We were shopping at the mall.

It's late and all the shops were starting to close.

"They're closing."

"They're closing their shop."

Will the second sentence mean the shop is bankrupt?

  • That's not how I would interpret the second sentence – not if it's the end of the day and everyone else is closing their doors, too. – J.R. Jan 21 '18 at 10:15

They're closing

In this sentence closing does not have an object (it's intransitive), and for this meaning "They" can only apply to the shop, not the staff.

They're closing their shop

In this sentence, "They" could refer to the the owners (which might imply that the shop was closing permanently) or to the staff (which would mean that right now the staff are outside the shop and locking the doors). If the owners also work in the shop, if could mean either.

Either sentence could mean that the shop is closing at the end of the day, or that it is closing permanently. Unless the context indicates otherwise, I would assume that the shop was closing at the end of the day, especially if it was late in the day and other shops are closing too.

To indicate that the shop was closing permanently, you could use one of these expressions.

The shop is closing its doors
The shop is closing down
They are closing down

shut up shop used to be common, but has declined in post-war years: more so in the US than in the UK.


They are closing.

They're closing.

Both could either mean that the shop is closed for the night or that it is bankrupt. You'd have to look at the shop to be able to tell.


They are closing the shop = closing for the day

The store is closing down = closing permanently.

  • That's a bit oversimplified. Moreover, one could say, "They are closing the shop" and have it mean closing permanently, particularly if context hinted in that direction: They went into business two years ago, but they've never been able to make any money. It's a hard decision for them, but they are closing the shop. – J.R. Jan 21 '18 at 10:05

Yes, the second sentence (They're closing their shop.) could mean they're going out of business, but it's equally possible it means it's closed just for the day. Same with the first sentence.

But there's an idiom, used in American English only, that the other answers haven't mentioned, which is this:

They're closing up shop.

This usually means the shop is going out of business.

John: Have you been to Orange Julius lately?

Mary: No, Orange Julius has closed up shop.

John: I might cry.

With this idiom, you omit the possessive pronoun "there":

Closed up shop [Correct]

Closed up their shop [Not an idiom]


Here are a few references that support what I'm saying:




For what it's worth, I've noticed in all these references "closed forever" is mentioned first and "closed temporarily" is mentioned second.

Here's a reference to shut up shop, supposedly a British idiom:


  • I've only ever heard this idiom "closing up shop" from American English speakers. On this side of the pond the usual idiom is "They're closing down". – gburton Jan 21 '18 at 9:47
  • 1
    @gburton - I've heard closing up shop here in the US, but I think it can mean closing for the day just as easily as closing for good. I think you're "closing down" might be a better option. – J.R. Jan 21 '18 at 10:14
  • According to these NGrams, it is pretty uncommon in AmE books.google.com/ngrams/…, and in BrE is is virtually non-existent books.google.com/ngrams/… – JavaLatte Jan 21 '18 at 10:14
  • OK, I think I made the bad assumption it was used in Britain, because none of the definitions I looked up said it was American-only and Britain uses "shop" more than "store." But I still think close up shop is fairly common in the U.S. That NGram is a little misleading, because closing down is much less specific than closing up shop. And it's more common to say it in simple past tense than continuous: tinyurl.com/y7mx8tra – Ringo Jan 21 '18 at 17:38
  • Per comments, I've modified my answer to say it's American English only. But I stand by the other things I said. – Ringo Jan 21 '18 at 17:47

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