Lindsay McMahon
"The English Adventurer"

Have you ever heard native English speakers using phrases like “check in” or “check up on”?

Here are some other examples:

  • I’m just going to head to the doctor for a check up. 
  • I don’t want to stay too out of touch, so I’ll check in with the babysitter.
  • I’m not sure of the answer, so let me check with him on that for clarification.

What could this possibly mean?

Why would you want to check in with somebody?

Does this mean that there’s some sort of lack of trust?

Does it indicate something bad?

Let’s take a look at an example through a letter that we got recently, which may help us to begin understanding this aspect of English.

In today’s episode you’ll learn how to use phrasal verbs such as “check in” or “check up on” like a native speaker would use them.

Here is a question from a listener:

Hi Lindsay and Michelle,

I can’t thank you enough for your amazing work! You can’t imagine how much you’re helping us English learners all around the world!

And I was wondering if you could explain the difference between the following phrases – check in with somebody, check up on somebody, check on somebody / something, check with somebody and check in to see if… I would really appreciate if you could shed some light on these phrases and provide some examples of how to use them.  

Thank you so much in advance!

All the best,


These phrases can be confusing.

Let’s take a look at exactly what each of these means.

It may help to break them down one at a time.

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Here they are:

  • To check on: verify, ascertain, or monitor the state or condition of.
    • Example: I need to check on the fish to see if it’s done yet.
  • To check up on: To find out what someone is doing in order to make certain that the person is behaving correctly or legally.
    • Example: Dad is always checking up on me to make sure I’m doing my homework.
  • To check in on: To actively monitor the safety or security of a person or thing.
    • I want to check in on our neighbor to be sure that she’s okay.
  • To check with: To see if it’s okay to do something
    • Example: I would love to come but let me check with my mom to see if it’s okay.
  • To check in with: Letting someone else know. The focus is on the person you are telling–I will be in touch with someone.
    • I want to check in with my friend to let her know I’m headed to the pool.

It can be a lot to understand and sometimes it can confuse even a native speaker.

If you can try to remember the definitions and the examples, it can help.

Consider this to be your special guide that you can use when you aren’t quite sure.

Sometimes these phrases are used interchangeably, though they do each have their own unique meanings.

Start practicing each phrase so that you know how to use them in their own unique way.

You may make a few mistakes, but even native speakers do with these phrases.

You’ll get the hang of it!

Here is an interesting article about the differences between “check in” and “check up”:

You will see in this article that, Checking in is really about collaboration; checking up is about suffocation.”


It can be a lot to understand the differences between “check in” and “check up” and the other phrases that we talked about today.

They are subtle differences, but they start to make sense the more that you use them.

Don’t worry so much about the intricacies here.

Many native speakers likely don’t realize the differences.

Keep listening to see how they are used!

You will get your point across and before you know it, you will be a master of using these phrases in conversation.

What questions do you have today?

Please let us know in the comments below.

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