In the following sentence:

Mary liked the place she had picked (?). It was an open-air bar with tables and stool surrounding its four sides.

Should I use picked up or picked out? And why not just picked?

I think in English is common to add "out" and "up" after a word if there's nothing after it.

For example:

All the props were set up.

Is that right?

2 Answers 2


There's no reason you can't use Mary liked the place she had picked. It reads just fine.

In English, it's not necessarily common to add short prepositions after a word, unless you are forming a phrasal verb. Phrasal verbs are words that take on new meanings once a preposition is added. Usually, the two-word entry earns its own mention in the dictionary.

If you look at the word pick in the dictionary, for example, you'll see quite a few definitions listed. Collins lists about a dozen. It also lists five phrasal verbs: pick at, pick off, pick on, pick out, and pick up.

If you go examine each of those, you'll find even more ways to use the word pick. For example, pick up has another dozen or so definitions of its own, such as:

  • to resume (let's pick up the game where we left off)
  • to catch a disease (she picked up a cold last week)
  • to receive a broadcast (we won't be able to pick up that station until we get closer to the city)

Now, back to the place Mary picked, that delightful little open-air cafe.

Check out pick out, Definition #1:

pick out (v.) to select for use or special consideration, illustration, etc, as from a group

Assuming Mary had checked three or four luncheonettes, and picked out one of them, you could say picked out.

However, there is also pick, Definition #1:

pick (v.) to select for use or special consideration, illustration, etc, as from a group

So, in this case, the words pick and pick out can be used interchangeably. However, that's not always the case, and we can't simply arbitrarily tack on words. For example,

Mary liked the place she had picked up.

would be wrong. Even though pick up has quite a few definitions, none of them mean "to select from among a group." Mary might decide to pick up the bill at the cafe (Meaning #20 - how gracious of her!). She might also pick up her fork, when the salads arrive (Meaning #12). If the cafe has a gift shop, she might decide to pick up a souvenir on her way out (Meaning #13). But she won't pick up the restaurant – not unless it's a model restaurant, and she's about to set it down amidst a model village in her living room.

  • +1 And she might like the bar because it's a great place to pick up guys. :) Jul 22, 2013 at 12:03

To "pick" means to select or choose from a set of alternatives. (As you're using it here. "Pick" has other meanings, like to attack a problem piecemeal, "He picked away at his term paper until he got it done"; to play a stringed instrument using a small, usually triangular piece of bone, plastic, etc, "I'm picking my guitar and he's strumming his bass"; etc.)

To "pick out" means essentially the same thing. I think "pick" and "pick out" are largely interchangeable. "Pick out" is a little more emphatic. (Can anyone give an example where one would be appropriate and the other not? I can't think of one of the top of my head.)

"Pick up" is very different. It means to lift and carry something, like "He picked up the box from the floor". It is also used as a somewhat informal phrase meaning to acquire something. "Honey, please pick up a gallon of milk on your way home", "Bob picked up an extra class in physics."

In your example, either "pick" and "pick out" would work fine. "Pick up" does not make sense. Well, unless your intent is to say that she is buying the bar: "My oil business made a few million dollars this year so I decided to use the money to pick up a stationery store and a nice little open-air bar."

  • 1
    It's trivial to come up with examples where "pick" is appropriate but "pick out" either isn't, or it is but it means something different. (Picking strawberries is a different activity than picking out strawberries.) In the other direction, the only example I can think of is "pick out a tune [on the guitar]", but that's because that's a different meaning of "pick out".
    – Martha
    Jul 22, 2013 at 14:04
  • @Martha Good point. "Pick strawberries" means to pluck them from the vine, while "pick out strawberries" means to select the ones you want. I was trying to think of examples where "pick" and "pick out" both mean "select" but one would be inappropriate and I couldn't think of one. But cases where both would work in the sentence but they have different meanings, yes, that's a good point. Maybe that's why we have the phrase "pick out" -- to let you distinguish such cases.
    – Jay
    Jul 23, 2013 at 13:39

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