Phrasal verbs with UP are the largest category of phrasal verbs in English (followed by phrasal verbs with out).
The prepositions up and down are used for movement, place & position in simple phrases like go upstairs. But they can also have a more hidden or abstract meaning such as to increase or reduce.
Putting phrasal verbs into categories is a good way of organising them to help you remember them more easily. You will start to see patterns, identify opposites and recognise phrasal verbs that have the same meaning.
go up – Meaning to increase in price or value. Example: The price of petrol always seems to go up. Opposite: to go down (reduce) Why doesn’t the price of petrol ever go down?
back up – Meaning: to provide extra support. This phrasal verb has many meanings but one of its most frequent uses is used in technology. For example: She backed up all the photos she took of her holiday by saving them online. 2. He backed up his insurance claim with photos of the accident.
to back up is often also used in American English to mean to reverse the car. For example: He backed the car into driveway.
brush up – Meaning to improve or refine. We use this phrasal verb to talk about skills which we are not as good as we would like them to be or have not been used for some time. For example: I have to brush up my English before my job interview.
build up – Meaning to increase in quantity, value or importance. For example: 1. The company started in his home office but he built it up and now he 50 employees. 2. His money problems built up when he lost his job.
dress up – to wear better or smarter clothes normally for an event. Example: Look at you! You’re all dressed up for the party. Note that this phrasal verb can also be used to mean to wear a costume such as for Halloween or carnival. Example: He dressed up as spiderman for his birthday party. Dress down is the opposite of dress up when used to mean smart clothes (but it’s not very common).
pick up – to be in the process of getting better. Example: Business is picking up because the economy has improved. Another common use of pick up is to learn. Example: He picked up English when he went to England to work.
push up – to make something higher intentionally (often used for prices). Opposite: push down. Example: Some stores pushed up the prices of masks and hand sanitizer during the coronavirus crisis. Synonymous phrasal verbs are to put up or put down which mean to increase or decrease. Example: Travel companies like Ryanair often put down their prices in low season.
save up – to keep money for something in the future. Example: She is saving up all her money to buy a new car next year.
speed up – to become faster or increase in speed. Example: The school starting giving the students online exams which sped up the time teachers used for correcting.
stir up – to increase intentionally and in a bad way. Example: That boy is always stirring up trouble in class.
cheer up – to improve your mood. Example: Cheer up! Everything will be alright in the end.
do up – to improve the way something looks. Example: They’re staying with her mother while they are doing up their house.
bring up – Meaning to raise (children). Bringing up children is something that parents do by providing education, food and care. It is often confused with grow up which simply means to get older, bigger or more mature. For example: They brought up their children in England but when the children grew up, they moved to Scotland.
speak up – to not be silent. Example: Children must be taught how to speak up for themselves. There are so many bullies around these days.