bump into: meaning and explanation

The meaning of phrasal verb to bump into someone is to meet someone by chance, without planning to.

For example, if you’re walking to the shops and you see one of your friends (without arranging to meet them) then you can say that you bumped into them on the way to the shops.

e.g. I bumped into an old friend today while walking the dog. It was such a nice surprise!

e.g. We live in the same small town, so we’re always bumping into each other.

Note that this meaning is only used when talking about people. Phrasal verbs with a similar meaning to bump into, but which are used with things, are come across, run across, stumble upon, stumble on.

A safe synonym of bump into is run into. e.g. I ran into Josh earlier on. He said to say hi.

This phrasal verb is a good example of how the more metaphorical meaning of a phrasal verb is connected to a more literal meaning. If you literally bump into something, then you walk into it (probably because you weren’t being careful or looking where you were going). e.g. I was so busy scrolling through Facebook on my phone that I bumped into a lamp post. This meaning is extended to the more metaphorical meaning: you meet someone without planning to (or looking for them).

Have a go at these micro-dictation exercises to hear this expression being used in context – how much can you understand?

Listening exercises

Micro-listening #1

Accent: Northern England

Tom .
I Tom earlier – he's over for a .

About the sentence

…he’s invited us all round…

To invite somebody round is a phrasal verb which means to invite someone to your house, e.g. for a meal.

Micro-listening #2

Accent: North America

You'll who I the way home !

About the sentence

…you’ll never guess who I bumped into...

You’ll never guess is a nice way to introduce some very interesting or exciting news, e.g. You’ll never guess what I did last night.

Micro-listening #3

Accent: Ireland

I'm things – look massive bruise .

About the sentence

I’m always bumping into things

Using the present continuous with always is a common way of complaining about someone’s (or our own) behaviour. e.g. My boss is always interrupting me – it’s infuriating.

…look at this massive bruise…

Massive is an extreme adjective, which means very big. e.g. This cake is absolutely massive. Do you want to take some home with you?

Extra practice

Here are some questions/links to help you learn the new vocabulary:

  • Tell me a story, starting with: “The other day I bumped into…”.
  • What do you think is happening in the photo at the top of this post?

Photo by Perry Grone on Unsplash