Could there be a difference between "lift up something" and "lift back something", like:

  1. He lifted back his head.
  2. He lifted up his head.

Are these sentences different?


Yes, there is a difference.

The first is grammatically okay, but would rarely be used because a much more common expression is already widely used:

"He tilted his head back."

The second sentence is common.

"lift back" presents an awkward usage to English speakers because "lift" implies a movement in a direction other than "back." That is, "back" implies "behind", whereas "lift" implies "up." They can be used as a phrase, and the listener would deduce a diagonal motion, but it would generally be perceived as an awkward statement.

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"Lifted back" implies that he ended looking straight up, while "lifted up" implies he started looking down, and is now looking ahead.

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"Lift up" is not grammatically correct. It is the same as raise up an object. To lift is to raise and there is no need for the "up"

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