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Phrasal Verbs with Up

To Improve, Restore, Clean


Phrasal verbs formed with 'up' are often used to indicate an improvement of some kind. This can be in cleaning, resolving a problem, or improving one's looks through better clothes. The phrasal verbs with 'up' below are categories of related meaning. Each phrasal verb with 'up' is defined and includes two definitions.

Remember that phrasal verbs can be either separable or inseparable (review separable and inseparable phrasal verbs). Each phrasal verb is also marked as separable (S) or inseparable (I). In the case that verbs are separable, examples will use the separable form of the phrasal verb. For inseparable phrasal verbs, examples keep the phrasal verbs together.

Up = Clean in a General Sense

to clean up (S) = to tidy up a disorganized area

Let's get this mess cleaned up before they come for the party.
She asked her daughter to clean the mess up in the room.

to tidy up (S) = to organize a room

Let's tidy your bedroom up before we leave.
I need to tidy up my office.

to straighten up (S) = to put things back into order

Could you please straighten up your bedroom before we leave?
I'll straighten the house up tomorrow.

Up = Clean with a Specific Cleaning Product or Tool

to sweep up (S) = to use a broom to sweep dust

Grab that broom and let's sweep the dust up.
Could you please sweep the kitchen up.

to wipe up (S) = to use towels (paper or cloth) to clean up a liquid - often used in the kitchen

I used a few paper towels to wipe up the spilt wine.
I need some towels to wipe the basement up.

to mop up (S) = to use a mop to clean up - usually used on floors

Use that bucket of water to mop the kitchen up.
It's important to mop the hall up at least once a month.

to sponge up (S) = to use a sponge to clean up some liquid - often used on surfaces in the kitchen or bathroom

Tom sponged up the peanut butter on the counter.
Please sponge up the mess in the kitchen.

Up = To Remove / Improve a Problem

to clear up (S) = to eliminate a problem, to resolve a problem

Let's clear the problem area up.
She cleared the contract mess up with the employees.

to brush up (S) = to study to remember information

I need to brush my French up for the trip to Paris.
It's important to brush up your grammar from time to time.

to make up (I) = to resolve a problem relationship

She made up with her boyfriend last week.
Let's make up and be friends again.

to even up (S) = to make a situation the same for everyone (often used for making sure that both parties have paid the same amount of money)

We need to even things up after dinner.
Let's even the odds up in this game by putting Tom on your team.

to straighten up (S) = to put things in order

I'd like you two to straight your differences up.
We tried to straighten everything up, but weren't able to agree on a solution.

to sober up (I) = to return to a normal state of being after drinking or taking an intoxicant

You'll need to sober up before you apply for a job.
It took him four hours to sober up after the party last night.

Up = To Improve the Way A Person Looks / Feels

to dress up (I) = to put on nice cloths

Let's dress up and go out for dinner.
She dressed up for her date.

to smarten up (I) = to improve they way you look

I need to smarten up before I go into the meeting.
She bought a new dress to smarten up.

to freshen up (I) = to quickly wash to feel better

Let me freshen up quickly before we leave.
Mary freshened up before she went to dinner.

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