Phrasal Verbs with Run
Learn phrasal verbs with run visually in this English grammar video lesson!
In this Visual Guide to Phrasal Verbs lesson, learn phrasal verbs with run (run off, run up, run over, etc.) the native way so you can start using them in conversations automatically.
Phrasal verbs are the simple ways of expressing more complex verbs, and using them will help you speak in a more natural and conversational way, just like native English speakers.
(Practice speaking along with this lesson as you learn phrasal verbs with run with our customizable fluency-training video player! Select the speed of the video, the amount of spacing between speech sections, and the the number of times each speech section repeats. You can also click on a speech section in the transcript to jump to that part of the video.)
Let’s begin with run!
You already know about the kind of running you do with your legs.
People and many animals with legs can run.
But, what else runs?
An engine may not have legs,
but its parts still move in quick, repetitive cycles,
just like your arms and legs do when you run.
The engine in this taxi is running, even though the taxi isn’t moving.
The motor inside a vacuum cleaner also runs.
This woman is running a vacuum.
Running motors turn the hands of a clock,
and a movie that’s three hours long has a three hour running time.
The batteries that power this toy helicopter also run.
Batteries may not have moving parts, but they power a cycle of energy.
When batteries are powering something, they’re running.
Think of the water cycling around our planet in a similar way.
Moving water runs.
This faucet is dripping.
This faucet is running.
Now that you have a good understanding of what run means,
let’s see what happens when we combine run with other words to form some very useful phrasal verbs.
First, these flashlights have batteries that run.
And as the batteries run, their ability to power the flashlights decreases.
Instead of saying “decrease,” though, we can combine run with another word to express the same idea in a more conversational way.
Which combination sounds best,
Over time, the power of a battery runs down until it’s completely gone.
So, to run something down means to decrease, reduce or bring it lower.
From this general idea, we get the literal use of run down:
The lions began to eat the zebra they had run down.
The lions chased the zebra until they captured it,
and then began to eat it.
The idea of running down also gives us these related, but more figurative uses:
Running down this list of cities, I think we can find a good location for our trip.
Reading quickly down this list of cities, I think we can find a good location for our trip.
My health has run down a bit lately, so I’m getting my body checked.
My health has been getting worse lately, so I’m getting my body checked.
I spent two hours running down reports at the office.
I spent two hours looking for, and finally finding, reports at the office.
Now, listen to some of the uses of run down in the following story:
The organizers of the rodeo finally ran down Felix and Jose after searching for them for an hour.
They had run down their batteries quite a bit after a long morning at the rodeo,
so they’d been taking a nap.
Running down the list of participants,
Felix and Jose are two of the best.
Unfortunately, though the cowboys tried hard to run down their last calf,
in the end, it was just too strong for them.
Next, if run down means to decrease something, what do you think run up might mean?
If you guessed that it means to increase, or go higher, quickly, you’re right!
When you run up a flag, you raise it from the bottom of a flagpole to the top.
However, we don’t say that a battery is running up when one’s charging.
Run up can also mean to approach someone or something quickly:
The boy ran up to the ball and kicked it.
We also use run up in a more figurative way to talk about quickly accumulating things like money:
The country is running up a massive amount of debt.
I ran up a really large bill on my credit card buying drinks for everyone at the bar.
Now, let’s see these uses of run up in action in the following short story:
A girl ran up to her twin sister and revealed the secret.
Their father had just finished building them a tree house for their birthday,
but they weren’t supposed to know about it until the following day.
The girls are definitely excited,
but their mother probably won’t be when she discovers that her husband ran up $10,000 worth of charges on their credit card
to pay for the new tree house.
Next, what’s happening here?
Cars are running into each other!
The basic, literal idea of run into is to enter something, or the space that something else occupies, quickly:
I ran into my house when it started to rain.
I entered my house quickly by running when it started to rain.
Colors run into one another when mixed.
Just as two things can physically enter each other’s space,
something can also enter the space of something non-physical:
The story they’re telling about the huge fish they caught is running into the realm of the unbelievable!
The story they’re telling about the huge fish they caught is starting to sound more unbelievable!
The cost to build a new stadium could run into the millions.
The cost to build a new stadium could reach and enter a range of numbers in the millions of dollars.
Note that the ideas of running up a bill and a bill running into a large amount of money are related but slightly different.
We talk about running a bill up when we want to focus on the speed at which the amount is increasing.
A bill running into a high range of amounts, however, is concerned with the total amount – the actual range of high numbers.
So, you can actually run up a bill that also runs into a very high dollar range.
