Talking about problems in English is a way to share things that might be bothering us or things we need help with. Just like we talk about fun stuff with our friends, we can also talk about things that are making us feel sad, worried, or confused. It’s important to remember that it’s okay to ask grown-ups for help when we have a problem we can’t solve on our own. Talking about problems can make us feel better and help us find solutions together!
Imagine you break up with your girlfriend or you start a new business and you fail or you want to learn a new language but you can’t. What do you do when you have a problem?
We deal with problems every day, and it goes without saying that solutions are the way to deal with problems. Therefore, learning problem solving phrases can be very useful for your English speaking skill, too.
Phrasal verbs are an inseparable and challenging part of English vocabulary. The best way of learning English phrasal verbs is to learn them in a topic-based approach. In this article, we are going to talk about problem solving phrases, and learn some problem solution phrasal verbs that you can use to talk about this topic.
What is a phrasal verb?
Well, a phrasal verb is a verb plus a preposition.
Let’s look at an example:
- The price of gas went up.
In this example, “go up” is the phrasal verb because it has a part which is the main verb (go) and a part which is a preposition (up).
Now, in this lesson, we are going to learn the most common problem solving phrasal verbs and phrases that you can use to talk about problems and solutions.
To talk something over: Of problem solving phrasal verbs
“to talk something over” means to talk about a problem with another person in order to know their opinion or ask for advice about that problem. For example:
- “ If I have a problem at work, I would tell my boss that I’d like to talk it over with my wife first. ”
This means first I want to discuss this problem with my wife to know her opinion and ask for her advice, and then I will let you know. Look at this other example.
- “Employees had two weeks to talk the proposal over with their families before making a decision.”
This means before making their final decision, they had two weeks to go home, talk to their families about the proposal they were offered at work and then, make their final decision.
To sort something out
This item is also of problem solving phrasal verbs. When you say “sort something out” you mean to successfully solve a problem. For example:
- “my laptop has a problem and I have to sort it out.”
It means, I have to try to solve my laptop’s problem. Or look at this example:
- “We had a productive meeting, I felt we sorted out a lot of problems.”
It means, the meeting was so good that during the meeting we sorted out (we solved) the problems and we found good solutions.
To deal with something or somebody
We use “to deal with something or to deal with somebody “ when we have a problem with somebody or something and we want to solve a problem.
Imagine you are in a very difficult situation, but you have to deal with it. It means, the situation is really difficult, but you have to try hard and solve the problem. You can also use it to talk about people with whom you have an issue. For Example:
- “Don’t worry about Jake. I will deal with him myself.”
It means, maybe Jake is going to get angry over what you are going to tell him. But don’t worry, I will deal with him.
To face up to something
“To face up to something” is a very common and useful phrasal verb. Attention, this phrasal verb has two prepositions:
When you say “to face up to a problem” or a problematic situation, you mean to accept that there is a problem. You know, most of the time when there is a problem with us or in our lives, we tend to ignore it to say that there is not a big problem.
We try to ignore and avoid problems. But sometimes at some point, we have to face up to the problem, which means we have to accept that there is something wrong. For example:
- “She has to face up to the fact that her husband is guilty.”
Now, imagine a wife whose husband is guilty, and she doesn’t want to accept the fact that he’s guilty.
At some point, the police might say “listen ma’am, you have to face up to the fact that your husband is guilty”. It means, you have to accept it. Or let’s take a look at another example:
- “They will never offer you another job. You might as well face up to it.”
It means, you have to accept the fact that they are not going to offer you a new job.
To come up with something: Of problem solving phrasal verbs
“To come up with something “ is another handy phrasal verb to talk about problems and solutions. Now listen up, this phrasal verb has two prepositions:
To come up with an idea or to come up with a solution means to think of an idea or to think of a solution. For example:
- “We have been asked to come up with some new ideas.”
It means they have asked us to think of something new and to propose the new ideas to them. Or let’s take a look at another example:
- “Is that the best you can do? You have to come up with a better solution.”
It means, I’m sure you can do something better. Now, your solution is terrible! You have to come up with a new solution.
