Phrasal Verbs with Fall
Learn phrasal verbs with fall visually in this English grammar video lesson!
In this Visual Guide to Phrasal Verbs lesson, learn phrasal verbs with fall (fall down, fall over, fall behind, 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 fall 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 fall.
usually quickly, and in an uncontrolled way.
The most basic usage of fall is when something physically descends quickly:
Rain falls from the sky.
This is a waterfall.
Falling snow looks beautiful in winter.
And dying leaves fall in autumn,
the season we also call “fall.”
In all of these examples from the natural world,
things are falling in an uncontrolled way.
I hope this girl doesn’t fall.
If I tried to do something like this, I’m sure I’d fall and get hurt.
If you like the sensation of falling,
you’d probably enjoy bungee jumping!
You can experience a rush of excitement while your body is in the state of continuous free fall.
Connected with fall is the word drop.
When you drop something, you intentionally or accidentally let it fall.
Something drops at the moment of release,
and once something’s been released, it’s falling.
Non-physical things can also figuratively fall:
Over the course of the day, his energy level fell.
Over the course of the day, his energy level decreased.
I used to love watching baseball.
Now, my interest in the game has fallen significantly.
My interest in the game has decreased significantly.
As the sun set, the temperature began to fall.
The stock price of the company fell as traders hurried to sell.
Fall is also commonly used figuratively when something is captured or defeated:
The castle fell when the attacking army breached its walls.
The castle was captured by the attacking army.
The Dodgers fell to the Padres in the first round of the playoffs.
The Dodgers were defeated by the Padres in the first round of the playoffs.
Many soldiers fell in the battle.
Many soldiers died in the battle.
Now that you have a good understanding of what fall means,
let’s see what happens when we combine fall with other words to form some very useful phrasal verbs.
In what direction is this money falling?
Of course, down is part of falling.
Nothing falls up.
So, fall down just becomes a way to express falling in a more native, conversational way.
The water falls down the side of the mountain.
Here, a man falls down while walking in heavy snow.
Literally, he went from an upright, vertical position to a horizontal one on the ground.
One of the horses fell down as it tried to escape.
This stage fell down during the storm.
This stage collapsed during the storm.
Figuratively, you can fall down on the job,
failing to do what you should be doing.
This worker is actually doing a great job.
He’s been hired to replace someone who’d been falling down on the job recently.
Now, listen for the related uses of fall down in the following short story:
During the hurricane, rain fell down hard on the city.
Many structures fell down under the pressure of high wind and rain.
Now, the community is rebuilding.
Assuming no one is falling down on the job during the reconstruction effort,
the life of the town should return to normal soon.
While fall down is most often used for things that descend straight down,
fall over means to tip to the side and fall from a standing, vertical position to a horizontal one,
like a line of dominoes.
This tree fell over after it had been cut.
When bowling pins are hit hard by a bowling ball, they’re knocked over.
When hit lightly, they fall over.
Often, both fall down and fall over can be used in the same situations,
although their meanings refer to slightly different ways of moving from a higher position to a lower one:
A giant tree fell over in a forest.
The tree has fallen over.
A giant tree fell down in a forest.
The tree has fallen down.
Figuratively, people can fall over themselves when they’re really eager or excited to do something.
In this way, you can think of someone so excited to do something
that they almost trip and fall over as they move to do it:
The managers at the luxury hotel were falling over themselves to please their wealthy guests.
The managers at the hotel were very excited –
and willing to do anything necessary –
to please their wealthy guests.
Now, here are the different uses of fall over used together in a short story:
It’s really hard to not fall over in an ocean with waves crashing against you.
The forces of nature can be intense and make even the oldest, strongest trees fall over.
When severe weather arrives, people will usually fall over themselves to secure shelter.
Our next phrasal verb has the idea of falling not vertically, but horizontally.
If I’m in a race with the red truck in the next lane,
how do you think I’m falling?
I’m falling behind in the race with the truck.
When one thing passes another, and a growing distance between the two is created,
the thing in back is falling behind.
We often use fall behind when speaking about time delays.
Similar to the literal meaning of fall behind,
a delay can cause you to fall behind as time continues to move forward while you’re stuck in the same place.
Run behind can also be used in these situations.
We’ve fallen behind schedule on the construction project because of bad weather.
It’s important for a student not to fall behind in their school work.
Just like time, the teacher and the class content will continue to move forward throughout the year.
