beat up
to beat until something is defeated

– examples

Last week Dave got beaten up outside his house.

Only wear that football shirt if you want people to beat you up.


book up
to reserve every place

– examples

The hotel was booked up, so they had to sleep on the street outside.

Every new year the trains book up very quickly, so you’ll need to get your ticket as early as you can.


break up
1. for a couple to separate
2. to break a larger object into smaller pieces
3. to disband a group of people

– examples

1.
She broke up with him by text message.

They still like each other, but had to break up because their work meant they never saw each other.

2.
The rocket broke up as it came back down to earth.

A smaller boat was sent first to break up the ice, allowing the bigger boat to sail through later.

3.
After 5 years and 10 number 1 songs, the group decided to break up.

The management decided to break up the project team.


brush up
to review knowledge you have not studied or used for a while

– examples:

“I should brush up on my French before I go on holiday: I’ve forgotten most of it.”

Dave decided to spend the holiday brushing up on his reading.


build up
to build a larger and larger number over time

– examples:

This part of the city is being built up quite quickly: over the last 5 years a lot of money has come in.

The government is getting worried by the troops building up on the border.


buy up
to buy all of something, or as much as possible (often used in business)

– examples

He got rich by using loans to buy up small companies, firing the staff, making them profitable, and then selling them on.

The stockbroker said she should buy up as many shares as she can while the price is low.


call up
1. to give someone a telephone call)
(2. (sports) to bring a player into the team, usually if had not been named in the original team

– examples

1.
“Can you call Dave up and ask him to bring some ice tonight?”

She didn’t know the number, so she called up Directory Enquiries.

2.
She got called up to the team after another player suffered an injury.


clean up
to clean a mess, making the mess into cleanliness

– examples

After the party on Friday night they spent the rest of the weekend cleaning up.

“Clean up this mess right now!”


close up
1. to close a shop (can also use close)
2. to stop talking about feelings or emotions and become more distant to others (can also use ‘closed off’)
3. to close an open container, as in close up a box

– examples

1. (can also use ‘close’)
The recession hit Dave hard, however, and in 2005 he closed up his last store.

Their neighbourhood isn’t very good: walking along the street one sees closed up shop after closed up shop.

2.
After his girlfriend dumped him, Dave closed up. Now he hardly speaks to anyone.

3.
The problem with my computer solved, the technicians closed it up. Unfortunately they left a screwdriver inside.

The doctors finished the operation, closed up his leg, then went for a sandwich before he woke up.


come up
1. to go up, such as stairs
2. to think of something new, such as an answer to a problem or an excuse
3. to come near something, after being farther away

– examples

1.
Dave went up to the attic and looked for his old toys. Alas, he could not find them; his parents had thrown them all out.

“Come up and see me” she told him on the phone. Dave began to sweat…

2.
Anne always forgets to do her homework. Luckily, she is very good at coming up with good excuses, so she never gets in trouble.

The boss told them that if they didn’t come up with a new marketing plan he would replace them.


connect up
to connect 2 or more things together (NB: can often drop the ‘up’)

– examples

Last night he connected up his television to his computer, so now he can watch all his illegal downloads on a bigger screen

When he tried to connect the washing machine up to the tap, something went very wrong and now the room is flooded.


dial up
to call someone or a service on the telephone, usually a number you haven’t used before

– examples

They didn’t know the address, so they dialed up Directory Enquiries.

She dialed up this company about a job, but the number was wrong.


divide up
to split a whole into pieces

– examples

At the end of the year the company divided up the profits amongst the staff (unfortunately, the didn’t choose to divide it equally).

“Well, the boss gave us a big bag of sweets. I say we divide them up now.”


dream up
to imagine / invent a new idea

– examples

Dave dreams up all sorts of amazing plans, but he never does any of them. He is, very simply, a lazy person.

At first I didn’t think anyone could dream up something as weird as this, but you did, and now you have made it.


drink up
finish drinking quickly

– examples

It was already late. Dave drank up and left the bar, crying.

