Beat up as a transitive verb means: "to give a severe beating to, etc."

Example: I got beaten up by thugs on my way home.

Also, Cambridge says:

Beat up: to hurt someone badly by hitting or kicking them repeatedly:

Example: He claims he was beaten up by the police.

Now, let's say someone is bothering a bully who doesn't tend to fight them. He just wants to warn and threaten the guy to go away, otherwise he would beat them severely.

Which one of the following sentences would indicate the message that the bully needs to convey to the annoying guy:

1- Get out of here, or you'll get beaten up.
2- Get out of here, or you'll get beaten badly.

I think both sentences indicate the same meaning and both are completely natural. But I had to inquire about it.


You beat someone up. You beat someone up badly.

You would not say to someone: Get out of here, or you will get beaten (up) badly [by me].

You would say: Get out of here, or I will beat you up!

That is what you tell someone else: He got badly beaten (up) by those guys.

  • Thank you @Lambie, just why in "He got badly beaten (up) by those guys," "up" is optional, while in your previous sentence it wasn't?
    – A-friend
    Jun 12 '19 at 19:08
  • Now, I fixed that.
    – Lambie
    Jun 12 '19 at 19:18
  • How about: "You would say: Get out of here, or I will beat you up!"? Is "up" optional here too @Lambie?
    – A-friend
    Jun 12 '19 at 19:38
  • Yes, it is. I put it in.
    – Lambie
    Jun 12 '19 at 19:52
  • Although in "get out of here or I'll beat you up" the word "up" is nit still within paranthesis is your answer, but what you mention here @Lambie, means that both "beat someone" and "beaten someone up" can be used interchangeably when it comes to showing aggression to someone. But others mentioned that, the verb "beat" by itself is used when you are refering to a sport match. It just made me more confused. I wonder if you could answer this question. I guess then, I have the answer to my question.
    – A-friend
    Jun 13 '19 at 5:56

To my ears (British English), beat alone in this sense is not very common, and suggests either historical ("The gang ambushed the riders and beat them") or quasi-official ("He was beaten by his captors") action, or formal language. In all ordinary use, I would expect beat up (both active and passive).

So to me, your first example is completely natural, your second is a bit stilted. (And without the "get out of here" would much more readily mean "you will lose in whatever game it is you are playing").

  • I see @Colin Fine; does it mean that in current English, people rarely or never use "beat" in this sense by itself and it must come along with "up"? For instance instead of saying: "She's a cruel woman. Sometimes, I've seen that she beats her children" I have to say: "She's a cruel woman. Sometimes, I've seen that she beats her children up". Right? Also, instead of saying: "We fought and he got beaten by me" I have to say: "We fought and he got beaten up by me". Do you confirm? If so I guess the bully must say: "Get out of here or you'll get beaten up badly."Do you confirm?
    – A-friend
    Jun 12 '19 at 16:11
  • 1
    @A-friend "Beating children" is one of the only contexts where "beat" on its own is still used in that sense. "She beats her children up", while the meaning is still clear, isn't really ever used, as it sounds more casual, and generally beating children is a serious thing. Additionally, "to beat someone in a fight", rather than "to beat up", usually just means that you won the fight (e.g., "I finally beat that hard boss in Final Fantasy").
    – scatter
    Jun 12 '19 at 17:25
  • I agree with Colin Fine, you would not say 2) to someone. You would say: or I'll beat you up. Then, when telling someone about it, you might say: He was beaten up badly by those men. I do not think this is a BrE/AmE issue (sigh).
    – Lambie
    Jun 12 '19 at 18:46

Phrasal verbs with "up" usually indicates "completeness". So "beaten up" means "completely beaten".

So the meaning of "beaten up" is pretty similar to "beaten badly".

You can also move the adverb around: "He was badly beaten". Anyhow using the adverb "badly" is rather more like written language.

It is just about possible that there is an ambiguity in using "badly". It could mean "without skill". That would not be the usual interpretation, but could be the basis of a joke: "He was beaten badly, so I found someone who knew how to beat someone well." (not very funny)

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.