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to end up in the army (dictionary.com verb, end #30)

End’ denotes ‘reach or arrive at a final condition, circumstance, or goal (often followed by up)'. Then if it, end up, is followed by prepositional phrases, participles, adjectives, does ‘up’ denote ‘into the following state’?

  • Where will it all end? It will all end in tears (never up there). The optional preposition up mainly helps to differentiate contexts like "His career started in Australia, but ended up in America". Where without the explicit phrasal verb form to end up = [eventually] arrive at, one might be tempted to mistakenly draw the inference that his career is already over at time of speaking. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Oct 19 '14 at 13:39
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I don't think it helps to view the up as having its own denotation here. The meaning of end up is certainly related to the meanings of various other verb-particle idioms with up (such as wind up: "we wound up talking for hours"; and turn up: "he turned up missing"), but ultimately, they are idioms, and best viewed as complete wholes.

Syntactically, too, it is end up + <adverbial>, not end + up <adverbial>; for example, one can say "Where did he end up?", but never *"Up where did he end?"

The opposite of end up, incidentally, is start out: "he started out in the Army". It works much the same way.

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