pick up: meaning and explanation

The phrasal verb to pick someone/something up is extremely common and useful, and means to collect someone or something.

This could be a person (for example, you might ask a taxi driver to pick you up on the corner of your street, or you might offer to pick up your friend from the train station) or a thing (for example, maybe your car has been repaired, and you need to go and pick it up from the mechanic).

Note that this is a type 2 (separable) phrasal verb. This means that the object (someone or something) can go in the middle of the phrasal verb or at the end unless it is a pronoun (e.g. him, her, them) – then it must go in the middle.

For example, you can say:

I have to pick up the children.

I have to pick the children up.

I have to pick them up.

But you can’t say I have to pick up them.

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: Scotland

Is you could from airport ?

About the sentence

…is there any chance you could…

Remember that in English, being indirect is a good way to sound polite. This phrase is one way of making a request more indirect, and therefore more polite. e.g. Is there any chance you could turn the volume down? I’m trying to get some sleep.

Micro-listening #2

Accent: Northern England

like us your pizza to come up?

About the sentence

…Would you...

Notice the pronunciation of would you in this sentence as /wəʤə/. Remembering this pronunciation will help you to recognise questions that use this structure.

Micro-listening #3

Accent: North America

I've that I'm be children .

About the sentence

…I’m supposed to be picking up the children...

The structure to be (not) supposed to do sth can be used to describe what should be happening (based on a plan, the rules, the law etc). e.g. I’m not supposed to stay out past 9pm.

Extra practice

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

  • Tell me about a time you forgot to pick someone or something up, or someone forgot to pick you up. If you can’t think of a time when this happened, make something up!
  • When you went to school, did you get picked up at the end of the day?

Photo by Rezal Scharfe on Unsplash