Grammar Pick Up or Pickup: Which Word Do You Need to Use? |
The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation

Pick Up or Pickup: Which Word Do You Need to Use?

Let’s say you agree to give your friends a ride in your truck. On the way, they ask if you can help them move an appliance since your truck has an open cargo area with low sides and a tailgate. Do you know which word to use to describe what you’ll be doing and what you’ll be driving?

Some of the most confusing words and phrases in English come from misunderstandings over subtle differences. For example, some people might not realize that pickup and pick up mean different things.

In today’s post, we will explain the distinction between the terms so you can always choose the correct one.

The Difference Between Pick Up and Pickup

Pick up (two separate words) is what we call a phrasal verb, or a verb with a particle. It can mean “to retrieve something or someone,” as in the following example:

I’ve offered to pick up my best friend from the airport.

The same phrasal verb can be used to describe something that is detected or observed. For example:

Did you pick up the tension between James and his brother?

In either case, the phrase pick up is being used to communicate an action, either retrieving or detecting. That’s what makes the two-word version a verb.

When used as a single word, pickup can be either a noun or an adjective.

As a noun, it describes a type of truck (the one with an open cargo area with low sides and a tailgate, which is good for moving things). As an adjective, pickup can describe something impromptu or based on whatever is available. For instance, you might join a last-minute pickup basketball game at the park.

That leaves us with an easy rule to follow: When you need a noun or adjective, stick with the single-word pickup. When you’re describing an action, use the two-word pick up as a verb.

With that distinction in mind, you’ll find that applying the correct version is easy.

Pop Quiz

Fill in each blank with the correct use of pick up or pickup.

1. My cousin bought a new _____ truck with his yearly bonus.

2. It’s easy to make friends if you can _____ social cues.

3. Sheila missed the softball league signup, but luckily she can always find a _____ game in her neighborhood.

4. I need to _____ the decorations for the party later today.

5. Veronica didn’t _____ many useful ideas from her weekend seminar.

 

Pop Quiz Answers

1. My cousin bought a new pickup truck with his yearly bonus.

2. It’s easy to make friends if you can pick up social cues.

3. Sheila missed the softball league signup, but luckily she can always find a pickup game in her neighborhood.

4. I need to pick up the decorations for the party later today.

5. Veronica didn’t pick up many useful ideas from her weekend seminar.

Enhancing Your Grammar Is Always a Worthy Goal

Becoming a better writer and communicator is a matter of achieving precision and eloquence through knowledge and practice. You now have more knowledge from this post, so the next step is to practice it!

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