If a student falls behind, they will have to work more –
and harder –
to reach the level of the class again.
This man has fallen behind at work, so he’s spending time at home working on his phone.
A business can also fall behind its competition if it fails to innovate.
The phrasal verb for the opposite of fall behind is catch up:
When this football player missed the start of the season because of an injury,
he had to work hard to catch up to the level of the other players.
Now, listen for the various uses of fall behind in this short story:
My dad’s been sick for months, so I’ve really fallen behind at school trying to take care of him.
Things aren’t much better when he’s well, unfortunately.
He loves to enter bike races, but he’s always falling behind in those, too.
My dad’s also been falling behind at work because of his hospital visits.
And because he often can’t work to earn money,
he’s been falling behind on his rent payments.
Next, in this scene, snow is falling on the woman’s coat.
When something falls on something else, it physically lands on that thing.
You might have heard the phrase “to fall on one’s face” in conversations.
This happens when someone literally falls and hits the ground, injuring their face in some way,
or when they do something embarrassing, like forgetting to wear pants to an important meeting.
Fall on can also be used to describe events occurring on a certain day:
Christmas falls on a Saturday in 2015.
My birthday falls on a Friday this year.
Again, the idea of a lack of control is important here
because you don’t get to decide what day of the week your birthday falls on.
When something happens on a certain date that’s the same every year,
we just say that that event happens on that date:
Halloween is on October 31st every year.
But it falls on a Saturday this year.
Fall on is also figuratively used to describe misfortune,
again, with the idea of being out of control.
If something bad happens to you, a group of people or a company,
you’ve fallen on “hard,” or difficult, times:
The family fell on hard times when both parents lost their jobs.
As the economy worsened, many companies in the city fell on hard times.
Now, listen for the different uses of fall on in this short story:
When the needle falls on the record, it’s time to dance!
When I began breakdancing many years ago, I fell on my face a lot.
I’m really excited about the competition that falls on a day when I’m not working this year.
If I ever lose my job because my accounting firm falls on hard times,
I might just be able to become a professional dancer!
Next, we can say that the leaves are detaching from this tree,
but it would be more conversational to say that they’re falling off:
The snow is falling off the branches of trees in the forest.
The rider fought hard, but, in the end, he fell off the bull.
Fall off can also be used to describe a decline in quality, performance, condition or popularity.
Think of something literally falling off a place of high esteem or respect,
or even falling off the edge of the world and disappearing, when it figuratively falls off:
That band really fell off when the lead guitarist left the group.
The stock market fell off after the public lost confidence in big banks.
The food at the restaurant has really fallen off lately.
Maybe they hired a new chef.
The performance of workers really fell off when they discovered they could play games on their smartphones.
My grandfather fell off the wagon again.
My grandfather stopped being sober when he started drinking again.
Now, listen for the different uses of fall off in this short story:
The number of young people in my little town has really fallen off recently.
I guess people are looking for more excitement in bigger cities.
It makes me sad at times,
like everyone else has fallen off a cliff and I’m the only one left.
This has made my performance at the local factory fall off a bit,
but I’m confident I can make friends with some of the older people in town.
Next, what do you think would happen to this roof if it became covered with too much snow?
It would fall in!
Literally, fall in describes a collapse:
Part of the roof of this abandoned house had fallen in.
Similarly, soldiers can also organize themselves in lines by rank when ordered to fall in.
Figuratively, when you fall in love with someone, you experience strong –
and uncontrolled –
romantic feelings for them:
The man and woman had fallen in love on Monday, and were married by Sunday!
You can also be influenced to join groups which might not be good for you when you fall in with the wrong crowd:
In areas with high levels of crime, many young men fall in with gangs and begin causing trouble.
Now, listen for the different uses of fall in in this short story:
I’m afraid that my son’s fallen in with some bad men in the neighborhood.
He’s been a bit depressed lately because the girl he fell in love with moved to a different country.
The ceiling of his bedroom has also fallen in because of water damage.
I sure wish he was falling in at some military academy right now.
Next, if you develop a strong connection with someone when you fall in love,
what happens when you lose this connection?
You fall out of the relationship with that person.
Fall out has the literal meaning of something exiting a place by falling,
like when your keys fall out of your pocket.
But, fall out is more commonly used figuratively to describe relationships ending.
