Looks like, in my non-native view, the usages of the word Up are pretty much always come with colloquial and informal tones. Such as...

Shut it! = Shut up!

Meet with = Meet up with

What's going on? = What's up?

Wait! = Wait up!

What on earth are you doing? = What are you up to?

Until this time where have you been? = Up until this time~

Am I correct? So if it is, is it simply a good advice not to use the Up at some writing tests or something?

  • 1
    How else would you say "dig up" when excavating some buried treasure, or discovering rare facts? That is not informal, but normal usage. Another wholly grammatical use would be to say "Look up" when asked, say, where a balloon has gone. – Weather Vane Oct 19 '18 at 18:53
  • The answer is: it depends. :) – Lambie Oct 19 '18 at 20:19

First of all, up can function in a number of different ways grammatically and in some of its functions, it's harder to avoid. For instance, when it's an adverb: The direction the rocket travels is up.

What you have identified (for the most part) are phrasal verbs that use the particle up, and indeed, many of these are informal. However, some phrasal verbs that use up are not informal (or not what I would call informal), such as get up, look up, set up.

There are more formal verbs that could be used in place of those phrasal verbs (arise/awaken, investigate/research, arrange/establish), but that doesn't make the phrasal verbs inappropriate for most contexts.

That said, there's no telling what your teacher/tester/editor might find acceptable.


The original (screw-up) was used in Shakespeare's time to transform a noun (a screw) into a verb (to screw). Eventually, it settled back as a noun (a screw-up), but that's not important to this story. So yes, it was an informality for someone in the 1600's who didn't care to find the appropriate verb. But it's such an old informality that the degree of informality is relatively slight. If anything, it speaks to a smaller vocabulary, that words would need to take up double-duty as nouns and verbs.

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