For instance, why the word up in call up a friend? Why not say call on a friend or call in a friend?

why is this sentence correct? where is the verb?

  • 3
    "Call" is the verb. "Call up" is just idiom. It typically means to call them on the phone. "Call on" typically means to visit in person. "Call in" a friend would typically mean that you ask the friend to join you at your location.
    – fixer1234
    May 5, 2017 at 7:21

2 Answers 2


I think I’ll call up a friend.

"Call up" is one of the very many verbal idioms in English, typically meaning to telephone someone. The meaning is not the same as "call on" (visit someone) or "call in" (typically, summon someone for help).

The verb is just "call" (not "call up"). The preposition "up" is a particle, a short word of usually one or two syllables that can occur between the verb and its direct object, or after the object, cf. I think I’ll call a friend up.

Note that in this instance it would be possible to drop the particle "up" with little change of meaning: I think I'll call a friend.


to call someone up is a set phrase. The adverb up is always there. Other than that, it just adds a flavor of completeness or activity to a verb. For example:

Now, it's time to clean all this mess up.

That up makes the verb clean sound more active. Furthermore, to clean something up is an expression with all its elements set in stone which is something that's very common for set phrases and idioms.

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