It is said in some dictionaries that "grow" means to increase in amount, size, number, or strength, while "grow up" means one changes from being a child into being an adult or to stop behaving in a silly or childish way.

I want to write a sentence that means if one does something he has never done before, he will become mature. But I don't know which is correct after I compare "grow" and "grow up" in the following sentences.

  1. To do things you have never done before is called growing.
  2. To do things you have never done before is called growing up.

Both terms are perfectly acceptable in the cited context. Broadly speaking they mean about the same thing - it's just that they have significantly different connotations.

Native speakers will understand this specific use of growing as a metaphorical reference to developing, improving (intellectually and/or emotionally, not literally as in increased physical stature). Even a 70-year-old could say something like...

I still like to learn new things - when you stop learning, you stop growing.

In the above context it would be extremely unusual (bordering on "nonsensical") to use growing up, with all its connotations of the specific difference between childish and adult behaviour / attitudes.

Note that to grow up in this context is similar to to end up, to finish up, to break up - that added preposition imparts a note of "completeness, finality". The implication being that there are only two possible states for a human being - childish (but "developing") and grown-up (a static end state).

TL;DR: If you want to talk about how people (young and old alike) can develop / improve their emotional and cognitive skills by continually exposing themselves to new experiences and information, use growing.

If you just want to focus on (one of) the defining characteristics of adolescence (the transition from child to adult), use growing up.

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Literally, to grow is to become bigger, and to grow up is to grow towards maturity or to attain maturity.

A river may grow after a heavy rain, but a river cannot grow up.

Only that which can reach maturity can grow up.

That which can reach maturity can grow and it can also grow up.

Figuratively, to grow means to develop mentally and emotionally.

So, when we use grow of people, it can mean "to become physically larger" (literal) or "to become emotionally and mentally more developed" (figurative).

Figuratively, to grow up means to become an adult, or to reach adulthood, emotionally, in our mental outlook.

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  • 1
    +1 for "Figuratively, to grow means to develop mentally and emotionally." That's the key to why the OP's first option may be the more appropriate one. – J.R. Jul 19 '18 at 11:56

If you want the sentence to mean, that the person matures, then the second choice is better.

You already gave the reason for it in your question by saying, that "growing up" means to mature.

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  • To be honest, I inclined to choose "grow up", but I was not sure of it. Thank you. – Water Jul 19 '18 at 8:36

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