Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I see both "It's up to you" and "It's down to you" in conversations. So what's the difference?

share|improve this question
    
As an example in "So you think you can dance" TV show, after the judges critique the dance routine, the host replies that "It's down to you to vote ..." –  hamed Jul 27 '12 at 12:48
4  
I've heard "it's come down to you," and "it's left to you", but never "it's down to you." The word 'come' indicates to me that everyone else has already been given the chance and failed to deliver. –  Darthfett Jul 27 '12 at 14:20
1  
Growing up in Australia in the 1970s I only ever knew "up to you" and found "down to you" irked me quite a bit when I started hearing it in British TV and movies. –  hippietrail Jul 27 '12 at 15:05
6  
I have heard "down to you" in Br.E. in places where I, as an American, would have said "up to you" (e.g. without the implication of a "whittling down" of a list of other people) so I think there's a large regional variation here. –  Michael Edenfield Jul 27 '12 at 20:09
1  
I did some investigating on Google Ngrams and found that "down to you" is both much more recent than "up to you" and also much more prevalent in British English than American English. But I do find the semantic differences in the answers here largely apply. –  hippietrail Jul 29 '12 at 9:24
show 2 more comments

11 Answers 11

up vote 77 down vote accepted

I felt "It's up to you" means that you're the one responsible for the job, "It's down to you" means that nobody else is left who can do the job except you.

ADDING ON: I realized from the comment that what I wanted to imply wasn't completely clear. As ngmiceli says, "down to you" suggests that there were other who could do the job, but for some reason, they are not available to do so (because they may be dead/busy/out to lunch), leaving only you.

share|improve this answer
4  
I think ngmiceli is a little closer: "It's down to you" implies that all other members of some set of people have been eliminated from some set of people; it is used often, but not exclusively, in cases where a set of people was responsible for doing something and the sole survivor would inherit such responsibility. In an elimination competition, a judge might say "It's down to you two". That doesn't imply responsibility. More like, "one of you two is going to win". –  supercat Jul 27 '12 at 16:21
1  
A point which neither you, ngmiceli, nor anyone else observed is is that what the phrase implies by itself is simply that the person (or people) being addressed is the sole remaining member(s) of some group. If it was necessary that the group "do" something, it would thus be necessary for the surviving member(s) to do it, but "it's down to you" doesn't by itself imply that anything needs or needed to be done. Elimination might be by pure chance. As for "stealing", I would think proper form would be to say something like, "As XXX noted, ..." but I'm hardly an etiquette authority. –  supercat Jul 27 '12 at 17:00
1  
responsible for the job, really? why do answer if you don't know? phrasemix.com/examples/its-up-to-you –  Artem Ice Jul 28 '12 at 0:50
2  
@ArtemIce In that example, you are "responsible" for choosing what to eat. "There are 30 servers down, and it's up to you to fix them" is also a valid use of the phrase. This answer is excellent. –  Dave Jul 28 '12 at 2:53
1  
I actually felt "it's up to you" is an awkward thing to say when someone asks you what you want to eat. Not wrong, but awkward. And anyway, in that case you're making your mother responsible for choosing what to make for breakfast. –  asymptotically Jul 28 '12 at 4:39
show 2 more comments

'It's up to you' connotes some element of personal choice. 'It's down to you' has more of an implication of responsibility or duty.

share|improve this answer
1  
I can see responsibility in "up to you" as well. "Keeping your sister safe while on the trip is up to you." Yes, there is personal choice, but also the implication of responsibility. I think the more important difference is that "down to you" implies the last member left of some group. There may be no responsibility at all with this. The other day on American Ninja Warrior, only one person made it to the third round of the finals. Someone could have said "The competition is/[has been reduced] down to you" without meaning responsibility for continuing. –  ErikE Jul 27 '12 at 20:46
add comment
  1. Up to you = Responsible for a decision
  2. Down to you = Responsible for an action

Examples

  1. What happens next is up to you
  2. The choice is yours, it's entirely up to you
  3. It's now down to you to impress the judges
  4. Everything that has gone wrong in my life is entirely down to you, you useless...
share|improve this answer
2  
I disagree that either necessarily has anything to do with responsibility. Both can have responsibility, or not. I also think #4 is completely wrong. I would never say "is down to you" to mean personal blame. That just makes no sense. I would say "due to you." –  ErikE Jul 27 '12 at 20:49
    
"Down to me" is a way British people say "because of me" or "due to me." Like the Rolling Stones song: "It's down to me, the way she talks when she's spoken to. She's under my thumb." –  librik Jul 28 '12 at 5:57
    
ErikE: I personally would say "because of you" for number 4. It is an example of where "Down to you" is valid and "Up to you" is not, and I have heard this expression used in this way many times. –  Peter Morris Jul 28 '12 at 7:15
add comment

Though the two tend to have the same meaning, I hear them used in very different contexts.

