When it comes to phrasal verbs, Tim Bowen has certainly helped us work up an appetite!
‘Edinburgh is a stunning city with beautiful parks and green spaces and we will continue to work towards protecting and enhancing them.’ If people work towards something, they do things that help them to make progress in the achievement of a particular aim. Politicians often speak of working towards peace and stability, for example.
To work up can mean to develop a particular feeling such as hunger or interest, as in ‘I just can’t work up any enthusiasm for this conference’ or ‘We went for a long walk to help us work up an appetite’. Normally used only in the passive with be or get, work up can also mean to make yourself feel upset, angry, excited or nervous, as in ‘What are you getting so worked up about? Dental treatment is virtually pain-free these days’ or ‘He gets really worked up about the amount of litter in the streets around here’. Work up can also be used with a reflexive pronoun, as in ‘Stop working yourself up like that. You’re making a mountain out of a molehill’.
If you work up to doing something, you prepare yourself to do something difficult or to break some bad news to someone, as in ‘I’m just working up to telling Helen that we’re not going to be able to go on holiday after all’.
If people work someone over, they injure them severely by hitting them, as in ‘They worked him over and left him lying bleeding in the street’. In gerund form, work over can also be used as a noun, as in ‘You’ll get a good working over if you carry on behaving like that’.