bring up: meaning and explanation

The phrasal verb to bring someone up means to take care of or look after a child until they become an adult. To raise a child.

We can use this phrasal verb to explain who brought someone up (e.g. I was brought up by my grandparents), where they were brought up (e.g. I was brought up in Scotland but I moved to London when I was 17), or how they were brought up (e.g. I was brought up to be polite….I was brought up in a traditional way).

We often use this phrasal verb in the passive (to be brought up) because we want to focus on the child who is brought up (the object of the action) rather than the people who bring them up (the agent of the action). For example, I was brought up by my grandparents would normally be more natural than My grandparents brought me up.

Sometimes, we don’t even need to include the agent, e.g. I was brought up in a small villageI was brought up to be independent. In these examples, we want to focus on where or how we were brought up, not on who brought us up.

We can also use this phrasal verb as a noun: upbringing. This is used to talk about the way you were raised, e.g. I had a very religious upbringing.

Have a go at these micro-dictation exercises to hear this expression being used in context – how much can you understand?

Listening exercises

Micro-listening #1

Accent: England (RP)

I in a quiet Oxford.
I brought in a quiet town outside Oxford.

Micro-listening #2

Accent: North America

John .
John by aunt parents young.
John brought up by aunt as his parents when he young.

About the sentence

…as his parents died when he was young...

As can be used as an alternative to because, e.g. I decided not to go for a run as it was raining.

Micro-listening #3

Accent: Ireland

. o'clock .
I very . I was to go my friends an 8 o'clock curfew.
I a very strict . I was hardly allowed to go with my friends I had an 8 o'clock curfew.

About the sentence

…I was hardly ever allowed to go out

Hardly ever is a useful way of talking about frequency, and has the meaning almost never. e.g. I hardly ever go to the gym these days – I’m too lazy.