separable phrasal verb: butter up

Today I have another interesting and surprising phrasal verb for you. It’s “butter up”, and we use it when we want to talk about flattering someone in order to get something from them. For example:

A: You look so beautiful today, and I think you’re really smart too.

B: Why are you buttering me up? What do you want from me?

Ken was really buttering up his boss yesterday because he wants to take the day off on Friday.

If you want anything from Kate, you have to butter her up first.

I wanted to borrow my brother’s car. I tried buttering him up, but he wouldn’t lend it to me.

I think the best way to remember this expression is to think of someone buttering a piece of toast. When people butter toast, it makes it softer. So instead of butter, people use words of flattery in order to make another person softer and more likely to give them what they want.

By the way, I remembered another meaning for yesterday’s blog entry “The thing is…”, so I will add the extra meaning and give more examples. Please check it out.



  1. Motoko Said:


    I have a simple question not concerning today’s phrasal verb though,in the fourth example,why is it ‘he wouldn’t lend it to me’ not ‘he didn’t lend it to me’?

    • Hi there.

      By saying, “He wouldn’t lend it to me.” the meaning is that he refused to lend it to me. Image the person saying, “I will not lend it to you.” If we put that into reported speech, the “will” becomes “would”. For example:

      He said he wouldn’t lend it to me.

      I hope that answers your question.


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