: English phrasal verbs for explaining problems part 2

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 write it as it is in the text. 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 that you have thought of/found a way to improve something, is    

         

Come up with:
(phrasal verb) The infinitive is 'to come up with something'. In this context it means to have thought of or found a solution to a problem or a way to improve something. It is often followed by 'an idea' or 'a way to', e.g. 'they have come up with a way to save money'. This is a Type 4 Phrasal Verb (transitive and inseparable with two particle). In Spanish: "proponer/sugerir".

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Come up with:

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2. A phrasal verb which means to expect something to happen, is    

         

Figured on:
(phrasal verb) The infinitive is 'to figure on something'. In this context it means to expect/plan for something happening. It is more commonly used in the negative, e.g. 'we didn't figure on the price of oil going up so much'. It is commonly used in business with projects, negotiations, meetings etc... This is a Type 2 Phrasal Verb (transitive and inseparable with one particle). In Spanish: "contar con".

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Figured on:

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3. A phrasal verb that asks somebody to wait and not do anything, is   

         

Hold off:
(phrasal verb) The infinitive is 'to hold off something'. In this context it means to stop starting or doing something (like a project, email, change etc...) and wait. It is often used as a polite order. It is generally followed by a gerund (e.g. 'talking') and then often by 'until', e.g. 'hold off doing anything until I tell you'. It is a Type 2 Phrasal Verb (transitive and inseparable with one particle). In Spanish: "esperar/no hacer nada".

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Hold off:

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4. A phrasal verb that means to work harder, is    

         

Knuckle down:
(phrasal verb) The infinitive is 'to knuckle down'. In this context it means to work harder and possibly longer. It is commonly used in business English and is normally used as an order or suggestion, e.g. 'we have a lot to do, so we have to knuckle down'. It is never used in the negative. This is a Type 1 Phrasal Verb (intransitive and inseparable with one particle). In Spanish: "ponerse a trabajar en serio".

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Knuckle down:

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5. A phrasal verb that means to find a solution to a problem, is    

         

Figured out:
(phrasal verb) The infinitive is 'to figure something out'. In this context it means to find a solution or find the cause of a problem, e.g. 'we can't figure it out, do you have any ideas?'. It is similar to 'work out'. It is a Type 3 Phrasal Verb (transitive and separable with one particle). It can also be followed by 'why' and then details of the problem, e.g. 'we figured out why the car isn't working'. In Spanish: "resolver/entender".

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Figured out:

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6. A phrasal verb that means that a machine isn't working, is    

         

Broke down:
(phrasal verb) The infinitive is 'to break down'. It's a phrasal verb with many different uses. In this context it means that a machine (e.g. car, fridge etc...) or a computer isn't working. This is normally used when you expect or hope that the machine or computer can be fixed or repaired, e.g. 'the washing machine has broken down again'. This is a Type 1 Phrasal Verb (intransitive and inseparable with one particle). In Spanish: "estropearse".

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Broke down:

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7. A phrasal verb that means to discover or learn/hear about some information, is    

         

Find out:
(phrasal verb) The infinitive is 'to find out'. It's a phrasal verb with different uses. In this context it means to discover or learn/about some information that you didn't know before. This is a Type 1 Phrasal Verb (intransitive and inseparable with one particle). An 'about' follows this phrasal verb if you want to say what the information is, e,g, 'How did you find out about the merger? Who told you?' In Spanish: "averiguar".

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Find out:

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8. A phrasal verb that means a problem has been solved or fixed, is    

         

Sorted out:
(phrasal verb) The infinitive is 'to sort something out'. It's a phrasal verb with different uses. In this context it means to fix something that was causing problems or a machine that had broken down, e.g. 'We've sorted the situation out, so there won't be any more problems'. Although in this case it is a Type 3 Phrasal Verb (transitive and separable with one particle), it can also be used as a Type 1 Phrasal Verb (intransitive and inseparable with one particle) when the subject is the problem or issue, e.g. 'don't worry the problem is sorted out now'. But it is only used as this type in the passive. In Spanish: "arreglar/solucionar".

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Sorted out:

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9. A phrasal verb that means that something can proceed or start, is    

         

Go ahead:
(phrasal verb) The infinitive is 'to go ahead'. It's a phrasal verb with different uses, some very similar. In this context it means to proceed or start a plan, task, project etc... It is only used with this meaning in business and professional English. A 'with' follows this phrasal verb if you want to include details of the plan, tasks etc..., e.g. 'Can we go ahead with the changes now?'. This is a Type 1 Phrasal Verb (intransitive and inseparable with one particle). In Spanish: "avanzar/seguir adelante".

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Go ahead:

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10. A phrasal verb that means you have encountered some problems, is    

         

Run into:
(phrasal verb) The infinitive is 'to run into something'. It's a phrasal verb with different uses. In this context it means to have encountered some problems when you were doing something. The phrasal verb is generally followed by 'problem', 'issue' or 'difficulty', e.g. 'we have run into some difficulties with the production'. This is a Type 3 Phrasal Verb (transitive and separable with one particle). In Spanish: "tropezar con".

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Run into:

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11. A phrasal verb that means that you can exclude something as a possibility, is    

         

Rule out:
(phrasal verb) The infinitive is 'to rule something out'. In this context it means to exclude the possibility that something happened or will happen. It is used with predictions. This phrasal verb is normally used with the verb 'can' or 'can't'. In fact, 'can't rule out' is more commonly used in English and means that you can't exclude something as a possibility, e.g. 'we can't rule this out, it could happen'. This is a Type 3 Phrasal Verb (transitive and separable with one particle). In Spanish: "descartar/excluir".

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Rule out:

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Practice

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