Valentine's Day : English Phrasal verbs, idioms and sayings

February 13, 2010 By Angela Boothroyd

Valentine’s Day Traditions

In the UK on the 14th February, many people will be showing their love for each other by sending Valentine cards, chocolates and flowers.

Some people will write a poem or a love letter for their loved one.

The British Library holds the oldest known Valentine’s message written in English. It was written in 1477 by Margery Brews to her fiancé John Paston.

It’s believed that the first recorded Valentine card was sent by the Duke of Orleans in 1415. He is said to have written messages of love to his wife from his prison cell.

The tradition of exchanging Valentine gifts is said to have started in the later Middle Ages (the period of European history from approximately AD1000 to 1500) when it was believed that the 14th of February marks the beginning of the mating season for birds, and so the day became associated with love and romance.

It is not certain who the Saint Valentine associated with Valentine’s Day was. He might have been a Roman priest and Christian martyr executed during the rule of Claudius II the Goth; or he might have been Valentine, Bishop of Turni, who was martyred in Rome.

Phrasal verbs

ask out – to ask somebody out (or ask out somebody) is to ask them to go on a date with you, as a way of starting a romantic relationship with them.


He is too scared to ask her out.

blurt out – to blurt out something (or blurt something out) is to say something suddenly and impulsively, especially because you are nervous or excited.


He suddenly turned round and blurted out, “I love you! Will you marry me?”

bottle out – to bottle out of something is to suddenly decide not to do something because you are afraid.

Informal British English.


I was going to ask him out on a date but I bottled out.

chat up – to chat up somebody (or chat somebody up) is to talk to them in a flirtatious way to show you are attracted to them, and to try and make them interested in you.

British and Australian informal English.


I’ve been trying to chat him up all evening but he’s not interested.

cuddle up – to cuddle up with someone is to sit or lie very close them in an affectionate way.


I love cuddling up with my husband.

eat out – to eat out is to eat away from home, at a cafe or restaurant. Many people eat out at a restaurant on Valentine’s Day.


Let’s eat out tonight. I know a very good restaurant.

fall for – if you fall for someone you become very attracted to them, or fall in love with them.

Informal English.


She fell for him as soon as she saw him.

get together – if people get together they start a romantic relationship.


They got together in 2001 when they were working in Paris.

go out together / with – to go out with someone is to have a romantic relationship with them.


1. Will you go out with me?

2. They have been going out together for six months.

live for – if you live for somebody they are the most important thing in your life.


Marcus lives for his wife: he will do anything for her.

move in together / with – to move in together is to start living with someone – usually someone you are having a romantic relationship with.


We’re moving in together in June.

pair off – if two people pair off they start a romantic relationship.


They paired off half way through the cruise.

pour out – if you pour out your feelings to someone you tell them everything about how you are feeling.


She poured out her feelings and told him how much she loved him.

run off with – to run off with somebody is to secretly go away with someone in order to live with them or marry them, especially when other people think this is wrong. Often used to show disapproval.

Informal English.


They were only 17 years old when they ran off with each other.

settle down – when two people settle down together they set up a life together and perhaps get married, buy a house and start a family.


Peter and Marcia are settling down and buying a house together.


a heart-throb – a heart-throb is a good looking man; usually someone famous who is attractive to very many women.

Informal English


1. In my opinion, George Clooney is a heart-throb; but Justin Bieber is not!

2. Many women think the actor Brad Pitt is a heart-throb.

a broken heart –  a broken heart (noun) is a feeling of great sadness and despair, especially when someone you love dies or does not love you.


1. They broke up last week and she is broken-hearted. (broken hearted = adjective)

2. Three weeks after our grandmother died, our grandfather died of a broken heart

3. His heart is broken because she doesn’t love him anymore.

a heart-to-heart – a heart-to-heart talk (noun) is a completely open and honest private discussion between two people.


We had a heart-to-heart talk last night to try and work out our problems.

wear your heart on your sleeve – if you wear your heart on your sleeve you are very open about your feelings for someone, and everyone can see how you are feeling.


cupboard love – cupboard love is love or affection that is not real, and is shown only in order to gain something.

British English.


1. It’s just cupboard love: all he really wants is her money and her fast cars.

2. Some people think that pet cats only show cupboard love: they only love you when they want something.

fall head over heels in love – to fall head over heels in love with someone is to fall in love with them very suddenly, and with great intensity.


I met my husband at university and fell head over heels in love with him on our first date.

lovebirds – if two people are clearly very much in love with each other they are often called ‘the lovebirds’. Lovebirds are small parrots that are well known for showing great affection to their mates.

loved-up – to be loved-up (adjective) is to be full of feelings of romantic love.

Very informal British English.


1. Jennifer and Guido look so happy and loved-up.

2. She’s sick of the sight of loved-up couples on Valentine’s Day!

lovelorn – to be lovelorn is to be sad because the person you love does not love you (unrequited love).


Valentine’s Day is not a good day for people who are lovelorn.

puppy love – puppy love is the love or romantic feelings felt for someone by children or young adolescents. Often used in a negative or derogatory way.


It’s only puppy love. They will soon forget about it.

How do people celebrate Valentine’s Day around the world? I would love to hear about Valentine’s Day traditions in your country.

How will you celebrate Valentine’s Day with your loved one?

Which celebrity do you think is a heart-throb?

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