I find that the combinations of verb and preposition aren't always showing a different meaning. Could you please analyze these two sentences for me?

  1. I picked a coin on the pavement.
  2. I picked up a coin on the pavement.

It looks like the difference of these two is so tiny that they are to be used instead of one another.

  • Pick and pick up are different verbs. Your second sentence is incorrect, You cannot pick up somthing on something! I picked up a coin from the pavement or I picked up a coin that was lying on the pavement Commented Apr 22, 2017 at 8:20

1 Answer 1


These aren't the same at all.

The second one is what you want. It means that you saw a coin on the ground and picked it up.

In the first sentence, you're saying "pick" as in "choose".

When I see this sentence, what I see in my mind is three coins on the ground next to each other and you chose one of the three. It doesn't mean that you took it in your hand, or that you walked off with it.

Let's do it in terms of cards... "Find the lady" is a card game (or magic trick) with three cards on a table. One is the queen of hearts.

Three cards on a table with a magician's hands
Image from here.

The cards are turned face down and shuffled around so that you don't know which is which. Now, I tell you,

Pick a card.

You point at the middle card. I flip it over. Wrong. Oh well, better luck next time.

So, "you picked a card on the table" but you didn't touch it. If you want to say that you actually touched the card and lifted it off the table, you need the word "up". "You picked up a card [that was] on the table."

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