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I'm a student learning English. Whenever I get stuck on phrasal verbs, I imagine the idiomatic meaning with the literal meaning and figure it out.

put up with
Tolerate; endure.
‘I'm too tired to put up with any nonsense’
(Oxford Dictionaries)

However, based on its literal meaning, I'm finding it difficult to understand how ‘put up with’ means "endure", "tolerate" or "support" as its synonyms suggest.

It'll be really helpful for me, if someone could explain.

  • @Nigel j If so, how should i accept this expression if it's not explain in a practical sense? Memorizing is only the right way ?? Thank you for your answer – Hye Jun Park May 12 '18 at 14:40
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People "put up" poles to support something … curtain poles for instance.

…it can be a really easy job putting up a curtain pole…

So, you put up curtains with [the use/aid/assistance of] a pole. In other words, putting up a pole means to support (tolerate) the weight of something.

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    Now i can make sense with this. Like when i put A up with B, A will hold b in high position and A gotta bear the weight of B, it's gonna be a hard work. So they use "put up with" to mean "endure,stand". Am i right ?? – Hye Jun Park May 11 '18 at 7:37
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    Please give supporting references. The answer below is obviously far more than personal speculation on the part of the answerer. – Edwin Ashworth May 11 '18 at 8:53
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    Of course English native speakers use the expression 'put up' to mean 'assemble / erect'. Do the B&Q workers / advertisers mention the relevant point, that 'put up with' = 'tolerate', certainly derives from this usage? Totally unscholarly reasoning. – Edwin Ashworth May 11 '18 at 11:14
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    You know the advice here about subjective answers. You don't even indicate that this is largely speculation. OED have the grace to do so, despite undoubtedly vastly greater research. – Edwin Ashworth May 11 '18 at 11:19
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    @Mari-LouA 'So please basing on the literal meaning, explain why that means it.' Which is what you do here. With no evidence at all that it is more than a guess. And with a speculation at odds with that suggested by OED, who admit that their suggestion cannot be regarded as indisputable. – Edwin Ashworth May 11 '18 at 14:06
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Let's look at the etymology.

An earlier (now obsolete) version of this idiom is just "put up", which dates at least as far back to this 1573 quote:

Al this I put up quietly.
Letter-Book of Gabriel Harvey A.D. 1573-1580

The Oxford English Dictionary believes it is "[p]erhaps originally a fig[urative] use of" this sense of "put up":

To place in a receptacle for safe keeping or for future use; to store, stow away; to lay aside, put by; (in later use also) to pack or make up into a parcel, in a basket, etc.

This sense is still used in some regions of the United States ("south. and south Midland"), although I think most people won't be familiar with it. An example can be found here.


So, based on the etymology, you can think of the expression like you're bottling up your reaction and putting it away.

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    Is that the same sense of "put up" as "putting up preserves"? That's still in widespread use, isn't it? Or is it different? Anyway I'm not sure I see the connection. When you "put up with" something, that doesn't (necessarily) mean that you're bottling up your resentment for future use, does it? – bof May 11 '18 at 7:25
  • @bof Yeah that seems to be definitely related, although it's listed under a different, more specific sense in the OED. I'm not sure how widespread it is (I've never heard of it but then again I don't make preserves). As for your second point, the emotion doesn't have to be resentment and you don't have to ever react to it—but both "bottling up feelings" and "putting up with something" have the connotation to me that something is wearing down your patience. Another, perhaps better idiom would be to say that you're "swallowing" the reaction. – Laurel May 11 '18 at 7:50
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    "Putting up" peaches or beans (whatever was in abundance)--that is, home canning--was common when canned goods were more expensive and fresh produce was more seasonal. Not "putting up with" nonsense is thus refusing to keep it around, not having it in the house. – Xanne May 11 '18 at 8:08
  • So if I put up with somebody's bad behavio(u)r I bottle it and keep it aside, I preserve it? Nope, I have never ever considered that to be the meaning of "put up with" In fact, if one looks at its synonyms we have "support", "bear", "stand", "support", "endurance", "tolerate", "tough it out" and to "suffer through". I don't see "conserve", "preserve", or "bottling" anywhere. – Mari-Lou A May 11 '18 at 12:18
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According to Etymonline the idiomatic expression put up with is an extension of the earlier version “put up” in the sense of to accept, to pocket:

To put up with "tolerate, accept" (1755) was originally to put up, as in "to pocket."

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