Number one for English language teachers

Your English: Word grammar: up

Type: Article

Tim Bowen has upped his game again with this instalment of highly useful word grammar.

The word up has several functions but is most commonly used as an adverb (e.g. 'Their voices could be heard up in our room') or as a preposition (e.g. 'I set off up the road'). It can also be used as an adjective, as in the up escalator or 'What time is the next up train?'

As a noun, up is used in the expression on the up and up, meaning 'improving', as in ‘Things are on the up and up – we’re doing better each year’, and in the expression ups and downs, meaning a variety of situations and experiences that are sometimes good and sometimes bad, as in ‘The company has had its share of ups and downs, but it seems to be doing well now’.

As a verb, up means to increase an amount or raise something to a higher level, as in ‘They’ve upped taxi fares because of the rise in fuel prices’. It is also used in the expression to up the ante, meaning to raise the level of what is expected, offered or risked in a particular situation, as in ‘Protesters have upped the ante by demanding that the minister resign’.

Up is also used in a large number of expressions and fixed phrases. Some of the more widely used examples include to be up for something (willing to do something), as in 'Are you up for a few drinks this evening?', to be up to something, meaning doing something wrong or secret, as in ‘When he’s quiet like this, I know he’s up to something’, and to be up against something, meaning to be in a very difficult situation or with a serious problem to deal with, as in ‘He was up against fantastic odds – he never stood a chance of winning’.

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