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I am wondering if you can use the verbal phrase "scoop up" without clarifying what you are scooping up and just mentioning from what container you are scooping up.

For example:

She scooped up an ice cream box.

I don't want to say "from an ice cream box" or "scooped up ice cream from an ice cream box". Is the above sentence valid, and why?

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without clarifying what you are scooping up and just mentioning from what container you are scooping up

If you want to relay this exact sentiment, then your sentence would not be correct. While grammatical, it doesn't relay the meaning that you want:

✘ She scooped up an ice cream box.

This says that she either picked up the ice cream box itself, or she was lucky and got given one for free or on discount (or something like that).


In order to say that you are scooping up something—but not what—and you would use the following construction:

She scooped up something from an ice cream box.

However, you indicate that you don't want to use the wording from an ice cream box.

Alternatives are:

She scooped up the ice cream box's contents.
She scooped up something that was inside an ice cream box.
She used a scoop inside an ice cream box.

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Literally, the term "scoop up" means "to use a scoop (like a small, deep shovel) to collect something that is difficult to collect by hand, such as a pile of dirt, or small rocks, or anything granular.

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You can also scoop up something with your hands, in an action like using a scoop:

The child flung her arms around him as he knelt to scoop her up.

Figuratively, though, the term means to acquire something of value as a kind of bonus to some other action, and before someone else gets it or takes it away.

When playing Monopoly she always aimed to get Broadway and Park Place, but she would not hesitate to scoop up the utilities if given the opportunity.

Carrying the money from the vault, the thief paused to scoop up a small collection of rare coins he noticed. "Waste not, want not," he thought -- but his greed proved his undoing, as the coins were later the key evidence used to convict him of the crime.

In your example it's not clear whether the subject picked up the ice cream box in a scooping motion, or whether the box was a kind of added bonus, incidental to whatever else she was doing. We can assume the use is valid for the context, though.

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