How do the three phrases differ? For example:

Speaker A: Hey, I called to tell you about my audition.

  1. Speaker B: "Don't tell me you screwed it."

  2. Speaker B: "Don't tell me you screwed it up."

  3. Speaker B: "Don't tell me you screwed up."

I found the three instances in Google Books:

Who the hell you think you are? You screwed it.

You had a nice cushy job with the Agency. You screwed it up.

I bet if you tell us what you screwed up, we could tell you how to fix it.

With you screwed up occurring more often (79,400 results).

What's the difference between the three. Which, for instance, would fit my example the best?

  • 1
    Have you looked in Google Books? In a dictionary? First of all there's one blatant error in all your examples.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented May 11, 2015 at 4:10
  • the response would likely be "screwed XXX".
    – Erich
    Commented May 11, 2015 at 4:13
  • I blundered into this question from the "review edits" queue, and altered the wording of the question to make it more meaningful, without being aware of the discussion in the comments. Sorry to have torpedoed a teachable moment.
    – Sven Yargs
    Commented May 11, 2015 at 4:55
  • One looks hopefully to the column on the right entitled RELATED for inspiration and what do we see? "Does the use of present perfect continuous with a time reference in the past imply an intention to finish, and if yes, how to avoid it?" and "Polite way to suggest talking about something" I mean, seriously, how are they possibly related to "screwing"
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented May 11, 2015 at 5:31
  • 1
    Related: "Screwed" vs. "nailed": why is the slang so different?
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented May 11, 2015 at 5:47

2 Answers 2


to screw up is to err, to make a mistake, often a big one.

OK. You have your assignment. You occupy the bank manager while I slip unnoticed into the vault. Don't screw up.

to screw something up is to cause something to stop working as it should, or to stop progressing as one would wish it to progress

I really screwed up my computer when I rebooted before Windows Update had completed.

I really screwed things up with my girlfriend; she saw me kissing her best friend.

I'm not familiar with the expression "to screw something" (to screw it), but the figurative meaning of "to screw someone" means to do them an ill turn, to make things very difficult for them, to harm their prospects, such as in

Joe's boss really screwed him by taking credit for landing that big account, when it was Joe who did all of the work. His boss got a big bonus and Joe got diddly.


Check this for different usages of screw up. http://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/screw+up

Also, there are other variations of screw that seems to be worth checking out.


  • 2
    My good man, the answer box is for giving answers not telling someone to check out a link. I myself have suggested to the OP to do a little research on the matter. Why keep it as a secret? Why deprive of us the delights of hearing, nay, of teaching us and to the OP the different and delicate nuances behind each exquisite expression. Thank you :)
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented May 11, 2015 at 5:21

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