1 He might end up in prison.
2 She'll almost certainly end up back on the game.
3 That's how you end up with arms like Jennifer Aniston, doing that.
4 Dr Jawanda wouldn't give the Hubbards' son antibiotics and he ended up hospitalized for his asthma.
(The Casual Vacancy, by J. K. Rowling)

What does ‘up’ mean in the above examples? Sometimes I get the impression that it has the meaning of approaching/arriving to the following state: in 1, He might end, arriving to the state of in prison. And sometimes I get the impression that it has the meaning of completely: in I, He might end, completely, in prison. What does ‘up’ mean when it combines with ‘end’?

  • 3
    You should just handle end up as an idiom. – user3169 Nov 29 '14 at 2:46
  • 3
    This "up" expresses the idea of finally. – rogermue Nov 29 '14 at 7:01
  • 1
    'up' can go with many verbs: "Hey, wait up! I can't walk that fast, with my bad ankle.". "We haven't seen your missing watch. Maybe it will turn up in Lost-n-Found." "The cowboy sidled up to the bar and ordered a shot of rotgut." "We haven't covered all the possibilities, by any means, but let's wrap this up." – Tᴚoɯɐuo Nov 29 '14 at 13:42

Let's see the definitions first

  1. to have something as a final result (Macmillan)
  2. to finally be in a particular place or situation (Cambridge)

In short it is 'the end result of something'

Most of the times this something will bring 'unwanted or unexpected' results for you. (Sometimes end up is used for planned actions also)

For example

  1. In a movie you might say - The hero dies and the villain ends up in marrying the girl.

  2. Don't go on riding your bike too fast. You don't want to end up in a hospital, do you ?

(Here the rider is not expecting that he'll end up in a hospital because of an accident. But that's what he'll get if goes on riding too fast. So the result is unwanted for him)

  1. How did you end up with so much money ?

(Here the results is not 'unwanted' but it is 'unexpected'. Your friend who just had enough to go by and one day suddenly you see him driving a car. So you might wonder that where did he get all the money from. So 'end up' could be used here.)


OxfordDictionaries has an entry for this

ends up (no object) - Eventually come to a specified place or situation

Said that, if something ends with a sort of procedure, end up is preferred. On the other hand, something ends may mean an abrupt end.

I observe that ends up is preferred over ends when humans are involved. However, this does not mean we don't use ends at all in those cases.

  • Can we write- He might ends in prison? Is it grammatical? – Rucheer M Nov 29 '14 at 4:56
  • 4
    @RuchirM No, might ends is two finite verbs in a single clause, so it's ungrammatical. – snailplane Nov 29 '14 at 4:59

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