hold up: meaning and explanation

to hold somebody/something up = to delay somebody or something.

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It is easy to use this phrasal verb as an alternative to the verb delay. e.g. I don’t want to hold you up = I don’t want to delay you.

We often use the phrasal verb in the passive (to be/get held up) when we want to focus on the person or thing that is delayed. e.g. I got held up at work.

We can also use this phrasal verb as a noun – a hold up, e.g. Sorry for the hold up, your drinks will be ready in the next couple of minutes.

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: Ireland

. .
Sorry I'm . I by the
Sorry I'm . I got up by the .

Micro-listening #2

Accent: Northern England

. .
I quick. I don't any longer.
I to be quick. I don't to you any longer.

About the sentence

…I promise to be quick…

Notice the important verb pattern to promise to do sth, e.g. I can’t believe you were late again. You promised to be on time.

Micro-listening #3

Accent: England (London)

. ?
We've over . What's the ?
We've waiting for an . What's the up?

About the sentence

…we’ve been waiting

The present perfect continuous is used here to describe an action that started in the past and continues up to the present, and also to emphasise the duration of this action. e.g. I’ve been reading this book for two months and I’m not even halfway through.