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I am trying to describe how to form the shape shown in the above picture. The following is my example:

Fold back/up a strip of paper several times such that the folds are stacked.

According to my dictionaries, what I want to say corresponds to "fold back" or "fold up". Which of the two is better for the shape in the picture?

  • Is there a reason you have to pick either? Fold works fine on it's own as I understand it. – MattCom May 1 '18 at 20:24
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    @MattCom It's perfectly valid to ask the difference between two very similar idioms. – Andrew May 1 '18 at 20:32
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    @Andrew I suppose I was just curious for more context. You're right of course. – MattCom May 1 '18 at 20:33
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    @MattCom fair 'nuff. :) – Andrew May 1 '18 at 20:33
  • Fold your paper into rectangles or squares. – Lambie May 1 '18 at 23:07

Objectively there is not a lot of difference. Either way you are folding something.

Subjectively, though, "fold up" describes the general action, while "fold back" specifically means to fold something to the opposite of some direction. Often this means back, towards yourself.


Please fold up those boxes so it's easier to throw them away

Lay the paper flat, fold in half to make a crease down the middle, and then fold back the leading edge to meet the crease.

If there are multiple folds that go in different directions (as in your example), then it's better to use fold up or just fold.


"fold up" is the better option. To fold something "back", describes a specific orientation of what you're folding. As in, "Facing the box, fold back the top flap to expose the interior of the box."

In this case, you're "folding up the strip of paper as shown".

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