Phrasal Verbs with “Up”

An Easier Way To Learn Phrasal Verbs

Learning a phrasal verb is no harder than learning any verb. It is a question of simple memorization. The first step is to forget that you are learning a phrasal verb and think of it as learning an English verb. For example, most students have learned that “sit down” means “seu” or “siéntate” without any problem. That is because they learned the verbs before they were ever shown a list of two or three word verbs and told that they were Phrasal Verbs.

English is a very adverb intensive language. In Catalan or Spanish you have the verbs “pujar” or “subir.” Their English equivalent would be “to rise,” but this verb is not used very often. It is much more common to use a verb of motion and the adverb, “up” (amunt/arriba). For example in the English sentence, “He runs up the stairs.” This would be translated as “Puja corrent les escales”or “Sube corriendo las escaleras.”

However, “to run up” has another meaning which is similar but a little different. It depends on the context of the sentence. For example, “He is running up the bill.” The key word here is “bill” (“el compte” or “la cuenta”) just as in the first sentence the key word was “stairs.” In this case the verb, “to run” does not refer to movement, and “up” has the meaning more of “completely.” Like, for example, “to shut up” or “to finish up” or “to eat up.”  “He is running up the bill. would be translated as “Està facturant el compte” or “Está facturando la cuenta.”  The secret to learning Phrasal Verbs is to understand the context in which they are being used.

We will start with the differences between “up” after verbs of movement and non-movement.  Here are some examples:

  • The frog jumped up / La rana saltó hacia arriba / La granota va saltar cap amunt
  • Prices jumped up / Els preus van augmentar de sobte / Los precios subieron de repente
  • He threw up the ball / Va llançar la pilota al aire / Lanzó la pelota al aire
  • He threw up the sandwich / Va vomitar l’entrepà / Vomitó el bocadillo
  • I brought up the things from the basement / Vaig portar les coses des del soterrani / Traje las cosas desde el sótano
  • I brought up the idea at the meeting / Vaig presentar la idea a la reunió / Presenté la idea en la reunión
  • He comes up the mountain every day / Puja a la muntanya cada dia / Sube a la montaña cada día
  • Your name comes up often / S’esmenta el teu nom sovint / Se menciona tu nombrea menudo
  • I looked up at the top of the tree / Va alçar la vista cap a dalt de l’arbre / Levantó la vista hacia la copa del árbol
  • I looked up the word in the dictionary / Vaig buscar la paraula al diccionari / Busqué la palabra en el diccionario

Usually when “up” is not with a verb of movement, it is used for emphasis. For example, “to cut” is tallar/cortar, but “to cut up” has more of a meaning like “tallar en trossos/cortar en pedazos.» Another example is “to pay” and “to pay up.” The translation of “to pay” is pagar, but by adding “up” the meaning is changed to the sense of paying everything that is owed or “pagar tot el que deus/pagar todo lo que debes.”  The same is true with “to eat,” which is translated as menjar/comer. When you add “up” to the verb, it changes the meaning to eat completely. For example, the imperative, “Eat the pizza!” would be translated as “Menja la pizza!/Come la pizza!” However if we add “up” (Eat up the pizza!) it changes to “Menja tota la pizza!/Come toda la pizza!”

Of course, not all of the examples will be as logical as these, but if you remember these two rules, that “up” means “amunt/arriba” with verbs of motion and that it is commonly used for emphasis with most other verbs, it will make learning phrasal verbs with “up” easier.


Written by Mike Dean Alger for Aston School

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