7.3 Discuss the differences.


1. The children played in the classroom. / The children played up in the classroom.  ‘To play’, as you know, is what children and people who participate in games normally do. ‘In’ is just a preposition of place.  ‘To play up’ is a phrasal verb which means ‘to behave badly’ or ‘to misbehave’.

2. To recite a play. / To play a recital. ‘A play’ is not, as many students think, a game. It is a type of ‘drama’ that would be performed, or recited (read) in a theatre. ‘To play’ is what a sportsman or a player does; but is also what a musician does with an instrument. So ‘to play a recital’ would be ‘to give a concert.’

3. Sit up you fool! / Sit down you fool! ‘Sit up’ is the instruction given to someone who is not sitting upright in a correct position. This would be said by an angry parent talking to their child, or maybe a school teacher. ‘Sit down’ is the imperative for someone who isn’t sitting down but should be.

4. Three wise men brought gifts of gold. / Three wise guys took gifts of gold. These very little, but completely enormous differences in our beautiful language! ‘The three wise men’ were the three kings from the Bible who brought gifts to baby Jesus. A ‘wise guy’ is a well-known American term that usually means either ‘a gangster’, or is used derogatively to talk about someone who thinks that they are clever or smart. ‘Hey Tony! We’ve got a wise guy here who thinks he knows more about our  job than we do.’

5. He threw away his ice cream. / He threw up his ice cream. In the first case, the ice cream went into the bin. In the second, it was eaten and then brought back up, as ‘to throw up’ is a slightly less medical way of saying ‘to vomit’.

6. The pilot suffered some very bad turbulence. / The pilot suffered some very bad flatulence. The first pilot was experiencing rough wind currents in the air; the second in his trousers.

7. He beat his brother in a chess championship. / He beat up his brother in a chess championship. ‘To beat’ is ‘to defeat’ or ‘to win when playing against’. ‘To beat up’ means to aggressively assault. A big difference.

8. The couple made up after a big row. / The couple made out after a big row. A row is a synonym of ‘an argument’ or ‘a quarrel’. ‘To make up’ is what you do after. It means ‘to make peace with the other person and to go back to being friends’. ‘To make up’ is one of those phrasal verbs that have a lot of different meanings. It can also mean ‘to invent’, ‘to lie’, ‘to improvise’, ‘to apply cosmetics’ and even ‘to constitute’. It therefore needs special attention and study. ‘To make out’ is an American phrasal verb that means ‘to kiss’ in the sense of one of those disgusting, long teenage kisses that adults don’t usually do.

9. You have a fat chance of winning the race. / You have a slim chance of winning the race. Bizarrely, both sentences mean ‘very little chance’.

10. He filled in the form. / He filled out the form. Again, there is no difference in meaning with the different prepositions. A preposition is necessary though, as the meaning of ‘to fill’ on its own refers more to the three dimensional sense. ‘To fill’ would be appropriate for a glass with liquids, a concert hall with people, a petrol tank, etc.