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How are you getting on?
Their relationship had been nearing a breakdown for some while, but the moment when he ~ quite accidentally ~ broke the handle off her teapot, was the moment that she broke off their engagement.

How are you getting on?

English abounds in phrasal-verb expressions such as 'getting on' and 'playing up'. Let's see how fluent you are at spotting and using these idioms!

Only in ONE of these sentences does the verb 'go' suggest a thing physically moving from one place to another. Which is it?
I'm afraid you'll have to have your tea 'black' this morning; the milk's gone off.
The siren went off and everybody ran to the shelter.
The other three went off to discuss privately what they could do about it.
She's rather gone off the idea of a church wedding.
'Going off' (apart from 'moving away, as in the correct Answer 3) can also mean 'changing into a state of decay' (as in Answer 1), 'beginning to make a noise (or even explode)' (Answer 3), and 'change one's mind' (Answer 4) in the sense of losing enthusiasm for something.
The phrase 'make up' has many meanings. Which of these four sentences is the only one that keeps any original sense of 'making', meaning something is put-together or created?
I daresay she'll have made up some story to explain her absence yesterday.
He was very rude to me last week, but yesterday he came in quietly and made up to me.
We lost a fair bit of money on the project, so our members are going to have to make that up somehow.
We're going to have a party to make up for the miserable news we've all had recently.
In Answer 1, somebody is putting together (we might even say 'concocting') a story. All the other uses are vaguer and more metaphorical.
Another verb that is often used phrasally is 'carry'. Which ONE of these sentences still suggests, reasonably strongly, the idea of something being physically transported to another place?
'Carry on the good work, unless or until you hear otherwise from me.'
A fire drill should be carried out regularly in all working premises.
Back in those days he was carrying on with a colleague in the accounts department.
Any unclaimed pay for this month will be carried over to the next.
Answer 4 quite strongly suggests someone physically moving money from one pile to another ~ you can almost sense their arm swinging over. The other uses are once again much more metaphorical. 'Carrying out' (Answer 2) no longer means 'removing something physically', although 'carry-out' is the Scots equivalent of 'take-away' (as in buying hot food over the counter and bringing it home to eat); the only 'carrying out' from a fire drill might perhaps be when someone is injured and literally carried from the premises on a stretcher.
'Carry on' (Answers 1 & 3) simply means 'continue; keep going' (as in the newly fashionable slogan: 'Keep calm and carry on'); also, informally, it suggests 'to keep on with an affair' (i.e. a love affair; and hence the whole string of 'Carry On ...' films from many years ago; probably no longer a shining example, nowadays, for learners of British language or culture!).
'She .... .... the address on a scrap of paper, so as to have it to hand later and ... ... to the company for further details.'
... wrote off ... / ... write down ...
... wrote down ... / ... write off ...
... wrote up ... / ... write back ...
... wrote in ... / ... write away ...
There are some possible elements in the other Answers, but No.2 is the only one where both parts work acceptably.
Which of these sentences does NOT make plausible sense?
A grown-up is an adult who has reached their full height, and grown out of childhood clothes (both physically, and in terms of having matured in their tastes ~ e.g. no more 'schoolgirly pink').
'To begin with I didn't enjoy that kind of music at all, but it's been growing on me.'
'It always feels odd to talk about a sound "growing fainter and fainter", but I suppose that still makes sense!'
'The storm appears to have grown over during the night.'
'Grow over' may work in other contexts, but not with weather; plants may 'grow over' a patch of waste ground, for example.
'Get' is probably the most versatile, all-purpose English verb of all (even though many traditional English teachers prefer never to see it in written work, where there's nearly always a clearer alternative).
Only ONE of these sentences is NOT a reasonable example of 'get' in action; which one?
It's obviously not very likely that you would get on with someone after a party, if you never got off with them in the first place.
Three minutes after getting offstage, he had got his costume off and was signing programmes for members of the audience.
By the time I had got off the phone and got back on with my work again, the children had got off the grass where they had been playing.
