catch up/badly: meaning and explanation

The phrasal verb to catch up has several related meanings. When you are behind in some way, e.g. a person is ahead of you in a race, or another company is more advanced than yours, or you do not know the latest news or gossip, then if you catch upyou reach the same level or position.

If a person is ahead of you, then you can catch up by walking or running faster than them.

If another company is more advanced, then you could catch up by investing more money in research and development.

If you are behind on news or gossip, then you can catch up by reading a newspaper or by discussing recent events with a friend.

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: North America

? .
Why out coffee ? It good to .

About the sentence

…Why don’t we go out for coffee next week?…

Why don’t we…? is a good way to make a suggestion to someone, e.g. Why don’t we get a takeaway tonight?

Micro-listening #2

Accent: Scotland

. .
I work late I'm afraid. I've emails to .

About the sentence

…I’m afraid…

The phrase I’m afraid is often used when giving bad news. e.g. I’m afraid I broke your favourite mug earlier on – I’m really sorry.

Micro-listening #3

Accent: North America

, .
a lesson, vital that you in your .

About the sentence

…it’s vital…

Vital is an extreme adjective which means very important. e.g. It’s absolutely vital that you tell someone your plans before going off camping alone.

Extra practice

Here are some questions/links to help you learn the new vocabulary:

  • Think of a time recently when you were behind on something (e.g. work, revision, preparations for something). Why were you behind, and how did you catch up on it?
  • Tell me about the last time you met a friend to catch up. What did you talk about?

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