Since "make up" means to fabricate something, I thought saying "make up excuses" would be more common than "make excuses." But Google Books showed me the opposite.

made up excuses (4,580)

made excuses (113,000)

Why is this?

Example sentence:

In elementary school, I always made (up) excuses to skip swimming class.

  • It seems you already know these expressions do not mean the same thing. It's more common for people to make (real) excuses than to make up (false) excuses, at least in the literature. Your guess is as good as ours why this is so.
    – Andrew
    Commented Jun 20, 2019 at 14:47

1 Answer 1


Make up X doesn't mean just to fabricate something, but can mean to fabricate something really quickly or "on the spot." Plain make means to fabricate something without that additional implication.

Since in many situations there's only so many valid excuses to use, and using an existing excuse is easier, perhaps that explains why made excuses is more common than made up excuses.

For example, the typical excuses you'd use to not go to work would be "I'm sick", "a family member passed away", or "personal issues". Making up an excuse would be creating something totally new or different than those.

  • Yes, made an excuse is usually based on the truth, but perhaps a very poor excuse, eg I didn't to my homework because I didn't have a pen. It might be true, but why didn't you get another pen? whereas made up an excuse can sometimes be a flight of fancy eg I haven't got my homework because the dog ate it and will smack of making it up on the spot.
    – Smock
    Commented Jun 20, 2019 at 14:57

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .