Lindsay McMahon
"The English Adventurer"

hooked on something

Are you hooked on something?

Do you ever hear people say that they are “obsessed” with something in English?

Do you hear other phrases that speak to being obsessed that you don’t quite understand?

There are three phrases in English that speak to being obsessed with something or someone.

We’re going to look at these three phrases and help you to understand what they mean, how they work, and which ones you can use in conversation at the right time.


Here’s a letter that asks about these three phrases.


My name is Pedro and I’m from Spain. I’ve been listening to your podcasts since the beginning.

They are great fun and interesting to help improve my English. I have a question about 3 phrases that look the same. Could you help clarify them because I know they’re not the same though they look like they are? The expressions I’m talking about are”to get hooked on”, “to get hung up on”, and “to get caught up in”. 

Thank you for your help!


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What Do These All Mean?

They are all talking about getting stuck on something.

The differences are in their connotation and so the definitions are quite different in conversation.

Let’s look at these three phrases that look alike but have very different meanings.

  • To get hooked on (something): It’s very modern and very now, we say this a lot right now. You might think of this visually as a fish getting stuck on a hook. So in everyday life we may get hooked on an activity or on a person when you are new in a relationship. You are addicted to this something or someone, or even you feel obsessed with it. You might feel as if you can’t get enough of it.  This is not a negative thing, we actually use this to positively express a new habit or love or something or someone. It’s a positive addiction!


  • To get hung up on (something): A bit more negative, it speaks to something you can’t get something out of your brain. You want to get rid of it, but you can’t because it’s stuck there. It’s like an urgency of something stuck in your brain and you want to get it out of there, but you can’t. You want to move forward but you are stuck focused on this. It often applies to a mistake or a relationship, particularly after a breakup.


  • To get caught up in: Being involved deeply in something and you lose track of time or of where you are at. This applies to one thing in the moment. You may feel pulled into a TV show and it held all of your attention. You then lose track of where you are or what else you are doing. You have no concept of time because you are completely pulled into that story at that moment. You don’t think of anything else except this.


Try using each of these in conversation at the right time and you will get used to them and build your vocabulary.



These three phrases may look similar but have quite different meanings.

When you are talking about being obsessed with something each of these phrases can work in different ways.

Practice using them so that you can build connections and understand how each phrase works.

There are many things that people may feel obsessed with, and each of these phrases can help to express that feeling in slightly different ways.


If you have any questions, please leave them below in the comments section.

We’ll get back to you as soon as we can. 

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