Imagine one is behind schedule and then decides to work more than usual to compensate the delay, or the difference between where he is and where must be. Do you have a word or expression or phrase equivalent with the italic part?

In a hiking group, those who fall behind try and catch up with others. It looks as though catch up (with) is typically used with people, can we use it with plan, schedule, lessons etc.?

  • burning the midnight oil and driving through the dawn, respectively.
    – Mazura
    Commented Dec 17, 2018 at 22:30
  • 3
    As a note, you compensate for something, you don't just compensate something. Commented Dec 18, 2018 at 3:47

6 Answers 6


catch up works fine in this case as well, but with a different preposition: on instead of with. See e.g. the examples given by The Free Dictionary:

  1. To do a task that one has neglected.
    • If you haven't done any biology homework in weeks, you better spend this weekend catching up on it—it's due on Tuesday!
    • I'm trying to catch up on work after being out sick, but my inbox alone might take all day!
  • 1
    "Scramble to catch up" further emphasizes the intensity of the work (and also follows the hiking analogy). Commented Dec 18, 2018 at 1:10

Yes, "to catch up" means "to make up a difference." Although the verb is based on the verb "to catch," which primarily has a physical sense, and although "to catch up" in the sense of pulling even after having been physically behind is a meaning in common use, "to catch up" is also commonly used in a more figurative sense.

"Your daughter is behind due to her having been ill and missed so many classes, but I am confident that she can catch up if she does some extra work" is a perfectly good sentence in American English.


... to work more than usual ...

We will have to work overtime to meet the deadline.

We will have to put in some long hours to meet the deadline.

  • These are good examples of phrases for doing extra work, but they only gain the part about compensating for falling behind by way of the inclusion of "to meet the deadline". You may (or may not!) want to draw attention to that.
    – Darael
    Commented Dec 17, 2018 at 21:57
  • @Darael: I have drawn attention to it by quoting the relevant phrase. And working overtime is never just for the fun of it. There's always a justification for it involving some kind of deadline. I think these phrase fit OP's scenario quite well.
    – TimR
    Commented Dec 17, 2018 at 21:58

Less succinct than catch up is make up for lost time. From Dictionary.com:

Also, make up ground . Hurry to compensate for wasted time, as in They married late but hoped to make up for lost time , or We're behind in the schedule, and we'll just have to make up ground as best we can . The first term was first recorded in 1774; the variant dates from the late 1800s.

  • +1. "Make up for" is actually the first phrase that comes to my mind, because it's so much more versatile, not just for time: "You'll have to make up the extra hours in your own time", but also things like: "I'm hoping that if I buy her a new car it will make up for cheating on her", "I need to make up the grades i lost when i did nothing but party last semester", "she thinks the lives she saves now will somehow make up for all those people she killed when she was an assassin"
    – Esco
    Commented Dec 18, 2018 at 16:54

Elucubrate is a related-but-advanced word that roughly means 'produce after burning the midnight oil [to catch up]'. Nobody but the most advanced literature majors will understand you though.


"Working double time" is a one saying I use, don't know of any exclusive verbs.

  • I think of 'double-time' as working more rapidly, not necessarily doing more. I think it's a musical reference i.e. double the tempo.
    – JimmyJames
    Commented Dec 18, 2018 at 16:10

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