to turn up: meaning and explanation

The phrasal verb ‘to turn up’ is used to say that someone or something arrived or appeared unexpectedly.

Imagine you’re getting married, and one of your relatives comes to the wedding without being invited. You would say that they turned up.

If we use this phrasal verb in the negative (e.g. my friend didn’t turn up) then it has the opposite meaning – we were expecting someone, and they didn’t come. Imagine you’re late for work because you were waiting for a bus which didn’t arrive when you expected it to. You would tell your boss that the bus didn’t turn up on time.

Have a go at this dictation exercise to hear this phrasal verb being used in context – how much can you understand?

Dictation #1

Accent: North America

She to the , surprised when she .
She hadn't invited to the , so we surprised when she up.

…she hadn’t been invited

The speaker uses the past perfect (“she hadn’t been invited”) here because she is referring to an action/even that happened before another action in the past (“she turned up”).

Discussion questions

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

  • Have you ever turned up at a party or event without being invited?
  • Think of a time that you waited ages for a friend who didn’t turn up – what was their excuse?
  • Write a very short story about someone arriving or appearing unexpectedly somewhere. Make it interesting and memorable.
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1 year ago

No, I’ve never turned up at a party without being invited and I think I would never do such a thing either. On the other hand, if I think of a time when I waited for ages for a friend who didn’t turn up, I can tell about what happened to my little dog Kabubi. It is a sad, yet thrilling experience. It happened about 3 years ago when he had gone out on his own for a walk in a park near our house. I expected him to be back in about 15 minutes, but time went by and… Read more »

1 year ago

I’ve never turned up at a party without being invited, but one day I turned up at my godmother’s house to have lunch when she was expecting just for her sister.

Once, a friend said she would come to my house after lunch. The day was ending and she didn’t turn up. I asked what happened, and she said she had slept at her aunt’s house and forgot the meeting :/

1 year ago

I have never turned up at a party or event without being invited. However, I like turning up at my grandma’s without telling her. The reason why I like doing that is very simple. When she knows that I am coming, she prepares much food and is very disappointed when much food is left untouched.
I can’t remember a time that I waited ages for a friend who didn’t turn up. Lucky me, I guess.

1 year ago

Hi:)Fortunately, I have never arrived without being inviting at the parties. I would not like be a person who turns up somewere in that way. Nevertheless sometime it can be nice surprize!I have a good example 🙂 It was a pleasent story with my parents. They were spending their vocation near the sea far from our town. Me and my brother stayed at home and ussualy phoned them . One morning I was talking with my father when he suddenly stopped speaking . He was speechless. Becouse of my brother had appeared in front of their door! ! It was… Read more »

1 year ago
Reply to  Lena


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