UP Phrasal Verbs - The What's Up Issue

Reading & Vocabulary Activity

What's Up? 

by Anne Rognstad*

"Up" is an innocent looking word. It is commonly defined as the opposite of "down". However, it is far from being so simple and appears to live by rules of its own. A good dictionary will confirm that "up" is an adverb in 17 different ways, and 16 times an adjective. It is ,apparently, a little word beloved by the creators of idiomatic expressions, and also combines with hundreds of other words in new definitions.

It is generally accepted that a person is "up" when s/he is happy, and "down" when sad. Classroom teachers ask : "Please sit down." They also mean : "Sit up straight." Drivers are asked to either "slow up" or "slow down" when entering school zones. On the other hand "up" tends to be paired with words to suggest failure : "I screwed up", "I messed up", "I was uptight." In combination, "up" can alter its meaning entirely with similar words. "Jenny was 'eating up' the lively conversation! Three hours later, however, she was totally 'fed up' with the topic." How about this : "Martin 'sized up' the situation (measure), and decided to 'downsized' his business."

It is probable that certain "up" expressions can be dated to some extent. Today and always one can be "fixed up" for a blind date. One doesn't want to appear "stuck-up". We "take up" hems on a skirt to make it shorter or let them down. We will "take up" golf or a foreign language next year if we have time. When we are funny, we "cut up", and if the joke is really good others will "crack up" at it. Sometimes to "crack up" also means "break up." And when a couple "breaks up", there are four possible ways to "fix up" the situation : (1) They can kiss and "make up" (overcome), (2) S/he can "make up" a story (invent), (3) She can more creatively apply her "make-up" (cosmetics), and (4) One can "make up" for past sins (expiate).

*Excerpt from Forum Magazine at http://dosfan.lib.uic.edu/usia/E-USIA/forum/vols/vol34/no2/p47.htm


Can you find the missing verb in the following examples of phrasal verbs with UP? Many appear in the article above.


1. To open your eyes in the morning is to ... up.
2. When a woman applies mascara and lipgloss, she ... up.
3. If you don’t know the meaning of a word, you ... it up in the dictionary.
4. We often say that children ... up too quickly.
5. If you can't hear someone, you ask him/her to ... up.
6. After working in the garden, you need to use the bathroom to ... up before eating.
7. When you ... up, you feel happy.
8. When people are waiting one behind the other they are ... up.
9. On Saturdays we usually ... up our apartment.
10.You may be angry with your sister but in the end you know you will ... up.
11. Remember to ... up the car if it's out of gas.
12. At the end of the class, our teacher always ... up the main points.
13. My grandpa used to ... up the most wonderful stories to tell us before going to bed.
14. If you go to a fancy party, you’ll need to ... up.
15. When you make a mistake you ... up.
16. Sometimes the lake where we swim in summer,  ... up because of the lack of rain.
17.When you can’t hear the TV, you ... up the volume.
18.If you divide groups or part ways with someone, you ... up.
19.When you drive faster, you ... up.
20.If a situation or problem suddenly happens, it has just ... up.
21. When you quit doing something or quit trying, you ... up.
22. If you end a telephone call, you ... up.
23. You can establish or ... up a company or a meeting.
24. If you ... someone up, you offer them a ride in your car or taxi.
25.If you want to start a new activity or hobbie you can ... up a language!

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