“Come on, drink up or we’ll be late.”


drive up
to force a number (usually a price) to go higher

– examples

The war in the Middle East is driving up the price of oil.


eat up
finish eating quickly

– examples

She didn’t like the beef until she put ketchup all over it; then she ate it right up.

“Come on, eat up or we’ll be late.”


finish up
to finish a task that has started or will take a bit of time

– examples

After 3 hours, Anne finally finished up her homework, at which point her mum told her it was time to go to bed. Anne can’t wait unti lshe leaves school.

“After you finish up (with) the dishes, I need you to mow the lawn.”


give up
1. to stop doing an activity
2. to have to give away when don’t want to)

– examples

1.
Every time things get difficult, he gives up. It is very annoying.

He had to give up football after he broke his leg.

2.
When she left the company she had to give up the apartment.

Finally, Dave gave up the secret after Paul pointed a gun at his head.


go up
1. to increase
2. to approach a person or thing
3. to build buildings

– examples

1.
The house price continues to go up. It is very difficult for first-time buyers now.

The world’s population has gone up by 6 billion in the last 150 years. That is a lot.

2.
From a distance he thought there was something wrong with his car. When he went up he saw that somebody had smashed his window.

“Why are you scared? Just go up to her and ask her if she wants a drink.”

3.
The speed that skyscrapers have gone up in this city is frightening: now you can hardly see the sun.

Another 10 buildings will go up over the next year.


grow up
1. to go through childhood and become an adult
2. to stop acting childishly and start acting in a more mature manner

– examples

1.
Although I was born in London, I grew up in Scotland.

Her parents were very strict with her when she was growing up, but now that she is an adult they let her do whatever she wants.

2.
Dave’s co-workers wish he would grow up: they’re getting tired of his un-amusing jokes.

“Oh, grow up, for Heaven’s sake.”


hang up
1. put a phone down, often without saying goodbye
2. to hang something on something
3. to retire; used as a form of synecdoche (a part used to talk about a whole)

– examples

1.
The man wouldn’t stop talking, so eventually Dave decided to simply hang up.

“How dare you hang up on me!”

2.
They decided to hang up Paul’s painting, although he won’t be happy it is next to the toilet.

The cleaner was busy. “I’m just going to hang up your shirts, then I’ll go cook dinner” she said.

3.
After 10 years playing football, Dave decided to hang up his boots.

“I’m sorry to hear that you have hung up your spatula: you were the best chef in town.”


heat up
1. to make something hotter
2. to become more energetic, or more animated

– examples

1.
The morning was cold, but it heated up in the afternoon.

“We’ve already finished dinner, but there is some left over if you want to heat that up.”

2.
The debate was quiet at first, but heated up once one of the candidates said the other was an idiot.

The game is heating up: some of the players are beginning to lose their tempers.


hook up
1. to connect a machine to another machine, or a network
2. for two people to get together (note: this can be used ‘romantically’)

– examples

1.
He called the technician to help him hook up his PC to the internet.

“If you hook up your computer to your TV, you can watch all your illegal downloads on a big screen” he said.

2.
She’s hoping she can hook up with her friend when she’s in town next week on business.

In the morning Dave heard that, after he had left the party last night, his girlfriend hooked up with another guy.


light up
1. to put light on something
2. to make a place more bright or cheerful
3. to light a cigarette (colloquial English)

– examples

1.
Each night the skyscrapers light up the city.

It was a clear night, and as the moon rose it lit up the garden. Moving to the countryside was, they thought, an excellent idea.

2.
“I think you need a woman’s touch. A few flowers and cushions will lighten this place up.”

Painting the walls white really lightened up the room. The old colour – dark purple – was quite depressing.

Jess’s goal lit up an otherwise dull game of football.

3.
Dave lit up a cigarette and watched the rain.

After lunch his mum likes to light up and turn on the TV. He told her she needs more exercise, but she doesn’t listen.


listen up
an order telling others to listen carefully

– examples

The teacher told the students to listen up for five minutes, because this was important.

