Hello everyone,

Some weeks ago, I did a video on Youtube about adding the preposition "up" to some simple verbs to form "phrasal verbs". 

Remember, this is only done to some verbs. 
For example: 
*eat ---> eat up                          
*clean ---> clean up
*listen ---> listen up
*pay ---> pay up
*wait ---> wait up
*drink ---> drink up

"Listen up" is a little different than just saying "listen". It does not mean "listen to something that is above you". That would be verb + preposition (up) and this has a physical meaning (direction).
"Listen up" is said in the imperative form and means you want someone to diligently and attentively listen. 
So, adding "up" to these simple verbs is like forming a "phrasal verb" because the combination of the verb and "up" forms a slightly different meaning than the verb alone or than the verb with the preposition "up". 

When native English-speakers add "up" to some simple verbs, the meaning (usually and almost) stays the same, but for some verbs, if "up" is not added, the sentence sounds a bit strange. 

When "up" is added to verbs, these verbs are usually said in the imperative form. So, "up" is added to:

*sound more authoritative - we add "up" to a simple verb when we want the person to comply or obey with our command

"Pay me my money!"
"Pay up!" - if someone owes you money, this sounds more authoritative

"Clean your room"
"Clean up your room!"
 - this (can) sound more authoritative and is something a parent might say

*make someone do it quickly and diligently 

"Eat your lunch."

"Eat up your lunch." - a parent or teacher (or someone else of authority) would say this to a young person to make them eat everything and eat it quickly

*make someone do something fully

"Drink everyone!" -this is rarely said
"Drink up, everyone!" - someone might say this at a party meaning they want everyone to drink all of their (alcoholic) drinks

*make someone do something a little bit

"Wait for me! You are walking too fast" - this is rarely said
"Wait up for me! You are walking too fast." -someone might say this if two people are walking together, and one slow person wants the other person to wait (a little)

Watch the Youtube video here (and subscribe to my Youtube Channel for weekly tutoring videos): 

If you have any questions or comments, respond to this post. 

Happy English!



06/25/2016 3:50pm

How about ' break up' vs 'break down' ?

06/26/2016 7:54am

Hi Smetana,

Thank you for your question.

Yes, 'break up' follows this pattern for “forming" phrasal verbs when adding “up” (but see below for my explanation)
Yes, while 'break down' has many meanings, most of those meanings mean to 'reduce' something (see my explanation after the explanation for “break up”, lol).

Most of the phrasal verbs that follow the “up” pattern can be said alone and they mean the same thing.
“Eat your dinner.”
“Eat up your dinner.”
(these are virtually the same)

'BREAK UP' can mean:
-to stop being with someone romantically

So, you could say:

"I want to break with my boyfriend." (BUT...this is not common)

...we most often say...

"I want to break up with my boyfriend." (we say this 99% of the time)

'BREAK UP' also means:
-to divide opposing groups

You could say:
'The teacher broke the two students who were fighting."
(BUT...this is not common...but it makes sense)

...99% of the time, people say...

"The teacher broke up the two students who were fighting."

HOWEVER, sometimes, we say 'break' alone, when we are talking about:
-something that has been damaged so that it no longer works
For example,
"I broke the lamp."
"You could break your leg if you fall!"

HOWEVER, we can also say this for things that we INTENTIONALLY 'break'...then we say “break up”.
For example,
“She broke the loaf of bread and gave some to everyone.” (this means just 'break' – maybe once, twice, etc.)
“She broke up the loaf of bread and gave some to everyone.” (here, 'break up' means 'into little pieces')

Haha, phrasal verbs can get complicated!

Ok, 'BREAK DOWN' follows the pattern with most phrasal verbs with 'down' in that it means to 'REDUCE' something.

For example,

-reduce how complicated (difficult to understand) something is
“You can ask the accountant and she will break down the numbers for you.”

-(naturally) reduce the effectiveness of a machine
“My car broke down, so I have to take the bus.”

-reduce the effectiveness of your emotions / mind
“He broke down after his wife died.”

Now, you can also say:
“You can ask the accountant and she will break the numbers for you.”
“My car broke, so I have to take the bus.”
“He broke after his wife died.”
...but these are NOT common and they sound a bit strange (but people would understand you)

Thank you, Smetana!

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