intransitive phrasal verb: come up


Today I have a very common and useful phrasal verb to teach you. It’s “come up”, and it has two basic meanings.

1. for a subject to be mentioned in conversation. For example:

When I was talking with my friends last night, the subject of plastic surgery came up.

I don’t like going out with my boyfriend’s co-workers because work problems always come up in their conversation. I hate it when they talk shop in front of me!

A: How did the subject of Chinese opera come up at dinner?

B: Bill brought it up because he recently went to China and saw an opera there.

2. for a problem to suddenly happen. For example:

I’m sorry, but something has come up at my office, and I have to go deal with it.

I hope no problems come up with my project while I’m on vacation.

If any problems with the children come up, please contact us at this hotel in Hawaii.

With the first meaning there is a difference between “bring up” and “come up”. As you can see in my third example, we use “come up” when saying that a subject was mentioned, but we don’t say who mentioned it. If we say who mentioned it, we use “bring up”. As you can see, we often use “the subject of” followed by the conversation topic with this meaning.

The second meaning of “come up” is very useful when we don’t want to give details about a problem which has happened, so we simply say that something has “come up”. This is a very natural and common expression, especially for business people.


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