Is there a difference in register between saying:

He failed to show for his appointment

When will the bus show?


He failed to show up for his appointment

When will the bus show up?


Informal. to be present or keep an appointment; show up: He said he would be there, but he didn't show. Random House

Slang To make an appearance; show up: didn't show for her appointment. AHD

: to put in an appearance; arrive CED

: to make an appearance; show up Random House Kernerman Webster's College Dictionary

: put in an appearance; failed to show M-W

show or show up Informal: to arrive in a place where people are expecting you; We didn’t think Austin would show. McMillan Dictionary

(mainly US) to show up CDO

Informal Arrive for an appointment or at a gathering: only two waitresses showed up for work; her date failed to show ODO

also show up; Informal; especially American English: to arrive at the place where someone is waiting for you: I went to meet Hank, but he never showed. LDOCE

  • I think they are both informal ways to express the idea of keeping an appointment: Show up: Meaning "to put in an appearance, be present" is from 1888. Possible nuances could be POB.
    – user66974
    Dec 30, 2015 at 10:09
  • 1
    @Josh61 Sure, but what I'd like to know is, does using "show" rather than "show up" either in speech or in informal writing sound any more (or less) slack to a native speaker? E.g. A: "Mary didn't show at the meeting last night." B: :-) "'show up' at the meeting" is how we usually put it. "show" for "show up" is slang, sort of like "hang a left" for "turn left. :-)"
    – Elian
    Dec 30, 2015 at 11:09
  • I understand and I didn't CV. My very personal impression is that show up may sound/appear more informal or 'slack'. Let see what other users think.
    – user66974
    Dec 30, 2015 at 11:13
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    I'd say 'appear' is formalish, 'show up' is fairly informal, and 'show' is informal and brusque to my British filters. I'd find it irritating from a Brit, but not from an American. Dec 30, 2015 at 12:58
  • 1
    @EdwinAshworth I'd tend to think like you. The following ODO's example sentence, though, doesn't sound particularly informal to my nonnative ears: "One of those who might have defended his appointment did not show at the conference." oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/show
    – Elian
    Dec 30, 2015 at 14:41

3 Answers 3


I (UK) only use show, meaning 'attend', as a verb in negative and interrogative constructions (e.g. He didn't show. Did he show?). I don't use 'show' as a verb in affirmations (e.g. He showed for his appointment). Instead I often say 'show up'. In fact, I usually use 'show up', meaning 'attend', for all purposes (negative, interrogative and affirmative) (e.g. Did he show up? He showed up for his appointment. He never showed up for his appointment).

I use 'no-show' (noun) to describe people who do not come to an event (e.g. "There were a lot of no-shows. Is there anything else on tonight?").

I never describe people attending an event as 'shows' (or 'show ups').

I use 'show up' (verb) informally. If I want to sound formal I say 'attend', or 'go'.


In British English it would be unusual to use show by itself (in this context) in the middle of a sentence, but informally it could be used at the end of a sentence.

He failed to show for his appointment. Wouldn't be used, sounds American.

He failed to show. May be used with "show" at the end, but sounds quite formal.

He didn't show up for his appointment. Most likely wording for informal conversation.

He was a no-show. Even less formal.

Note: I just spotted this is tagged with american-english. I can't comment on how formal/informal it sounds in American English, so this may be more useful to others finding this question than it is to the OP.

  • 1
    It's funny to me... As a USA speaker, "show" sounds British and "show up" sounds like an Americanism. :)
    – Tim Ward
    Jan 4, 2016 at 16:39
  • @FumbleFingers you are quite right, this is not correct - I've edited it out.
    – jhabbott
    Jan 19, 2016 at 0:31

'Show up' as a phrasal verb seems to have a narrow meaning confined to discrediting through exposure or making an appearance. Substituting it with the verb 'show' which has multiple meanings, would likely make it more informal. http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/show?q=show+up The above link gives examples of the uses for 'show up' in British English.

  • This answer could be strengthened if you provided some support/evidence.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jan 5, 2016 at 13:57
  • What relationship are you claiming between multiple meanings and informality?
    – Colin Fine
    Jan 5, 2016 at 14:27
  • @Colin Fine What I am trying to say is, a phrase/phrasal verb with a specific meaning will be more appropriate in usage as compared to a verb with a wider meaning. Thus making 'show' more informal.
    – VSI
    Jan 5, 2016 at 17:42
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    I'm sceptical of that claim. I don't believe there is any necessary correlation between specificity and formality; and to the degree that there is a correlation between formality and the use of phrasal verbs, I think they are likely to be less formal.
    – Colin Fine
    Jan 6, 2016 at 0:18
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    @ColinFine In spite of the general perception that phrasal verbs are informal, it is not entirely true. There are instances of phrasal verbs finding their way into academic and formal writing. In the given case, though both the options seem informal, ‘show up’ appears to be the most common way of expressing a certain meaning; hence making it more appropriate. For more information and examples:macmillandictionaries.com/MED-Magazine/October2005/…
    – VSI
    Jan 6, 2016 at 14:39

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