From the literal idea of entering a space or range quickly,
we get the more figurative meaning of meeting something – usually negative – or someone unexpectedly:
We ran into a traffic jam caused by an accident.
We encountered an unexpected blockage of cars caused by an accident.
We ran into a problem when we discovered a hole in the roof.
We met an unexpected problem when we discovered a hole in the roof.
I ran into a friend of mine while at the mall.
I unexpectedly met a friend of mine while at the mall.
You can also use the phrasal verb bump into when meeting people unexpectedly,
as you’re probably not actually running when these meetings happen.
Now, see if you can get the idea of run into with the examples in the following short story:
When I was out on a country road, I ran into three friends of mine on their bikes.
They explained that a truck almost ran into them on the road.
It’s a good thing the bikes were safe, though,
because the cost to fix them could run into the thousands of dollars!
After hearing their story, we decided to run into the city and get lunch.
Next, would you say that time, represented by the sand, looks like it’s running in,
or running out of this hourglass?
Yep, it’s running out.
It’s running out of the upper section of the glass.
To run out means to exit quickly, expire or be exhausted.
Notice the related meanings of run out in these examples:
I had to run out to the store to buy a few things.
I had to leave my home quickly and go to the store to buy a few things.
What will we do if we run out of oil?
What will we do if we exhaust our supply of oil?
I need to renew my driver’s license before it runs out next month.
I need to renew my driver’s license before it expires next month.
Now, watch as these uses of run out appear together in the following short story:
I’ve run out of some things I need to make dinner!
Can I borrow the keys to your car so I can run out quickly and get the ingredients I need?
The food’s already cooking and time’s running out before the store closes!
Next, let’s say you’re driving and your car leaves the road.
Would your car be running over,
or running out of the road?
Your car would be running off the road!
And when driving off the road, you’re off-roading!
Notice that when you run out,
you leave an enclosed area like a box or building.
When you run off, by contrast,
you leave an uncovered area like a road or park.
Generally, the idea of run off is to leave an area, or make something else leave, quickly.
Here are a few literal uses of run off:
The bear ran off.
The water runs off the rocks.
I ran off some covers of the book.
I quickly printed some covers of the book.
Now, listen for the different meanings of run off in the following short story:
The criminals had already run off before the police arrived.
They had been running off thousands of counterfeit dollars with a stolen printing press.
The ink they were using was still running off the printing press and into a bucket on the floor when the police arrived.
Next, if run off means to leave quickly, 0:11:100 0:11:103 what do you think run on means?
If you guessed that it means to stay or continue, you’re right!
Here are two literal uses of run on:
I hope this performance doesn’t run on for much longer ‘cause I need to go to the bathroom.
I hope this performance doesn’t continue for much longer ‘cause I need to go to the bathroom.
I just asked the guy what time it was, but he ran on and on about his colorful shirt.
I just asked the guy what time it was, but he continued to speak about his colorful shirt.
Here’s another related, literal use of run on:
This portable drill runs on batteries.
This portable drill continues to operate with battery power.
This enormous truck actually runs on water, not oil!
This enormous truck is actually powered by water, not oil!
Now, watch as these uses of run on appear together in the following short story:
I’d love to let you run on all afternoon,
telling me about each of your favorite foods,
but I’m running late.
So, unfortunately, we can’t let our meal run on for much longer.
But, when we leave, I can give you a ride home in my car that runs on biofuel!
You now know what run off and run on mean,
so what do you think it means to run away?
The literal meaning of run away is to leave quickly by running,
often with the additional meaning of escaping from something.
Here are two literal examples of run away:
The two coatis ran away before we could catch them.
The bear ran away with a piece of meat.
Run away can have the same basic meaning as run off,
but run away is used more when leaving for extended periods of time.
An animal that runs off will probably return again shortly.
The more figurative meaning of run away is to leave permanently,
escaping a situation like a teenager running away from home:
Riding the freight train, the boy ran away from home when his parents said he couldn’t get married.
Riding the freight train, the boy escaped his home,
not intending to return,
when his parents said he couldn’t get married.
Now, watch as these uses of run away appear together in the following short story:
Sally wasn’t the same after her dog ran away.
She had forgotten to close the gate that kept it in the yard.
Sally’s even thought about running away because she’s been so sad.
Hopefully her dog will return soon.
Next, have a look at the water running into this glass.
What happens when the water exceeds the space inside the glass?
The water runs over the top of the glass!
Of course, the water that runs over the top of the glass also runs down the side of the glass,
but we want to focus just on the idea of running over right now.
The basic, literal meaning of run over is to cross a point,
or move over the top of something, quickly:
The water is running over the top of the rock.
