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Let's say you just arrived at your girlfriend's house, her mother opened the door after you had knocked a few times. And then:

You: Hello Mrs. Jones, is Scandiva (you're girlfriend's name) there?

Mother: Oh yes, come on in.

You: Sorry, I'm just here quick, she had asked me to pick her up

Am I correct here when using this phrase? Because this really sounds awkward or something, like your girlfriend asks you for the sexual thing because of the way I say it?

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    "I'm just here quick" isn't natural. Something like "Sorry but I am in a hurry" or "Sorry but I am running late today" might be better. – user3169 May 9 '18 at 22:07
  • Ditto about "just here quick" being unnatural. I'm just dropping by to pick S. up. – Tᴚoɯɐuo May 9 '18 at 22:32
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    You can only pick up a stranger when the meaning is sexual. You cannot pick somebody up whom you already know, not in that sense. – Tᴚoɯɐuo May 9 '18 at 22:34
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"Pick her up" (or "pick him up") has (at least) two meanings.

The conventional meaning is "to stop at someone's house or wherever they might be and give them a ride somewhere". "I picked Sally up at home and took her to work." That appears to be the way you're using it.

Another meaning is "to convince someone to engage in romantic or sexual activities with you". "I picked Sally up at a bar and we had wild passionate sex." Presumably not what you mean here.

Both uses are common. You can usual tell from context which someone means. I'm sure there are misunderstandings and deliberate jokes about the meaning being confused.

I wouldn't be afraid to say it. While there are some terms where the sexual meaning is what comes to people's minds first and you could offend people, I don't think that's the case here.

  • I wouldn't be afraid to use the phrase, either, but I'll tell you what: If I was Scandiva's parent, I would not be impressed by the declined offer to come in. It may not be a grammatical issue, but it sure would be a politeness one. – J.R. May 9 '18 at 21:43
  • @Jay well, more than two meanings, which of course can be exploited for humorous effect, e.g. "Some guys just go to the gym to pick up women"* – Andrew May 9 '18 at 22:10
  • This is what I am avoiding to happen, to be viewed by parents by such. How about: I'm just dropping by to pick her up for her to be safe going to work how's that now? – John Arvin May 10 '18 at 2:33
  • If you said, "I'm just dropping by to pick up Scandiva", that would be understood to mean "give her a ride". I suppose a particularly suspicious parent might say, "What do you mean by that?", but if someone's going to look for sinister meanings in everything you say, it probably doesn't matter what you say. – Jay May 10 '18 at 14:57
  • @J.R. True, refusing to come inside would be odd and perhaps rude, unless Scandiva was literally standing just inside the door ready to go and in a hurry because you're running late. But that's a "personal interaction" issue and not a "grammar issue". But yeah, you'd be better to say "thanks", go in and chat politely for 2 minutes, and then leave. – Jay May 10 '18 at 14:59
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It's fine to say "pick her up." In this context there's no sexual connotation. It just means you're there to get her and bring her somewhere in a vehicle. Just note that with "picking up" someone, it always is used to mean that you're taking them somewhere in a vehicle (you're not walking together somewhere).

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    In my region (UK) 'picking up' can just mean 'collect on the way to somwhere' and it does not necessarily mean that the person picking up will drive the person being picked up away in a motor vehicle. I can pick someone up from their home and we could walk to the bus stop, or subway station, or just walk together. – Michael Harvey May 9 '18 at 21:45
  • @MichaelHarvey Interesting — personally I would only use “pick up” if I’m driving someone somewhere, although I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s regional variation in how the phrase is used. – Jimmy S May 9 '18 at 22:05
  • So I can use that in the UK but not in the USA huh, just without being misunderstood that they might take it as sexual. Ok then, got it – John Arvin May 10 '18 at 2:26

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