Grammar What’s Up With Up? |
The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation

What’s Up With Up?

We thought we would lighten things up a bit this week. We hope you enjoy it.

There is a two-letter word that perhaps has more meanings than any other two-letter word, and that word is up. It’s easy to understand up, meaning toward the sky or at the top of the list, but when we awaken in the morning, why do we wake up?

At a meeting, why does a topic come up?
Why do we speak up, why are the officers up for election,
and why is it up to the secretary to write up a report?

We call up our friends.

We brighten up a room and polish up the silver.
We warm up the leftovers and clean up the kitchen.
We lock up the house, and some guys fix up the old car.

People stir up trouble, line up for tickets, work up an appetite,
and think up excuses.

To be dressed is one thing, but to be dressed up is special.

And this up is confusing:
a drain must be opened up because it is stopped up.

We open up a store in the morning, but we close it up at night.
We seem to be pretty mixed up about up!

To be knowledgeable about the proper uses of up, look it up.
In a desk-sized dictionary, it takes up almost one-fourth of the page
and can add up to about thirty definitions.

If you are up to it, you might try building up a list
of the many ways up is used.
It will take up a lot of your time, but if you don’t give up,
you may wind up with a hundred or more.

When it threatens to rain, we say it is clouding up.
When the sun comes out, we say it is clearing up.
When it rains, it wets up the earth.
When it doesn’t rain for a while, things dry up.

One could go on and on, but I’ll wrap it up,
for now my time is up, so … time to shut up.

If the article or the existing discussions do not address a thought or question you have on the subject, please use the "Comment" box at the bottom of this page.

11 responses to “What’s Up With Up?”

  1. Diana Hall says:

    Thank you for livening up the newsletter. I’m up to my ears in alligators, so I don’t have time to add up the comments I would like to insert.

  2. Jill Wolf says:

    Cracked me up! I even got my husband to listen up and he cracked up too! Thanks! Humor always lifts me up!

  3. Lee McIntyre says:

    Laugh it up! This is the best article you’ve come up with in a while. You are definitely up-and-coming.

    … And I’m sure you’ll have another great article coming up next week.

    Okay. I give up.

  4. Bill Darnall says:

    Up to now, I was keeping up.

  5. Carol Saia says:

    In some examples, up is necessary to include with the verb (line up, work up, speak up, etc.). However, in many of these examples, writing is more concise if you eliminate the unnecessary up – e.g., brighten the room, open the store, close the store, polish the silver, write a report, call our friends.

    • We agree that, in formal writing, eliminating up when not necessary is an improvement, similar to eliminating unnecessary prepositions at the end of sentences (see Problems with Prepositions). Of course this was just a playful article more in tune with informal spoken language.

  6. David Bredhold says:

    And we fill up a container after its contents are used up.

  7. Donald Klein says:

    You have the ability to cheer people up without trying. Keep up the good work.

  8. Mitzi Carroll says:

    Well done and lots of fun. Playful works! Thank you!

  9. A Patel says:

    Great piece of writing, it has brightened up my resolve to work on English grammar.

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