Some people say that you can't use that phrase when the listener is in real bad situations, such as having their arm broken, car accidents or something like those, because the phrase could feel like "Hey that's nothing, just shrug it off and stop being childish".

But I've seen some scenes in many media where people use it even to the ones whose family member has passed away. How should I use "Cheer up" correctly?

  • The meaning of the phrasal verb cheer up can be found in a dictionary ("to become happier"). Whether it should be used in certain situations is a matter of opinion. Oct 14, 2019 at 14:19
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    @JasonBassford The first topic listed on the help page as appropriate for the site is "Word choice, usage, and meaning". Word Choice would surely include whether a word is appropriate for a particular context or not. "Usage" would also surely cover whether a word, having established its definition, is used in a particular way?
    – Astralbee
    Oct 14, 2019 at 14:44
  • What scenes in the media have you seen where a person said "cheer up" to someone whose family member has passed away? Perhaps it was used to illustrate that person's insensitivity?
    – pfalstad
    Oct 14, 2019 at 16:58
  • @pfalstad The most recent thing, I remember, is that the main character said it when her comrade got dipressed from the fact that her father had disappeared and they were convinced that he had been killed on the process. The listener was sure in the lower position than MC but they had been gotten along very well, and she didn't flash back to her for she saying "cheer up".
    – dolco
    Oct 14, 2019 at 17:41
  • @Astralbee I can see no way to respond in an objective way in this case. Saying it's appropriate or not would depend on many variables, none of which have been provided in the question. Oct 14, 2019 at 19:40

3 Answers 3


'Cheer up' means become happier.

There is a difference between grammatically correctly and being socially aware.

Oh your brother has just died, cheer up!

is grammatically correct, but damn insensitive. It is now very rarely considered okay to say "cheer up", "smile it might never happen" etc unless you know the person and what has made them unhappy in the first place.

Here is a scene where it is okay, but it is not okay in virtually any other situation.

Wife: Why are you so sad?
Husband: I just spilt the whole bottle of milk
Wife: Cheer up! I will go to the shop and buy you another one, I was just going anyway.

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    Similarly "So your team lost? Cheer up, perhaps they'll win the next game." If you don't know the reason for a person's sadness is fairly trivial, don't say "cheer up." Oct 14, 2019 at 16:19
  • @WeatherVane Is yours an example of when it can be used or when it can't, as knowing some sports fans I am not sure :)
    – WendyG
    Oct 15, 2019 at 8:50
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    In that case they definitely need to be told to cheer up! Oct 15, 2019 at 8:55

"Cheer up" means to lighten one's mood.

It can be said to someone else as a request, or perhaps more accurately as words of encouragement, for example:

Why are you looking so sad? Cheer up! It can't be that bad!

It can also be used to describe the action of trying to help someone else to lighten their mood, for example:

I'm going over to John's house to see if I can cheer him up.

You are right that it can be said in a way that shows a lack of sympathy for the other person's condition. Context and tone of voice are what make the difference. Obviously, if someone grumpily says "cheer up, for goodness sake!" they are probably not particularly sympathetic towards your situation.

With your specific example of bereavement, I have to say that "cheer up" does seem inappropriate for this context. Most people understand that grieving is necessary, and telling a bereaved person to "cheer up" would be thought of as inconsiderate. However, many people do appreciate some levity during such a time, and it does not seem inappropriate to say that you would like to cheer someone else up, if they were suffering a loss.


Cheer up is used in this context to try and tell someone to not focus on something negative in their life. In your example, people trying to cheer up a friend who had someone pass away in their life, is them trying to get their friend to stop focusing on the negative emotions associated with death and to refocus on something else.

This is why just telling someone to "cheer up" when something is going wrong rarely works. It's like telling someone with a broken leg to simply not feel the pain instead of doing something to take the attention away from it.

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