Consider this expression

I will be off tomorrow at work, I am going back to my college to pick up a few documents.

Is pick up correct in this context? I have seen it being used in the context people only

for example

I need to pick my friend up at the airport.

If it is not correct then what word should I use in the given expression?

1 Answer 1


"Pick up something" has different meanings:

  • To take hold of something and lift it up (It is also used for people)

    She went over to the crying child and picked her up.

  • To receive an electronic signal, sound or picture

    We were able to pick up the BBC World Service.

  • To get information or a skill by chance rather than by making a deliberate effort

    Here's a tip I picked up from my mother.
    She picked up Spanish when she was living in Mexico.

  • To identify or recognize something

    Scientists can now pick up early signs of the disease.

  • To collect something from a place

    I picked up my coat from the cleaners.

The last meaning is the one that applies in your case.

In your second sentence "pick up somebody" means "to go somewhere in your car and collect somebody who is waiting for you"; the OALD says that "pick up somebody" in that case is a synonym of collect.

  • 3
    There's also the meaning (informal, perhaps slightly vulgar) "pick up" meaning to meet someone new for a casual (esp. sexual) relationship. The term "pick-up line" follows this meaning: "That cute guy had the cheesiest pick-up lines including 'I'm not drunk, I'm just intoxicated by you.'" or "Sometimes local businessmen go to that bar hoping to pick up local university girls". This originated as meaning (5) on your list, but is now a distinct meaning.
    – Matt
    Apr 24, 2013 at 14:55

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