I wonder what does the expression "get up enough nerves to do something" mean as in the following context?

My mother was feeling very bad as she sat on the couch looking at all of her children, but she didn't get up enough nerves to tell us what was on her mind. (Source)

Unfortunately, I didn't find any dictionary that explained this structure. This is why I doubt if it is a common expression in English.


2 Answers 2


get up (one's) nerve (to do something) - To muster or draw upon one's courage or resolve to do something. The Free Dictionary

In your context, the mother doesn't have the courage to tell her children what is on her mind (presumably because it's bad and she doesn't want to upset/disturb their play).

Fairly common idiom (at least in BrE).

Edit to answer questions in the comment:

For instance, let's say a teacher who is in a bad mood and cannot teach because he/she cannot endure dealing with kids for now. It has happened because they are not patient enough to do such that thing at that moment perhaps due to an unpleasant thing that just happened to him/her and they have just got to know it through a phone call. So, how would you explain such a situation when he/she doesn't have enough patience (as well as being nervous) to do it ?

The definition given about phrase as a whole. If we swap "Get up" to "Get on" we get a different meaning:

"Get on [ones] nerves" - To annoy someone a lot Cambridge Dictionary Def.

The kids were getting on the teachers nerves.

It's worth noting that the teacher is unlikely to have lost patience and be nervous, since those two traits aren't often seen together. You could say something along the lines of:

The kids were getting on the teachers nerves, but she was also too nervous to tell them to be quiet.

  • But @Bee I thought it means the mother was not relaxed so much to tell us what was in her mind. Because she was so nervous. Was my takeaway incorrect?
    – A-friend
    Jul 10, 2019 at 17:35
  • A friend, your comment doesn't make sense, please can you try rephrasing?
    – Gamora
    Jul 10, 2019 at 22:53
  • I'm not really sure if patience can be associated with nervousness: patience - the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, problems, or suffering without becoming annoyed or anxious. (Google Def.) What do you mean by "if there is any idiom to the meaning in my question"? I believe I have answered the question you ask
    – Gamora
    Jul 11, 2019 at 15:26
  • As I mentioned @Bee I am looking for an idiom/expression to indicate that "someone doesn't have enough nerves to do something."
    – A-friend
    Jul 12, 2019 at 6:39
  • 1
    "I don't have enough nerves to teach now" - Means the teacher is nervous only. It does not convey that have lost patience. "Teaching is getting on my nerves now." - Means that they have lost patience but does not convey that they are nervous.
    – Gamora
    Jul 12, 2019 at 9:34

"Nerve" has the meaning of "courage" in this example, as noted in the answer above. My mother was feeling very bad as she sat on the couch looking at all of her children, but she didn't have the courage to tell us what was on her mind.

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