Quick Grammar Lesson: The Particle ON and OFF in Phrasal Verbs

In the previous lesson, you have learned the meaning of the particle ‘up‘ and ‘down‘ used with a verb in phrasal verbs. If you missed it, you can check out this link. When you have finished reading the lesson in that link, you can go back here.

So, today you are going to learn the meaning of the particle ON and OFF.

The particle ON means:

– contact

– support

– function

– continue



He put the water on the stove to boil.

Why do I use on instead of at? Because on in the sentence means contact. The water needs to be in contact with the source of heat, in this case stove, in order to boil.

Another example:

Julie is getting on very well with her school, but her brother’s marks are terrible.

The particle on in getting on means her study is continuing well; she is progressing well with her study.


The particle OFF means:

– separate

– deteriorate

– not function

– not continue

– complete



As we were talking on the phone, we were suddenly cut off.

 We use the particle off with the verb cut to mean something is separated. We were separated; the contact was broken.

Another example:

Many old people in Britain live on nothing but tea and biscuits.

The particle on in live on means supported; the old people in Britain were supported only by tea and biscuits.


Now try this exercise. Let’s see if you understand the lesson right.

1. She worked (on/off) until she was exhausted.

2. Julie and Barry quarreled and decided to call (on/off) their engagement.

3. He kept (on off) whistling that stupid song!

4. We went with Sandra to the airport to see her (on/off).

5. That milk smells terrible. It has gone (on/off).


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