While I was reading a book, a book character screamed

"Shut the fuck up down there!"

I can't pick apart any phrasal verbs from this sentence.


The phrasal verb is shut up.

Shut up: To ​stop ​talking or making a ​noise, or to make a ​person or ​animal ​stop making ​noise:
I ​wish you’d shut up and ​listen.
Shut up! I'm ​trying to ​think.
Can you shut that ​dog up?

In the sentence

"Shut the fuck up down there!"

The words the fuck are most likely "semantically inert". They only serve to add emphasis. We can omit them:

Shut up down there!

The words down there reflect the position of the person(s) to whom the sentence is addressed. The person pronouncing the sentence could be on a floor that is above the addressee's, for instance.

After screaming the sentence, the book character might pick up the phone and say to his/her friend:

There are some people down there who were singing loudly. I just told them to shut up. Yes, to shut the fuck up.

  • 1
    Wait... What if you take "the fuck" to mean a person or anything else that can make noise? ... Then again, a "fuck up" could be a noun by itself... ... Context... Hmm...
    – Malady
    Sep 27 '15 at 18:04
  • 2
    @Malandy - I couldn't agree more: "Context is King". You might post an answer addressing the possibilities mentioned in your comment. I based mine on the premise that the enquirer is a basic-level learner and the sentence is a run-of-the-mill sentence, with "the fuck" being emphatically laden but semantically void. I certainly missed a fuckton of exciting linguistic variations in my answer, being the lazy __ that I am. (0: Sep 27 '15 at 18:08
  • Posted an answer...
    – Malady
    Sep 27 '15 at 21:07

Yes, Context is necessary. Out of context it parses: You (favorite colorful adjective inserted here) people need to stop making (more colorful adjectives can go here) noise (talking, singing, banging on pots, etc) Immediately.

  • This seems like it would be better as a comment, either as a reply to my reply to CopperKettle's answer, or as a comment on the main question itself...
    – Malady
    Sep 27 '15 at 21:02

CopperKettle's answer is almost certainly the intended meaning.

However, it could mean several things. As a shorthand, people are designated by a capital letter, such as A or B. A→B means A is talking to B.

  1. (CopperKettle's answer.) "Shut up" means to stop talking. "The fuck" is semantically inert to add emphasis. "Down there" is a location, which could refer either to the location of the person we're talking to, or the location we expect the shutting up to occur.

    A sings loudly and annoyingly while people are trying to study.
    B→A: Shut the fuck up down there!
    Meaning: I really want you, who is down there, to shut up, because your noise bothers me a lot.
    Similar: Shut up!

    As an example of the other meaning of "down there":

    A is still singly loudly, but now we're outside the library.
    B→A: Your singing is annoying. I'll tolerate it, but the people in the library won't. So:
    B→A: Shut the fuck up down there!
    Meaning: Once you get down (there) to the library, shut the fuck up!
    Similar: Shut up when you're in the library!

  2. "Shut up" is to make someone else stop talking. "The fuck" refers to a thing or (more likely) person that we are expressing contempt for. "Down there" is a location. Typically, we'd use a phrase such as "stupid fuck" or "silly fuck" instead of just "fuck" in this context, but the single word would still work.

    A→B: B, you're such a fuck.
    B→A: But I'm a really smart fuck!
    C→A: Shut the fuck up down there!
    Meaning: A, who is down there, make B, who is also down there (and is a fuck), shut up!
    Similar: A, shut B up!

  3. "Fuck up" means "mistake". "Shut down" means to close something, or make it stop functioning. "There" is a location.

    A and B attempt to create a time portal, but everything goes wrong and really bad stuff is about to happen. A→B: Shut the time portal down there!
    B→A: It's not a time portal, it's a fuck up!
    A→B: Shut the fuck up down there!
    Meaning: There's a horribly-botched attempt at making a time portal, it's near where you're standing, and I want you to shut it down.
    Similar: Shut down that fucked-up excuse for a time portal!

    Another alternate meaning of "there".

    Meaning: Shut down the botched experiment, but do it there rather than here.
    Similar: Don't shut it down here, shut it down over there!

  4. As in (2), but now "shut up" means to literally close something. This is rare, but hypothetically correct. In this context, you'd normally see "sew up", "close up", "heal up" or "fix up" instead of "shut up".

    A gets hit by a flying table-saw blade and his arm is gushing blood.
    B is a doctor or nurse trained in sutures.
    B→A: You fuck! I told you not to disable the safety brake!
    C→B: Shut the fuck up down there!
    Meaning: B (who is down there), suture the wounds of A, who is a fuck (and also down there), closed.
    Similar: B, I need you to sew up A because he's a fuck!

As mentioned, (1) is probably the correct meaning, especially for something written in a book. However, (2) to (4) are, to the best of my knowledge, grammatically correct, and you're likely to hear similar things in real life. And I'm sure I missed a bunch of other interpretations. Such as being deliberately ambiguous because multiple meanings are valid. (I want you to shut that fuck up, up, then I want you to shut the fuck up too, you fucker!)

Of note, there's a lot of information missing in text that you can hear in speech, such as pauses or emphases. The first would likely be "shut the fuck up down there!" (possibly drawing out the expletive -- "shut thuuff fuck up..."); the second would be "shut the fuck, up down there!"; the third would be "shut the fuckup down, there" (the pause would be more noticeable with the alternate meaning of "there"); and the fourth would be "shut the fuck, up, down there!"


The interpretation of "Shut the fuck up down there!", depends on context.

"Fuck" could be "semantically inert" as CopperKettle said in their answer,

or "fuck up" could be a noun referring to an unknown noisemaker or some other noun, with "shut" as "lock up" or "close", and "down there" as the location to shut the fuck up in, or the current location of the fuck up which is requested to be closed.

  • 1
    I cannot think of any context in which it would make sense to use the fuck up as the object of shut as a transitive verb as you suggest. If it were not for there, Shut the fuck up down, could mean “shut down” (turn off) “the fuck up” (the problem). Alternatively, the fuck could be the object of the order to shut up.
    – KRyan
    Sep 27 '15 at 22:09
  • In all my years of speaking I've never, ever, heard "fuck" used as a proper noun (and my life seems to involve a lot of swearing...) But, now that you mention it, the existence of such a thing could be highly beneficial. I wonder what F.U.C.K. could be an acronym for, I think the world owes it to itself to figure this out.
    – Jay Carr
    Sep 27 '15 at 23:16
  • @KRyan - I agree, but the possibility, exists... ... I think...
    – Malady
    Sep 27 '15 at 23:30
  • @Malandy See, I disagree: I don't think there is any possibility of that construction being used with these words. It's grammatical, but it's still wrong.
    – KRyan
    Sep 28 '15 at 0:02
  • @JayCarr I don't see any suggestion that it's being used as a proper noun, but it's certainly frequently used as a noun. As for origins, there are many theories, almost all certainly apocryphal.
    – KRyan
    Sep 28 '15 at 0:05

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