The water is flowing quickly over the top of the rock.
The rabbit got run over.
A vehicle hit and drove on top of the rabbit.
From this basic idea, we move to figuratively exceeding something non-physical:
The meeting at the warehouse ran over, so we finished late.
The meeting at the warehouse exceeded the time planned for it,
so we finished late.
The construction is running over budget, so we’ll need to ask for more money.
The construction is exceeding the budget, so we’ll need to ask for more money.
Now, watch as these uses of run over appear together in the following short story:
My day has been going from bad to worse.
I wasn’t ready at work, so my presentation ran over.
Then, I had to run over to the parking lot at the end of the day because it was raining.
On my drive home, I ran over a cat.
And at home, while I was distracted by a fire burning my computer,
the water in the bathtub ran over!
Next, can you guess what word goes with run in this scene?
Two guys are running through a canyon!
To run through something means to move quickly through it,
from one side to the other, or from start to finish.
Here are a few literal uses of run through:
In spring, a river runs through this desert.
In spring, a river flows from one side of this desert to the other.
The bike chain runs through the derailleur.
The bike chain passes quickly through the derailleur.
Move or he’ll run you through with his sword!
Move or he’ll stab you with his sword!
We can also apply this idea of moving quickly through a physical space
to moving quickly through an activity, or exhausting a resource:
If you run through the book, you may miss something important.
If you read the book hastily, you may miss something important.
The teacher runs through the example again to ensure everyone understands.
The teacher briefly summarizes and explains the example again to ensure everyone understands.
We’ll keep running through this scene until it’s prefect.
We’ll continue to rehearse this scene until it’s prefect.
She ran through all of the money she’d saved for her two-week vacation on the third day!
She quickly spent all of the money she’d saved for her two-week vacation on the third day!
Now, watch as these uses of run through appear together in the following short story:
I’ve already told the story of how I became able to run through the tunnel really fast,
but I’ll run through the story again for you.
I began by running through many books on speed racing to learn how to get faster.
I also created a training program in a forest that I ran through every day to strengthen my legs.
Finally, I spent many days running through the city to become the fastest runner in the world.
Finally, what’s happening here?
The literal meaning of run across means to reach and/or cross, or cover, an area quickly:
This dog is running across a frozen lake.
It’s not safe to run across the street here because of the streetcars.
The related, figurative meaning of run across is to find or discover something unexpectedly.
Think of moving quickly while doing something and crossing the area where some object is as you watch these next examples:
They ran across a bunch of rare books when cleaning the abandoned house.
We ran across a great street market while on our bus tour of the city.
The students ran across some useful websites when working on their project.
Run across is similar to run into, but while run into is used more for meeting people and potentially negative situations,
run across is used more for positive encounters and finding objects.
You would run into a friend,
but you would run across the lost keys you’ve been looking for.
Just think of physically running across some keys on your floor,
and running into the space your friend occupies.
Ultimately, the speed of your motion is important when deciding which phrasal verb to use.
If you’re walking, you might come across, or unexpectedly encounter, a lake.
If you’re moving quickly, though, you’d run across the lake.
Now, watch as these uses of run across appear together in the following short story:
I was running across a field of dried grass in Africa when I ran across leopard!
I had already run across some other animals earlier,
but the leopard was the coolest.
I just hope the leopard doesn’t run across me later when it’s looking for something to eat.
Now, for a last review, answer the following questions using what you’ve learned in this video.
What’s a native way of saying that there’s no food left in your kitchen because you ate it all?
You’ve run out of food!
What are you doing when you’re running up a bill on your credit card?
You’re spending a lot of money!
I could say that I accidentally met an old friend of mine from school on a vacation,
or that I had what?
I’d run into an old friend of mine from school on a vacation.
What are you doing when you explain a plan again, summarizing it quickly?
You’re running through the plan.
How might I accidentally find some lost pictures in my home?
I might run across them while cleaning.
Wolves would try to do what when chasing a deer?
Run it down.
The wolves would try to run the deer down.
What’s a more conversational way of saying that you’ll quickly print many copies of a menu?
You’ll run off many copies of a menu.
What probably happened to the dead dog in the middle of the busy street?
It probably got run over.
Someone probably ran over the dog.
How else could you say that a vehicle is powered by orange juice?
You could say that it runs on orange juice.
The vehicle runs on orange juice.
A dog that doesn’t like its owner might try to do what?
The dog might try to run away.
Keep reviewing and using what you’ve learned in your writing and conversations,
and you’ll master these phrasal verbs in no time!
See you in the next video!