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Why do we sometimes use save up, and sometimes save in the sentence about money? Is there any difference between them?

For example:

  • Know how much money you have saved up.
  • Know how much money you have saved.
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    I think the choice is between “saved up” and “saved” if you are referring to the past or forming an adjective. “Have save” is not correct in any context. – Tyler James Young Mar 4 '14 at 19:01
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Firstly, I think your second example should be have saved, rather than have save.

To save up pretty much always means deliberately putting money aside for something. There will be a purpose, and a defined saving period: you choose when to start saving, and you finish when you (hopefully) reach a certain amount, and/or reach a deadline. The 'up' implies working towards something, even if it is not specified in the sentence.

To save can imply that you are putting money aside, gathering/gaining money, or not spending money. There may be a specific purpose, target amount, deadline, but there may not. It can be deliberate or not.

A simple rule: (in my experience of British English), if there is no target/purpose, you should say 'save', not 'save up'. If there is a target/purpose, 'save up' is more natural (although you can say 'save').

Examples:

  • You get a 33% discount at a shop. You look at the receipt to see how much money you have saved [=not had to pay].
  • You put 10% of your wages into a separate account each month. You look at the balance to see how much money you have saved [=accrued, no obvious purpose].
  • You put 10% of your wages into a separate account each month so you can buy a house one day. You look at the balance to see how much you have saved up [=accrued, specific purpose
  • You stopped buying takeaway coffee two years ago. You do a quick calculation to see how much you have saved [=not spent]. It's a lot!
  • You are going on holiday next year and it's going to be expensive, so you are saving up [=deliberately putting money aside] for it.
  • Your friend asks if you want to go for dinner. You would love to, but you say no, because you're saving up [=deliberately putting money aside] for a new car.
  • Your friend asks if you want to go for a drink. You would love to, but you say no, because you're trying to save money [=generally trying to spend less money].
  • You are hoping to have a baby in a few years, so you are saving up [=deliberately putting money aside because you know you will need it, even if you don't know exactly how much it will cost, or what you will buy]
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One of the numerous meanings of the verb save is not to waste, to prevent loss. And you can use save with that meaning when talking about money.

They use cheap material to save money on production.

You would not use up in that case.

Another meaning is to accumulate, to put aside, in order to collect a certain amount for a purpose. With money it means to spend less money than you get and collect up to a certain amount. In this sense save or save up can be used indifferently.

I must save money for my holiday.
I must save up money for my holiday.

Note that money is not compulsory. If you say:

I must save for my holiday / I must save up for my holiday.

everybody understands you are talking about money. If you meant something else you would express it:

I must save energy for my holiday.

The difference I would make between save and save up is that maybe the use of save "up" shows the gradual effort one makes to accumulate the required amount.

To go back to you examples you could use either :

I want to know how much money you have saved up.
I want to know how much money you have saved.

or if you want to ask a question:

How much (money) have you saved up?
How much (money) have you saved?

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Putting up after a verb can do some interesting things. Sometimes it changes the meaning slightly, sometimes drastically, and sometimes not much at all.

For example, to grow means to get bigger, but to grow up means to age and mature.

Consider the word shut; I can say:

  • I will shut the door (that is, I will close it).
  • I will shut up the shop (that is, I will turn out the lights and lock the front door).
  • I will shut up now (that is, I will quiet down and be silent).

Also, consider the word work:

  • I can work a crowd (that is, I can try to get a crowd to receive me favorably)
  • I can work up a crowd (that is, I can try to get them into an emotional frenzy)
  • I can also work up a sweat while I work.

Here's an example where the two sentences pretty much mean the same thing, and the inclusion of up changes nothing more than the tone:

  • Go wake your aunt Jane.
  • Go wake up your aunt Jane.

and sometimes up is used in place of an object, when that object is obvious from the context:

  • Go wash your hands before dinner.
  • Go wash up before dinner.
  • (but not: Go wash up your hands before dinner.)

Now, back to save and save up. I don't think save up is really much different from save, although save by itself can be used in a broader array of contexts.

Consider:

  • I am going to save up for a new motorcycle.
  • I am going to save for a new motorcycle.

Both of these mean that I will start saving money. The word up may imply there is some long-range goal, but I don't think it's a necessary word (unlike in shut example – I cannot simply say I will shut the shop).

However, in this context:

  • I will save some money by using these coupons.

The phrase save up would not be appropriate if I'm only referring to getting a good bargain.

In your two sentences:

  • Know how much money you have saved.
  • Know how much money you have saved up.

If you are talking about how much money I've put aside for my new motorcycle, then either sentence will work. However, if you are talking about the amount of money I've saved by using coupons, then only the first sentence will work.

One last point: Regional variations may apply; sometimes the meaning of an included up can vary between American and British English, for example. Here's one example: in American English, knock up is coarse slang for getting a woman pregnant; in British English, the same expression means to knock at someone's door to wake them up. So, you want to be very careful before you say, "I want you to knock me up in the morning" – particularly if you are a woman.

  • Thanks for these so enlightening differences between US and Br English! – Laure Mar 5 '14 at 11:46

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