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”).

Dictation #2 // Accent: Ireland

I'm about Michael hasn't class
I'm a worried about Michael he hasn't up for class all

…he hasn’t turned up for class all week...

The speaker uses the present perfect here (“he hasn’t turned up”) because he is talking about an unfinished time period (all week). If the week had finished, the speaker would use the past simple (“he didn’t turn up for class all week”).

Dictation #3 // Accent: Northern England

I cinema for my friend didn't . suppose they must .
I waited the cinema for an but my friend didn't turn . I suppose they must forgotten.

…she must have forgotten

We use the structure ‘she must have forgotten’ because we are speculating – we don’t know for certain that our friend forgot, but it is a strong possibility. If we say ‘she forgot’, then we know for certain that this is true.

Dictation #4 // Accent: Scotland

This clip is from an episode of the Mountain podcast. The speaker lives on a very remote farmhouse in the Scottish highlands, and is often visited walkers who have got lost.

, of , door's, door's kettle's .
So yeah, people at all strange of and, door's, door's kettle's it's not .
So yeah, get people up here at all strange of night and and, the door's, the door's and the kettle's on so it's not a .

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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