For example, we have two sentences:

I need to brush my French up a little bit. I need to brush up my French.


I need to brush up on my German. My German is weak. I had better brush up.

Could you help me to understand what role is played by the preposition on?

  • 1
    While you're at it, Brush Up Your Shakespeare. (There's no semantic difference between the two variations you're asking about.) – Robusto Feb 14 '13 at 13:37

The preposition is optional. They both mean the same thing. You could say:

I need to brush up my French.


I need to brush up on my French.

Here brush up and brush up on mean to re-learn, improve, study, etc.

  • For some, on is necessary in the phrase. I wonder if this is dialectal. I (AmE) never use brush up without the on and I thought it was an error recently when a learner said brush up my English. – AmE speaker Apr 27 at 14:27

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