I know that this may sound a little stupid, but as a foreign we face different challenges trying to get used to the language.

I'll reach up to you.

I'll reach out to you?

  • The appropriate preposition might depend very much on context. For example, It'll reach up to you could be a reference to a rising tide on a beach (perhaps speaker is warning a sunbather that they'll soon get wet if they don't move further up the beach). But It'll reach out to you could be a (more metaphoric) statement about some pro-active "suicide watch" organisation that makes a point of regularly contacting (reaching out to) people on their "at risk" list who haven't checked in lately. Feb 14, 2018 at 18:05
  • I think that only "out" is common, and only in a figurative sense. To me, "I'll reach out to you" is a common expression that means that I will communicate with you, particularly when I need your help or when I have help to offer. That figurative sense must be more common than the literal sense, which would apply if someone was inside an elevator for example and reaching out of the elevator to touch or grab someone in the hallway.
    – Chaim
    Feb 14, 2018 at 20:01
  • "I'll reach up to you" seems to have only a literal sense, but one that seems even stranger. I guess that if I expected to be in a hole in the ground as you passed by, I could also expect to reach up to you to touch or grab you.
    – Chaim
    Feb 14, 2018 at 20:02

1 Answer 1


Up means toward the sky or top of something.

Out generally means toward the exit or opening of a container, room, or other enclosed space.

Both of these can imply "away from X" in the sense of increasing the distance between you and X.

Now, the tricky part is phrasal verbs. Up and out are used with many verbs in the manner of an adverb (or sometimes called a particle), and are basically part of the verb. This has various effects:

  • In many cases it changes the meaning of the verb. Break means to make something from a whole into pieces - often violently. Break up means for two people in a relationship to stop being in a relationship.

  • There are many, many phrasal verbs with up and out that mean different than the base verb, e.g. throw out (=to discard), walk out on (=to abandon), throw up (=to vomit), shut up (=rude way of saying "be quiet"), knock out (=make unconscious), knock up (=make pregnant), etc.

    • In these cases the meaning of up or out ceases to be about any physical relation. However, the non-phrasal meaning is still possible sometimes. E.g. "I threw the ball out to Jeremy" could be said to mean you threw the ball away from your immediate area to Jeremy.
  • Sometimes up is used with a verb of motion to mean the motion was done until it was no longer possible. E.g. "I walked up to the counter" = "I walked until I was as close to the counter as possible."

  • Up is frequently used with a verb to mean "completely" - "I tied up the bags and they are ready to transport", "I ate up all the candy"

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