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12 Phrasal Verbs Using "Look"

12 Phrasal Verbs Using "Look"

Mastering phrasal verbs will dramatically increase your English fluency and understanding, so all students should spend time studying them. Adding adverbs and prepositions to simple verbs makes it possible to speak easily about a very large number of topics. 

This time, we’ll focus on the many ways you can use “look,” which we’ve already examined in a previous article. Let's get started!

Phrasal verbs with “look”

Look up

Children looking into the sky using a device in a public area

You may naturally think about looking toward the ceiling when you hear this. But it's important to remember that phrasal verbs generally cannot be understood by looking at their literal meanings. 

However, you may have already been using this phrasal verb when talking about searching for the meaning of a word or phrase in a dictionary or online.

I made a note to look up that unfamiliar word after the meeting.

Look out

If you watch Western action movies, you've probably heard this many times before. 

This is quite an important phrasal verb to learn since it signals danger is near. 

Hey, a car is coming! Look out!

Another phrasal verb, “watch out,” expresses the same idea. 

Both of these are used when a danger is physical and close by, but they can also be used for other kinds of danger.

I’d watch out around Steve. He often steals credit for his colleagues’ work.

Look into

A concerned woman researching an issue on her laptop

“Looking into” something means researching or examining it closely.

I’m not sure, but I’ll look into it and contact you when I know more.

Look for

Here’s another basic one; “looking for” something is simply searching for it. Unlike "look up," it is mostly used for physical items.

Can you help me look for my keys? I can’t find them anywhere.

Look after

Don't try to imagine this meaning literally because it does not make sense! What this phrasal verb means is to watch and protect a person or other living things such as animals and plants.

I’m looking after my neighbor’s dog while she’s on vacation.

Look down on

A snobby, bald man looking down his nose at someone

When a person “looks down on” someone, they feel that they are somehow better than the other person.

The rich kids looked down on their classmates.

This is similar to the expression “look down one’s nose at.”

I hate the way those snobby people look down their noses at everyone else.

Look up to

"Look up to" has the opposite meaning of the previous phrasal verb; it means to admire or have great respect for someone.

Many young people look up to their favorite influencers on social media.

Look through

This phrasal verb means to read or examine something quickly. It can be used for actual items or for things that have no physical form, such as information.

Please look through these files for any useful information.
She spent the afternoon looking through the antiques at the flea market.

Look back

Rather than turning one's head to see what is behind, this means to remember and think about the past.

I get filled with nostalgia when I look back at my time living overseas.

Look forward to

An excited woman jumping into the air

Instead of remembering the past, this means to be excited about something that will happen in the future.

She’s really looking forward to seeing her high school friends; they haven't met each other in years.

Look on

"Looking on" is watching without getting involved in a situation directly.

Everyone just looked on without offering any assistance.

Look around

While this can mean physically turning to look in different directions, it's often used to mean exploring an area.

We spent the weekend looking around the city's unique neighborhoods.

Idioms with “look”

Look alive

Meaning: to be aware or to act with energy and alertness

Look alive; it's almost time for our presentation.

Look the other way

Meaning: to ignore bad behavior

Although the police knew the gangsters were doing illegal activities, they were paid to look the other way. 

Look someone up and down

Meaning: to examine someone very closely

When the new employee entered the office, everyone looked him up and down, trying to imagine the kind of person he was.

Look one’s age

Meaning: to look similar to how a person of a particular age usually appears

William is 60? I thought he was in his 40s. He doesn't look his age at all!

Look someone in the eye

Meaning: to look directly at someone without embarrassment or fear

If he can't look you in the eye, he's probably not telling the truth. 


Because their meanings are not literal, you will need to memorize these phrasal verbs in order to remember them. However, this work is definitely worth the effort!

As you learn them, try to use them in your real conversations as often as you can. Little by little, you will begin to understand and use them comfortably and easily.