The creek has dried up.

In this example sentence, you should say "dried up." If you say just "dried," it sounds incomplete. Is this an example of an idiom or is there a grammatical rule governing this instance? If so, what is it?

  • Because when your typical creek dries up the bottom gets cracked, and the edges of the cracks curl upwards.
    – Hot Licks
    Jan 18, 2017 at 1:28
  • 1
    @HotLicks Tempting! But we say "the fount of ideas has dried up" as well. I'm sure I can think of other examples if I need to.
    – Jerenda
    Jan 18, 2017 at 1:47
  • It's metaphorical. When a leaf "dries up" it doesn't simply get dry, it curls up (and it's also, by the way, dead). "Dry up" implies not simply being desiccated, but also curling or wrinkling in a way that suggests death or exhaustion.
    – Hot Licks
    Jan 18, 2017 at 1:50
  • 1
    @HotLicks Is that also why you build up your rationale, or clean up your room, or come up to speed, or eat up your supper, or fix up your comments, or give up a lost argument, or hang up a phone, or let up the pressure, or make up sillinesses, or open up a can, or own up to a fib, or pluck up the courage to call a spade a spade, or pack up and leave, or put up or pipe down, or round up your cattle, or start up your car, or sneak up on the truth, or tear up your papers, or wrap up and go home? :)
    – tchrist
    Jan 18, 2017 at 2:36
  • 2
    In this case the "up" appears to be used to signify the ending of a process instead of a long standing or normal state. The creek has dried up means it normally runs but has stopped, whereas a dry creek means in is usually dry but occasionally runs.
    – Pooneil
    Jan 18, 2017 at 3:08

2 Answers 2


In this case, "up" is used to express that something is "complete" or done "completely".


At a restaurant. Don't fill up on bread, otherwise you'll have no appetite when the entré comes.

Re: driving

Did you fill up the gas tank? I got $20 worth. (= No. I only got some gas(oline)/(petrol)).

Grammar note:

This kind of verb is called a phrasal verb. Phrasal verbs are verbs that are 1 part verb + 1 or 2 parts preposition. The result is usually an idiomatic expression or some deviation from the base.

With the word(particle) "up", the meaning does not always mean "completely" but in this case it does.

So, I hope this answers your question, and I haven't "used up" all of your time.

Good luck

  • I am not sure this is the case of a phrasal verb, that is: "a phrase that consists of a verb with a preposition or adverb or both, the meaning of which is different from the meaning of its separate parts". Here "up" is just an intensifier, the meaning is not changed and would be understood also without the particle.
    – user66974
    Jan 18, 2017 at 7:24
  • TFD says it's an idiom.... idioms.thefreedictionary.com/dry+up
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jan 18, 2017 at 8:33
  • But Macmillan says it's a phrasal verb macmillandictionary.com/dictionary/british/dry-up
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jan 18, 2017 at 8:36
  • This answer is so good it makes me want to rewrite my question to apply to a broader range of problems.
    – Jerenda
    Jan 18, 2017 at 21:53
  • If ‘up’ is just an intensifier why can it not always be dropped with no change in meaning. Isn’t part of the problem that ‘creek’ has different meanings, more easily seen in ‘river’, and the whole might not be the sum of the parts? Bed or bottom can simply ‘dry’ but not the ‘creek’ or ‘river’ itself; it’s made of water. ‘The river/creek/water… flows’ are exactly synonymous; the banks, bed or bottom don’t. What ‘dries up’ is the bed or the whole but not the part that flows. Fall in then ‘dry off’ your skin; ‘dry’ or ‘dry out’ your clothes, which goes towards Hot Licks’ cracked bottom. Jan 31, 2017 at 15:10

The adverbial form up is often used with verbs as an intensifier to add strength to the meaning you want to convey.

  • Used as an intensifier of the action of a verb: typed up a list.


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