“Listen up, you fools: that was terrible. I want you play much better in the second half.”


lock up
to lock a door so that others cannot enter until you return, such as a shop or a safe

– examples

When they arrived at the restaurant they found it was all locked up. It looks like the manager wants to sell it.

The manager trusts Philip the most: only he is allowed to open up (the shop) in the morning and lock up at night.


look up
1. to look in an upwards direction
2. to look for a single piece of information

– examples

1.
“If you look up you will the beautiful ceiling, painted in c.1452.”

Somebody asked whether dogs can look up.

2.
He didn’t know the word, so he looked it up in the dictionary.

He also didn’t know where his hotel was, so he looked it up on the map.


make up
1. for a couple to get back together after breaking up
2. to invent a story

– examples

1.
Dave wanted to get back with his girlfriend, but when he tried to make up with her, she told him to go away.

They always have big fights, but a few days later they always make up.

2.
Jimmy is a good storyteller: he makes up amazing adventures.

Jimmy is also a liar: he makes up excuses for why he didn’t do his homework.


meet up
to meet a person / group, usually through a plan

– examples

The plan was to meet up with his wife in Jakarta, but his train got delayed. Now he will have to wait another week to see her.


mess up
make a mess, changing something neat to messy

– examples

It took her 30 minutes to comb her hair. And it took the wind 5 minutes to mess it up.

“Don’t touch anything! I don’t want you to mess up my system.”


mop up
to use a mop to remove liquid

– examples

The washing machine had leaked while they were out. It would take all afternoon to mop up the mess.

“Somebody has spilt Coke all over aisle 4. Could you mop it up please?”


offer up
to give something to someone as a way of saying thanks, or of showing devotion

– examples

It made Dave angry to see people offering up their thanks, and gifts, to the boss.


open up
1. to open a shop or place of business (can also use ‘open’)
2. to reveal emotions or how one feels, especially for people who usually don’t talk about their feelings
3. open a closed container, as in open up a box

– examples

1. (can also use ‘open’)
Dave opened up his first small shop in 1992; by 2001 he had 25 of them.

“Have you seen they have opened up a new Starbucks on the corner. This neighbourhood is getting worse.”

2.
We didn’t know what was annoying Anne, but after a few glasses of wine she opened up: it seems her marriage is having some problems.

Dave is a shy guy usually, but since he got his new girlfriend he has opened up a bit.

3.
My computer wasn’t working, so I took it to the shop. After they opened it up we saw the problem: mice had eaten some of the wires.

The doctors opened up his leg and took out the metal pins.


pass up
to decline an opportunity; to let an opportunity go to waste

– examples

Later Dave kicked himself for passing up the opportunity to manage the team.

When you get a chance to do something great in life, you shouldn’t pass it up.


put up
1. to hang or display something
2. to make furniture from pieces and instructions
3. to let someone stay in your house for a short time
4. to increase, usually prices

– examples

1.
He has put the pictures from his holiday up on the website.

There was a hole in the wall, but we just put up a poster and the landlord never saw it.

2.
This weekend he spent his time putting up his son’s bed.

Dave wanted to do some DIY, so he bought some shelves from the shop; but when it came to putting them up he didn’t know what to do.

3.
Anne was very thankful to her friends for putting her up when she came to visit.

“I’m looking for someone who is willing to put me up while I am in town for two days.”

4.
The shop recently put up its prices.

The government is always putting up the interest rates.


read up
to read information on a whole subject

– examples

Before she goes to Qingdao she is going to read up on it.

The students were asked to read up on the Presidents before the quiz on Friday.


run up
to make a debt get bigger and bigger

– examples

Dave ran up quite a bar bill last night. I think by the end it was over $100.

