4. UP when there’s a delay or obstruction


The phrasal verb hold up means: to cause a delay, to make someone late or to stop something from happening.

Let’s say you’re stuck in traffic, you could ask, “What’s holding up the traffic?”

This phrasal verb is often used in the passive form. For example, if you show up to dinner late you might say, “Sorry I’m late, I was held up at work.” 



We use the phrasal verb back up to say that something (usually traffic or an order) was obstructed or delayed. Back up is often used in the passive form.

For instance, if there was an accident that obstructed traffic, you could say, “Traffic was backed up for miles.”

And if you order something from an online store and they inform you that they’re unusually busy this month, so you’ll be receiving your order late, they might tell you, “We’re sorry but orders are really backed up this month.”


5. UP to imagine or invent things


The phrasal verb dream up means: to invent a new plan or an idea by using a lot of imagination.

Let’s say one of your colleagues is always late to work, and his reasons for being late are strange and unrealistic. So, if he’s late again today you might say, “I’m curious what excuse he’ll dream up today.”


  • When we break promises, we’re really good at dreaming up excuses.

  • The police can’t just dream up a reason to arrest them.


We use the phrasal verb make up when we invent a story, excuse or explanation in order to deceive someone. 

For example, if I told you a story and you think it’s a lie, you could say, “I don’t believe you. You’re making it up.”

And if I had no reason to lie to you, I might say, “But why would I make it up?”


6. UP to join or put people into groups


The phrasal verb team up means: to join two people or groups together to work on a project or a goal.

A teacher might team you up with a classmate to work on a presentation, and a company could team up with a team of experts to develop a new product.



We use the phrasal verb meet up when two or more people come together unexpectedly or as planned.

You might meet up with a friend for a quick coffee before going to work, and if you’re planning to go to a bar with some friends on the weekend, you could say, “I’m meeting up with some friends for drinks this weekend.”


  • I have to go now, but I’ll meet up with you later.

  • Are we still meeting up today?

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