to bring someone 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 this dictation exercise to hear this phrasal verb being used in context – how much can you understand?

Dictation #1

Accent: England (RP)

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

Discussion questions

Write your answers to these questions in the comments section, and I’ll get back to you with some feedback:

  • Who brought you up? Where? How?
  • Is there anything you would change about the way you were brought up?
  • How do you think children should be brought up? Should they be given lots of rules to follow, or allowed plenty of freedom? Should they be brought up to believe something, or should they be free to form their own beliefs?

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