Lindsay McMahon
"The English Adventurer"

Have you ever heard people talk about how they have to “up their game?”

Do you feel as if there are a lot of words and phrases in English that use the word “up” in them?

Today we are looking at such words and phrases, particularly those that have the word “up” at the beginning of them.

These are all very common and you are likely to hear them used in conversation a lot, so you will learn them and determine how and when to use them.

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Using Up As A Prefix

We did an episode where we talked about up in the word “updo” to describe a hairstyle.

Check out this episode as a great point of reference

AEE 1455: Seven Ways To Describe Beautiful Woman’s Hair In English

We also talked about the word “up” in another episode AEE 1456: Crank Up The Volume To Use Natural Phrasal Verbs In English

In this episode, Lindsay mentioned that we should do another episode with up at the beginning of words!

This is the other end—one is up at the end and one is with up at the beginning or general idioms and expressions with the word “up” in them.

So this is different than what we have done in the past, as we are focusing on using “up” as a prefix.

There are plenty of words and phrases that use “up” in the beginning of them, and so this is something you are bound to hear often in conversation.

Words With Up As A Prefix

You may find “up” at the end of plenty of words as that’s common.

Today however we are focused on the words that use up at the beginning of them.

This is when up is a prefix and you will see some words that you may recognize.

Here are the words and phrases that have up at the beginning, and you want to practice using them in conversation so that they sound natural.

  • Upsell: This is when you try to get someone to buy more than they first intended. It’s basically saying that you want or are going to get a better version of something. You might say “The phone company tried to upsell me with a better plan, but I didn’t take it.”
  • Upscale: This refers to something or somewhere that is fancy or high end. It’s much more than your basic restaurant or car or item. You could say something like “Let’s just go to a dive bar. I’m not in the mood to pay more for an upscale place.”
  • Uproot: This is when you move from a stable place or a home. You can almost envision this as it sounds like a visual reference. It almost sounds as if you are being ripped from the place that you know, though it may not always be that dramatic in nature. You could say “I don’t want to uproot our whole family just because I got a new job.”
  • Up your game: This means to do better or to work harder. If you are saying this about yourself then you likely recognize that you need some motivation. If somebody is saying this about you, then it’s not at all complimentary and is meant to sort of wake you up. You might say “You have to up your game if you want to get into Harvard.”
  • Upstanding citizen: This is talking about a good person, somebody who follows rules and does the right thing. This is likely somebody to model yourself after. You may find that upstanding can be used by itself too. You could say something such as I don’t believe she would do anything wrong. She’s an upstanding citizen , after all.”

We did an episode about the word upgrade, which is a great one to check out.

AEE 1258: Upgrade Your English With One Special Word

So we won’t get into the phrase upgrade, but you should definitely check out this episode to learn more about it.

A Couple of Questions To Consider

If you want to really turn this into something conversational, you could consider a few questions that have such words in them.

These are great conversation topics and so you may find that they help you to make some great connections in the process.

A few questions with these words to consider include the following, and these will be sure to make for excellent conversations.

-Do you get frustrated when companies try to upsell you when you are making a purchase? Do you usually buy the better option?

-What was it like to uproot yourself from the East Coast?

-What is AEE going to do to up our game this year?

-How often do you like going to upscale places versus regular places?

-What do you think it means to be an upstanding citizen? Try answering these yourself in your life, and then use them to start conversations.


These words and expressions are all very useful.

There are so many of them, and these are just a few of the more common ones.

All of these words and phrases focus on common topics and ideas that you can easily talk to others about.

Consider how you feel about these topics, and then use them in your conversations as a great way of connecting.

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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