Down 4 b informal : to or toward a place that is thought of as below or away from another place

A1. She drove down to our house.
A2. Come on down and see us sometime.

4 c : to or toward a place that is away from the speaker

A3. He is heading down to the store.
A4. Would you mind moving (further) down so that we can sit here, too?


Up 4 b informal : to or toward a place that is thought of as above or away from another place

B1. She went up to the cabin for the weekend.
B2. How long will it take to drive up (to their house) and back?
B3. Come on up and see us sometime.

5 a : to or toward a place that is close to someone or something

B4. I walked up to her and said “hello.”
B5. Please pull up a chair.
B6. He lay down and pulled the covers up.

I find these definitions very interesting. It seems using down or up makes no difference to the examples in both 4 b when altitude doesn't need to be taken into consideration. Is it true?

However, as for 4 c and 5 a, I might think it's a little bit different.

For A3, I suppose both up and down work just fine and make no difference in meaning.

For A4, I suppose using up wouldn't make sense as moving-up only helps to make things worse.

For B4, I have a gut feeling that using down isn't as good as using up, but I cannot explain why.

For B5, firstly, I don't know whether the speaker is asking the addressee to pull the chair to the speaker or the addressee or either of them depending on the context. Second, I suppose using down would mean the opposite - being away from the speaker; the same is true of B6.

Is my understanding correct? Please help to clear up my confusion.

  • possible duplicate of Difference between "off", "down", "up" and "along" Commented Dec 5, 2014 at 16:34
  • I did have a gut feeling that you would say so, really. :-) I'm asking it because I think it's more specific and covers more of what I have been thinking about recently. The following two answers are really great. Whether this is a duplicate doesn't matter now. :) @FumbleFingers
    – Kinzle B
    Commented Dec 6, 2014 at 1:30

2 Answers 2


With go, or verbs that can be interchanged with go, such as drive, walk, move, etc., sometimes the relation between the destination and speaker can be expressed with either verb.

I went down to the store.

I went up to the store.

Do we consider the store "down" or "up" from us? Assuming the store is not significantly downhill/uphill from you, it doesn't matter too much. In my opinion, "down" may have a bit of meaning of "forward" or "in front of," - something I've commonly heard is "I'm going to walk down this path" when you really mean "I'm walking forward along the path."

Conversely "up" will have a bit of meaning of "behind." This isn't really a hard and fast rule and could vary widely depending on region.

The implication in using either word is that a bit of a journey was involved or will be involved.

Native speakers would understand either way, unless the "X" in "I went down/up to X" is physically higher or lower than you. Saying "I'm going down to the third floor" when you are on the second floor will confuse people. Saying "I'm going down to the restuarant" will not.

In A4, assuming a situation of theater seats where they are all in a row (none are really "up" or "down") - you could substitute "up" and not really change the meaning, though "down" sounds more natural.

A4. Would you mind moving (further) up so that we can sit here, too?

Regarding 5a, "up" or "up to" can also mean "near," particularly with words that involve the subject moving items (pull up, push up), or the subject moving himself/herself/itself ("up to" will be used - ran up to, walked up to, etc.)


As ultrasawblade says, "up" and "down" are often interchangeable. "I am going up to the store" and "I am going down to the store" do not have any clear difference in meaning.

When there is a clear and relevant difference in altitude, "up" and "down" are used with their natural meanings. "I am going up to the top of the hill." "I am going down to the bottom of the valley." But no one uses up and down for coincidental differences in altitude. I mean, if I was going to, say, a grocery store a few miles from my house, I might well say "I'm going down to the grocery store", even if the grocery store is actually on land that is 50 feet higher above sea level than my house. I have never heard anyone say, "No, you must say 'up to the grocery store', because it's at a higher elevation."

Sometimes people use "up" and "down" in directions to mean "north" and "south". Like "I am going up to Maine" versus "I am going down to Florida".

"Down the river" means in the direction that the water is flowing, while "up the river" means the opposite direction. As water normally flows from higher elevations to lower, this makes sense. I recall as a kid wondering why "the Upper Nile" was south of "the Lower Nile" until I realized they were thinking upstream versus downstream rather than north versus south.

When I lived near New York City, where the streets are all numbered, people said "uptown" meaning to streets with higher numbers and "downtown" for streets with lower numbers.

"Pull up a chair" is an idiom meaning to sit in a chair at a table or some other specified location. It can mean to move a chair, but not necessarily. Like if you meet friends at a place where there are many tables with chairs around them, like a restaurant, they might say, "Hey, pull up a chair and join us", meaning, take a chair from another table and bring it to this table, then sit down with us. But people also say "pull up a chair" when the chair is already at the table, in which case they simply mean "sit in a chair". No one says "pull down a chair" in this context. If I heard someone say "pull down a chair" my first thought would be that the chairs are stored on some high shelf and you must pull one down from this shelf.

"Pull up the covers" means to position a blanket over yourself or someone else. "Pull down the covers" means to remove a blank from someone. Like, "I got into bed and pulled up the covers", versus "I pulled down the covers and got out of bed."

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