6 phrasal verbs with "Brush"

6 phrasal verbs with "Brush"

By Alena Lien, 

17 June 2021

Most of these can be found in dictionaries, but I have also included a few that are fairly common that do not have entries in some dictionaries.

Click below to get more information on each phrasal verb.

Brush aside

"Brush aside (someone/something)" 

-   To dismiss an opinion or request as unimportant or not worth consideration, or to someone who expresses one.

This is separable.

  • "He brushed aside the reporters and quickly walked to his car."

  • "You shouldn't brush their objections aside. They might have a point."

"Brush aside" or "Talk down"

A similar phrasal verb is "talk down" which means "to talk about something in a way that that makes it seem less important or less serious than it really is."

"Talk down" means an issue might be talked about but it is made to look less serious or less important, or its seriousness or importance is not that clear.

"Brush aside" means that something is ignored or dismissed.

  • "He talked down his father's criminal history."

This means he made the issue less serious than it actually is.

  • "He brushed aside his father's criminal history."

This means he ignored the issue and did not address it. 

Brush off

"Brush off" has a few uses.

1.   "Brush off (someone/something)" 

-   To dismiss someone or something in an abrupt way.

This is separable.

  • "Wally rudely brushed me off and pretended he didn't know me."

  • "Any allegations of misconduct were quickly brushed off during the interview."

"Brush-off" (noun) 

-   (informal) To refuse to talk or be nice to someone.

  • "They gave me the brush-off when I made inquiries."

"Brush off" or "Brush aside"

"Brush off" and "brush aside" are quite similar and are sometimes grouped together in dictionaries. There are however, some slight differences.

1.   "Brush off" is stronger of the two and is usually used to indicate rudeness and bluntness

Compare the following:

  • "He brushed off the reporters' questions."

  • "He brushed aside the reporters' questions."

2.   "Brush off" can be used when ending a relationship.

  • "She gave him the brush-off after the third date and then brushed him aside when they bumped into each other at the party."

3.   Even though we can use both phrases with "someone" and "something," it is more common to "brush off someone" and to "brush aside something."

  • "She brushed me off."

  • "She brushed aside my suggestions."

2.   "Brush off (something)" 

-   (British Eng) To remove dirt or dust from someone or something by using your hands or a brush.

  • "He brushed the crumbs off the chair before sitting down."

  • "I tried to brush off the lint from my clothes."

Brush down/off

"Brush (someone/something) down/off" 

-   (British Eng) To clean or neaten someone or something by using your hands or a brush.

This is separable. Personally, I am not familiar with this use but I found this in a few dictionaries.

  • "It's important to brush the horse down at least once a day."

  • "The students brushed their uniforms off in the hallway before they entered the principal's office."

Brush over

"Brush over (something)" 

-   To overlook something or to mention something briefly.

This is not separable. This is fairly common but is not in most dictionaries.

  • "The speaker brushed over the methodology during the presentation for the sake of time."

  • "You can't just brush over the details of how you two met!"

Brush past

"Brush past (someone/something)"

  1.   To walk quickly past someone, usually because you do not want to speak to them.

  2.   To quickly pass by and briefly come into contact with someone or something.

This is not separable.

  • "I brushed past the crowds and found an empty seat near the door."

  • "The cyclist brushed past some branches and then disappeared into the forest."

Brush up

"Brush up" has a few different uses.

1.   "Brush up on (something)" 

-   To refresh one's knowledge, skill or memory of a subject.

This is not separable.

  • "He's been brushing up on his Spanish since he got the promotion."

  • "I do a short course regularly to brush up on my skills."

2.   "Brush up (someone/something)" 

-   To make someone or something tidy, clean or neat.

I only found this use in one dictionary and I think it is more common in British English. And from the examples I found, it is usually not separated.

  • "He brushes up quite well when he feels like it."

  • "I heard they spent a lot of money brushing up the house before putting it on the market."

3.   "Brush (up) against (someone/something)" 

-   To make subtle, bodily contact with someone or something.

This is not separable. This one is also fairly common but I could not find this in most dictionaries. 

Although they are the same, "brush up against" implies that the action is more intentional than "brush against."

  • "My neighbour's cat never fails to brush up against me when I say hello."

  • "Be careful not to brush against the cactuses in the garden."