30 Phrasal Verbs to Help You With Technology
30 Phrasal Verbs to Help You With Technology

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30 Phrasal Verbs to Help You With Technology
Welcome back to Everyday Grammar from VOA Learning English.

This is our third episode on phrasal verbs. As you know, a phrasal verb is a phrase with two or more words: a verb and a preposition or adverb, or both.

Today we look at very current phrasal verbs: ones used with technology. The digital age has created many new words and phrases in English.

The world of technology is fast-changing, and it has broken many traditions. It is natural that the language of computers would also change and be informal.

Not only is the language of technology full of phrasal verbs, it is also full of new nouns. Many of those nouns grew out of phrasal verbs, as you will learn in this episode.

Getting started

Let’s go back to 1969, when the first verb sent over the Internet was a phrasal verb: log in. To log in is to enter a code, key or password to gain access to the computer’s abilities. We have been logging in ever since then. Sometimes we say we have to sign in to a web page.

Like now, we started a computer by hooking up wire cables and then powering it up or turning it on. Some computers took a long time to boot up, or get ready to run programs.

Now, we do not have to wait as long. To install new applications on the computer, users run a set up program. Then we click on the icon, or image, for a program to run it.

After opening a program, you choose commands from a menu. These menus are stored in a pull down or drop down bar near the top of the screen.

A click of the mouse – the hand-held device that guides the cursor around the computer screen – shows more commands on the bar. That bar is often called the navigation bar or nav bar.

This leads us to our first noun from a phrasal verb, pulldown. When we give instructions to a friend about using a web page, we can say, “Look in the nav bar for the pulldown and choose a command.”

Another verb that describes up-and-down movement on the screen is scroll up or scroll down. A wheel on the mouse allows you to scroll up or scroll down to read a web page. We can click on an arrow to move to the next screen, too.

Storage and other problems

Installing upgrades can sometimes damage files. So, users should always back up their files. That is, copy files and folders to another location, like an external disk drive. A user who stores many large files will soon run out of room on the computer, so keeping files on an extra hard drive is a good idea.

This phrasal verb became a noun, too. Experts tell us, “Put your backups in a safe place.”

My parents used to print out their emails because they wanted to keep a permanent copy, and here is another new noun: a printout.

The phrasal verb print out is a separable phrasal verb, like the ones we talked about in a previous episode. That means you can put a pronoun between the verb and preposition, as in “Let me print it out for you.”

Even when we use passwords, criminals have learned to enter a computer or a network without permission. They are hacking into the network. Hacking can make computer systems go down, or stop working.

A disaster could happen if the hacker wiped out, or erased, all the information on a computer system. That is why you back up your system.

Annoying advertising

Internet advertisements, or ads, pop up on the screen over a web page. This created a new noun from the phrasal verb, popup. People said they needed a tool to block those annoying ads, so the “popup blocker” was born. This feature is part of the browser software.

Speaking of browsers, another phrasal verb that became a noun is plug in. You know that you can plug a wire into the wall. Now, we add small programs to perform specific tasks in the computer, and call them plugins.

Companies often will ask for your email address. They create a large list of users from their email addresses. When we sign up to use a website, we key in our name and email address.

The organization running an online service usually asks us to opt in, or choose to receive email messages. Usually those messages are asking us to buy products. There are so many of these emails now that many people try to filter out all messages from advertisers – otherwise known as spam.

Getting off the grid

If you think that the Internet is full of too many advertisements, and your email is nothing but spam, just click on the menu to shut down and turn off your devices for the day. Get off what we called “the information superhighway” and take a walk outside. Wait! There is one final phrasal verb to describe that: go offline.

For Learning English Everyday Grammar, I’m Jill Robbins.

And I’m John Russell.

Dr. Jill Robbins wrote this story for Learning English.
Words in This Story
  • prepositiongrammar. a word or group of words that is used with a noun, pronoun, or noun phrase to show direction, location, or time, or to introduce an object
  • adverbgrammar. a word that describes a verb, an adjective, another adverb, or a sentence and that is often used to show time, manner, place, or degree
  • informaladj. (of language) relaxed in tone; not suited for serious or official speech and writing
  • cablen. a group of wires, glass fibers, etc., covered in plastic or rubber and used to carry electricity or electrical signal
  • upgraden. an occurrence in which one thing is replaced by something better, newer, more valuable, etc.
  • browsern. a computer program that is used to find and look at information on the Internet
  • specificadj. having a particular function or effect
  • optv. to choose to do or be involved in something
  • filterv. to remove (something unwanted) by using a filter
  • spamn. e-mail that is not wanted or e-mail that is sent to large numbers of people and that consists mostly of advertising
Additional Information
Here is a list of the phrasal verbs in this story:
Phrasal Verbs for Technology and Computers
Phrasal Verb Meanings Example
log in
sign in
v. connect to a computer using a username and password
n. page or act of registering permission to use a program
To begin, log in to your desktop system.
hook up to connect wires from machines to a power source or other machines Would you please help me hook up the Internet cable?
power up
turn on
provide power to a machine Press the red button to power up your tablet.
boot up
start up
begin running a computer system Wait a second, my computer is booting up.
set up v. to install a new computer program or assemble a computer system
n. the process of adding information using a computer program
This application took a long time to set up.
pull down
v. choose from a menu of options in a computer application extending down from the action bar like a window blind
n. a menu of options
Look for the file menu and pull down to “Save As…”
click on move a mouse over an item and press to select Click on the start menu to begin.
scroll up
scroll down
to move slowly to the top or bottom of a text The news story was so long I had to scroll down a lot to read it all.
run out of exhaust a supply of something You will run out of disk space if you save copies of all your emails.
back up
v. make an extra copy of a file
n. an extra copy of a file
Be sure you back up your files before you change systems.
print out
v. send an electronic document to a printer
n. a printed document
I have to print out the directions before I leave home.
hack into enter a computer or network illegally Someone hacked into my bank and stole millions of dollars.
go down stop operating properly I cannot send any emails because the server went down.
wipe out completely erase or delete files Before you donate your computer, be sure you wipe out the hard drive.
pop up
v. to appear suddenly
n. an advertisement that appears suddenly on a computer screen
If you do not want to see the ads, turn on your pop up blocker.
plug in
v. insert a cord into an outlet or port
n. an addition to a software program that performs a certain task
Plug in your laptop over there.
sign up register with a service She signed up for an online dating service.
key in type or enter characters using a keyboard It takes too much time to key in that long password.
opt in / out choose to receive advertising or messages The company asked me to opt in to get special offers by email.
filter out remove unwanted email messages Can we filter out all the spam on this account?
turn off
shut down
power down
end a session on the computer by closing an application or removing power I’m tired, so I’m going to shut down the computer for today.
go online/offline to use the Internet / not use the Internet I will send you that information as soon as I can go online.
Now it’s your turn. Does your language borrow English phrasal verbs for computer terms? Do you know any new expressions to talk about our digital life? Write about them in the Facebook Comments Section below.
Source: Voice of America
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(Beginner - Listening)

An audio lesson to help with your understanding of commonly confused words. The English is spoken at 75% of normal speed. Click here to visit the lesson page with the written script for this audio program.
Commonly Confused Words: Part Two
(Beginner - Listening, reading)

A video lesson to help with your understanding of commonly confused words.
The English is spoken at 75% of normal speed.
Click here to visit the lesson page.
Commonly Confused Words: Part Two
(Beginner - Listening)

An audio lesson to help with your understanding of commonly confused words. The English is spoken at 75% of normal speed. Click here to visit the lesson page with the written script for this audio program.
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