"It's up to you!" This often used in a more generic context, where one often wishes to encourage someone who holds the key to success in whatever endeavor is being talked about. It should also be noted that this phrase could simply imply, "the choice is yours."

On the other hand,"it's down to you" doesn't strike me personally as placing blame, though I certainly can see it being used that way. The first context that comes to my mind is a situation's success still rests in "your" hands, but this implies that there was some elimination that brought the scenario to this point. For example, a group of four people are all trying to best the current chess champion. The first three each go up against him and are defeated. Finally, one says to the fourth man, "It's down to you".

I don't see "it's down to you" meaning "it's your choice"; that feels somewhat unnatural to me, unless everyone else opted not to have an opinion in which case you were the only one left to make a choice.

share|improve this answer
2  
I'd say that in "it's down to you", the pronoun refers to "a set of people". The only situation I can see where "it's down to you" would imply blame would be if one was the only remaining member from "the set of people upon whom blame could be placed". Otherwise, I think the implication is not so much one of responsibility as sole survivorship in some set of people. While it is often used in a context where a set of people would have some responsibility which would be inherited by the sole survivor, any attachment of responsibility would stem from the context, rather than the phrase itself. –  supercat Jul 27 '12 at 16:15
add comment

They can mean the same thing — 'the choice is yours' — but in some contexts I believe It's down to you can mean 'It's your fault.'

share|improve this answer
4  
I'd also add that "down to you" can also mean "you have to do it/it's your responsibility". –  Wudang Jul 27 '12 at 12:12
    
I think there's a regional aspect at work here. In my region of Am Eng you would never say "it's down to you" to indicate choice. –  Lynn Jul 28 '12 at 22:36
add comment

I'm not entirely comfortable with any answers given so far. In BE the meanings are quite distinct and different: it's up to you means the choice is yours whilst it's down to you means it's your responsibility or worse, it's your fault!

share|improve this answer
add comment

I would personally interpret It's up to you to be referring to a choice.

You can have cake or you can have ice cream. It's up to you.

It's down to you seems to refer more to an obligation

This project has to be finished by 5pm, its down to you to get it done.

If this seems like a weak attempt to understand the phrases, try reversing them. They sound very strange.

You can have cake or you can have ice cream. It's down to you.

This project has to be finished by 5pm, its up to you to get it done.

share|improve this answer
    
The responsibility part of down to you comes from the context, not the inherent meaning. It is more about being the last remaining member of a group that was larger. "The Barrett High School class of 1930 Chess Club was down to just George, as all his teammates had died." Last, I see absolutely nothing wrong with your final example (This project... is up to you). It's perfect usage! –  ErikE Jul 27 '12 at 20:50
add comment

It's Up to you: It is your decision
It's Down to you: You are responsible

share|improve this answer
add comment

"It's up to you" implies (at least for me) initiative and a certain level of faith in 'you'. As in, there is a problem, and it's up to you to fix it, since you are the best person for the job, it's your job to fix it, you have the tools to fix it, etc. I don't know if the two phrases are technically linked, but I see a parallel with "I'm up for it".

"It's down to you" is a little more negative, implying that the problem was your fault, or that the reason you're being relied on to fix it is simply because there's no one else to do it.

There's also the other meaning of "it's up to you", which is what Barrie said: the choice is yours. In this case, "it's down to you" implies generally the same thing, but I see it as carrying the extra meaning that everyone else has decided, and now it's time for you to make your choice (everyone else has gone, you're the only one left-- it's down to one, which is you).

share|improve this answer
add comment

The service is not processing inputs correctly so ignore the other post and let's try again here.

Both are mere idiomatic expressions. Up to you connotes an obligation and its tone is typically affirmative. Down to you, connotes an obligation, or usurpation (neither necessarily affirmative) of last, negative, deviant, or derelict resort. The expression, down to me, first came into (more less than more) vogue in the 1970s as a refrain in the lyric of the rock song, "Under My Thumb," sung by Mick Jagger, Rolling stones: also the song in progress at the Altamont Pass (California) concert, during which a killing perpetrated by individuals in the hell's angels motorcyle club took place.

Down to, as an alteration of up to, implies not fault or culpability but, rather, the absence or exhaustion, for good or ill, of all alternative choices. It's "down to you" because no one else was or remains available, as a matter of due course or of choice.

share|improve this answer
add comment

protected by RegDwigнt Feb 18 at 22:42

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality answers, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site.

Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.