The company has been running up debts in the millions this year, and will go bust if nobody comes in to save it.


screw up
1. to make a big mess of things; to make such a mess that it is ruined
2. to crunch into a ball in disgust, usually paper or your face

– examples

1.
He completely screwed up his driving test: he drove the wrong way down the street, and parked in somebody’s garden.

“If you screw up my chances of hooking up with Vicky, I’ll kill you” Dave told Paul.

2.
He looked at his poem. It was rubbish. Angry, he screwed up the paper and started again.

Whenever his mum serves dinner, he screws up his face like a baby. It’s very rude.


sell up
to sell ownership of something, usually a property or business

– examples

Times were hard, so the family decided to sell up and move to Mexico.

After losing so much money last year, the director had no option but to sell up his last assets.


set up
1. to start a business
2. to put something together from its pieces
3. to frame a person for a crime they did not commit

– examples

1.
I decided to set this company up after becoming tired of working for stupid bosses.

2.
The tent took an hour to set up.

3.
He set up his own brother – who is now serving 20 years in jail – for the robbery.


speak up
1. to speak louder
2. to speak against something or someone

– examples

1.
“Can you speak up please? I’m a little deaf.”

2.
A poor government is a government that does not allow its people to speak up against injustice, because then injustice will continue.

The teacher told the students that if they never spoke up against the things they thought were wrong in this world, nothing would ever change.


speed up
to go faster

– examples

If you don’t speed up, we’re going to be late.

“Speed up! He’s getting away!”


stand up
to stand, after sitting

– examples

The teacher told Dave to stand up when he answers.

When the judge walks in, everyone should stand up.


start up
1. to begin a business or organisation
2. to begin a machine that will continue to run until it is stopped
3. to begin an action that will continue, with others, such as a conversation

– examples

1.
Yahoo started up as a small company based on two computers. Within ten years, however, it was a global name.

“I’m thinking of starting up my own company; I’m tired of working for other people.”

2.
The first thing he does each morning is start up his computer. It is a bad habit.

Last week they went to the F1. The moment the drivers started up their engines was deafening and exciting. Unfortunately, the race was boring as hell.

3.
On the football terraces a chant started up: ‘He gets the ball, he scores a goal, Andy, Andy Andy Cole.”

Dave struggles to meet women. One of his biggest problems is he doesn’t know how to start up a conversation.


straighten up
to put things in order, often in straight lines

– examples

In the mirror he straightened up his tie, combed his hair, and brushed his teeth. Finally he was ready to go.

“You need to straighten this room up before your mother gets home: you know she doesn’t like to see a mess.”


take up
to start doing an activity you didn’t do before

– examples

She has decided to take up painting now that she has more free time.

He took up basketball when he was 5.


throw up
to vomit; to be sick (as in vomit)

– examples

He isn’t very well today: he was awake all last night throwing up.

Urgh. This food makes me want to throw up.


tidy up
to tidy a mess, making a mess into tidiness

– examples

The house rule was that every weekend the children had to tidy up their rooms.

The boss told Dave to tidy up his desk: it looked like a pig worked there.


type up
to change something into a typed document

– examples

His notes were quite messy, so he decided to type them up so he could read them more easily.

“Can you type up this letter for me and send it to the lawyers?”


wake up
to wake from sleep

– examples

I have to wake up early tomorrow in order to catch a plane.

“Wake up! Wake up! You’re going to miss the school bus!”


wash up
1. to wash the dishes
2. to wash one’s self, often the hand and face

– examples

1.
It is Paul’s turn to wash up tonight.

“After you wash up the dishes, you have to do your homework.”

2.
“She is just washing up right now, but then she will be downstairs.”

Before bed Dave had a routine. First, he would check the locks on the windows. Then he would turn off all the lights. After that he would wash up, and then look under his bed for monsters. Finally he climbed into bed.


write up
to put different information into a single, readable piece

– examples

After his trip to the library, Dave had lots of information. He is going to write it up this weekend, and let the teacher read it on Monday.

The boss asked the team to write up their findings and present it at the next meeting.