Just like the feelings of falling in love,
you feel a similar lack of control when you “have a falling out” with someone:
The two friends fell out after the guy on the left discovered the guy on the right had kissed his girlfriend.
I’ve fallen out with most of the people I went to elementary school with.
The man had a falling out with his business partner.
Now, listen for the different uses of fall out in this short story:
I was in trouble at the restaurant when I couldn’t pay.
I guess my wallet must have fallen out of my pocket.
The real problem was that I’d fallen out with the owner of the restaurant.
So he made me mop up all of the floors in the restaurant to pay for what I’d eaten instead of just letting me pay later.
Continuing with relationships, you can also describe a relationship that’s becoming worse as one that’s falling apart.
This is the conversational way of describing disintegration,
the natural process of separation into smaller pieces that happens to everything physical –
from machines and objects to people – over time:
I feel like my body is falling apart as I get older.
Things don’t work as well as they used to.
The great stone structures of this temple fell apart over time.
This house began falling apart once the owners left.
In addition to relationships, fall apart is also used to describe the disintegration of other non-physical things:
My wife still falls apart whenever she thinks about our dog that died recently.
My wife still becomes emotionally uncontrollable and sad
whenever she thinks about our dog that died recently.
I lost my job and my marriage.
It feels like my life is falling apart.
Now, listen for the different uses of fall apart in this short story:
I decided to go shopping because all of my clothes are falling apart.
My house is falling apart as well,
now that I think about it.
It looks alright, but needs quite a few repairs.
Luckily, my relationship with my wife couldn’t be better.
If that ever fell apart, I don’t know what I’d do.
Next, when something falls through something else, it physically passes through a space or hole in another object quickly by falling,
like ice falling through the air:
The seed that fell through a crack in this rock many years ago has become a beautiful tree.
Don’t skate beyond the red cones!
The ice is thinner there, and you might fall through.
This thatched roof is not well supported,
so you’ll fall through if you try to walk on it.
Figuratively, fall through is used to describe something unsuccessful, or that doesn’t happen as intended:
His plan to meet his friend for dinner fell through,
so he enjoyed a nice evening at the restaurant by himself.
The company’s plans for expansion into China fell through when they couldn’t get permission from the government.
The deal fell through when the two companies couldn’t agree on the terms of sale.
Now, listen for the different uses of fall through in this short story:
What’s nice about being an astronaut is that you can’t get hurt when falling through an opening in your ship.
You float everywhere in space!
Just make sure your plan to meet the guy delivering your air doesn’t fall through.
The final phrasal verb in this lesson is fall for.
When you fall for something, it’s as if you’re controlled by it,
or you “fall victim” to it:
I can’t believe the audience fell for that trick!
Even a child could see it wasn’t real magic!
Did you fall for the background in this scene?
The horse and cowboy are real,
but the background is just a picture of mountains.
This fish fell for the bait.
Luckily, the fisherman released it back into the river.
The man fell hard for the woman.
It’s like he’s under her spell.
Now they’re planning to get married.
Here’s one last short story featuring the different uses of fall for:
They fell for it!
We caught these little guys outside with a clever trap that looked like a girl squirrel.
I didn’t think they’d fall for the fake squirrel, but they did!
I hope they didn’t fall for the fake squirrel too hard, though,
‘cause we’re releasing them tomorrow.
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 the quality of a person’s work has decreased?
You could say they’re falling down on the job,
or that the level of their work is falling off.
What’s happening if you’ve fallen on hard times?
You’re in a bad or difficult situation, probably having to do with a lack of money.
What’s a way to express that I’m no longer friends with my childhood neighbor?
We’ve fallen out.
Why is it important to avoid delays when you’re working on a tight schedule?
You don’t want to fall behind.
If I’m walking on thin ice and it breaks, what will happen?
I’ll fall through the ice.
How would a native speaker say that she’s developed strong feelings for someone?
She could say that she’s fallen in love, or that she’s fallen for someone.
What could I say if I’m angry because I allowed myself to be fooled or tricked?
I can’t believe I fell for that!
How can I express that my grandmother’s home had deteriorated over time, in a conversational way?
It had fallen apart.
What happened to the tree that was cut by the man with the saw?
It fell over.
You can also say that it fell down, though.
How can I say that the quality of the food at the restaurant became worse after its chef moved to France,
but in a conversational way?
The quality of the food fell off.
After the chef left, the food at the restaurant fell off.
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!