He would have got away early on Friday; but with so much work on, he didn't think he'd ever get away with it.
Answer 1 was the mistaken one; if you reverse 'on' & 'off', it then makes good idiomatic sense. 'Getting off with' someone (perhaps now a somewhat old-fashioned term) means 'striking up a [potentially sexual] relationship'; 'getting on' simply means being on friendly terms (also, 'getting along'; with ~ perhaps ~ a sense of walking alongside them).
Another versatile monosyllabic verb is 'cut': which ONE of these sentences contains a non-idiomatic misuse of this word?
She's seemed very cut-up since he took that job so far away, and they've had to cut back on their dating.
'She was just about to explain which bit of the fabric to cut off, when there was a power cut, which meant that our online conversation was cut off.'
We used to be able to cut down this alleyway ~ but we can't do that now, unless they cut through these trees.
I'm really no artist; I'm not cut out for drawing fancy cutaway diagrams of complex mechanical systems.
If you reversed 'down' and 'through', Answer 3 would then make sense ('cutting through an alley' meaning to take a shorter diversion between two places; and 'cutting down' the trees, though in a sense this would presumably entail chopping 'through' the trunks of them in a physical way).
In Answer 1, people can be (metaphorically) 'cut-up', i.e. psychologically raw and distraught, and they can cut down (or 'back') on something they would otherwise prefer to continue doing as much of as before.
In Answer 4, the idea of a person being 'cut out' for something suggests that they are metaphorically shaped for it, almost as in some kind of children's matching game; a 'cutaway diagram' schematically reveals the intricate inner workings of a system such as a power station, the internal combustion engine or indeed the human digestive tract.
From 'cutting' to 'breaking' (two everyday operations in which people rearrange their world!) ...
Which ONE of these sentences contains at least one false/nonsensical usage of the verb 'break'?
Their relationship had been nearing a breakdown for some while, but the moment when he ~ quite accidentally ~ broke the handle off her teapot, was the moment that she broke off their engagement.
A loud and resonant cheer broke out on both sides as the workmen broke through the tunnel from each end.
The value of these investments has broken back sharply, and looks likely to break under completely within a matter of weeks.
As soon as the school breaks up, the old laboratory equipment will all be dismantled and broken up ~ except, of course, the items that were already stolen in the recent break-in.
Both usages in Answer 3 sound remarkably plausible but are in fact entirely made-up.
Which of these sentences contains at least one NON-idiomatic use of the verb 'pull'?
I'd only just pulled out of the hotel car park when a police car pulled me over, so I pulled up against the verge and the officer asked me what I'd been drinking.
'You're pulling my leg,' I said; 'I never drink and drive!'
I shall go to the meeting and really try to pull for him.
We are all going to have to pull together if this group is going to pull through these difficult times; we can't have any more people pulling out, so let's all pull our socks up, shall we?
... So I said to him as he was pulling off his sweatband, 'You never believed we were going to pull this off between us, did you?'.
Another faintly plausible-sounding expression, yet it does not make any specific recognised sense. All the other expressions are fine: you may wish to check them in your dictionary, or one of OUP's 'English Idioms' books ~ try searching online for a copy, referring to Seidl and/or McMordie as authors).
... And we'll finish with 'falling'. Once more, which of these sentences contains at least one false usage of this verb?
'Of course, any living breathing male would have fallen for her; men were almost falling over each other for a dance with her.'
It was very good of you to fall by unexpectedly; I'm only sorry you fell under at a time when we couldn't easily entertain you.
... So his business fell through, as I knew it would; how so many people fell for his advertisements, I can't imagine, but in the end he fell out with his partner, their customer base fell away and they had to wind up the company.
If we fall behind with production, we can always fall back on casual labour; but we can't afford to have sales falling off at this time of year.
Once again, all the other usages are standard; but in Answer 2, while there is some hint of an overall sense to it, these are not ordinarily recognised idioms.
Author:  Ian Miles

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