To narrow something down
Sometimes, when you are trying to deal with a problem, you might take a piece of paper, grab a pen and start writing down the solutions that come to mind.
There may be hundreds of solutions on your list and you don’t know which one is better than the other one. Confusing. Right?
You cannot solve the problem unless you start narrowing down the solutions.
But what does it mean when you say “to narrow something down”?
It means to try to make the list of things smaller and smaller by crossing out the unnecessary or the worst options on the list. You start narrowing the list down to a few very good solutions.
- Imagine your boss has asked you to come up with a couple of possible solutions to a problem. You make a list of 20 solutions, you go to your boss’s office and say: “I have a list of 20 possible solutions.” Your boss says: “20? That’s a lot. You have to narrow the list down to less than five.”
It means you have to cross out 15 possible solutions and give me five very good ones. Or let’s take a look at another example:
- “That is quite a long list, you have to narrow it down.”
So far, we’ve learned six English phrasal verbs that you can use to talk about problems or solutions.
How to use problem solving phrases and phrasal verbs?
“Yesterday my boss asked me to move to a new department which was in another city. Well, as a married man, I had to talk it over with my wife to see if we could sort it out
somehow. When I told my wife about it, she said that “You have to deal with it yourself! I don’t want to move to a new city. I have a job here. I have friends and I have a family. I can’t leave them all behind.“
So, I came up with a long list of possible things we could do, and started crossing out the bad ones. In the end, I narrowed it down to two options; either to quit my job or leave without my wife! I had two terrible options.
Fortunately, my wife realized that I was also her family, and she faced up to this issue and agreed to come with me!”
In this story, I have used all six problem and solution phrasal verbs.
Let’s learn about more problem solving phrases.
To move on: Of problem solving phrases
Let’s imagine that you’re friend is going through a breakup with his girlfriend. What would you suggest him to do? You can advise him to move on! “To move on” means to go ahead and leave the past behind you and focus on the future. For example:
- Hey, what’s the matter?
- I saw Jessica with another guy!
- Well, you broke up with her, didn’t you?
- Yeah, I did, but…..
- There’s no but! You need to move on!
To get over something: Of problem solving phrases
Another thing you can ask him to do is to get over it! “To get over something” means to forget about something, to accept it and leave it in the past. For instance:
- I can’t believe I saw Jessica with another guy!
- Come on! Get over it, she’s not your girlfriend anymore!
Talking about problems in English: To let it go
Another thing you can ask your friend to do is to let it go! “To let go of something” means to leave something go, to forget about it and make a new start.
- You know what? It was Jessica’s fault that we broke up!
- Oh, for crying out loud, would you let it go?!
To leave it all behind: Of problem solving phrases
Another thing you can ask your friend who is dealing with a problem to do is to leave it all behind. It means to start from scratch, to go back to square one, and to create a whole fresh start.
I still can’t believe it! I mean what does Jessica see in that guy anyway?
- Oh, God! You have to leave it all behind and focus on your future!
Talking about problems in English: To make a new start
The last thing you can ask your friend to do is to make a new start. “To make a new” start means to start from scratch, to go back to square one, and to create a whole fresh start.
- I don’t know what to do after Jessica!
- You need to forget about her and make a new start!
Watch this video about problem solving phrases in English
✅ talk it over → to talk about a problem with another person to know their opinions
✅sort it out → to successfully solve a problem
✅ deal with it → to try to solve a problem
✅ come up with → to accept that there is a problem
✅narrow the list down → to think of an idea / a solution
✅ face up to → to make the list of things smaller and smaller by crossing out the unnecessary options
✅ To move on → To go ahead and leave the past behind you and focus on the future
✅ To get over something → To forget about something, to accept it and leave it in the past.
✅ To let it go → To leave something go, to forget about it and make a new start.
✅ To leave it all behind → To start from scratch, to go back to square one, and to create a whole fresh start.
✅ To make a new start → To start from scratch, to go back to square one, and to create a whole fresh start.
Don’t forget to practice all the six problem and solution phrasal verbs! See you in the next lesson!
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