catch up


      • to reach someone who is ahead
        It is used to describe the action of reaching someone or something that has moved ahead or has advanced more. This can be in terms of a physical distance, or in terms of progress in a task, project, or competition.

      • to reach the same level or standard
        It describes the action or effort of improving or increasing one's knowledge, abilities, or status to be on par with another person or a set standard. It is often used in the context of education, work, or personal development.

      • to discuss and update each other on personal news
        In a social context, "catch up" is used to describe the act of engaging in a conversation with someone, especially a friend or relative, to update each other about recent happenings in one's life. It's often associated with reunions after not seeing or communicating with each other for a while.

    Examples of catch up

    • After falling behind on her homework, Emily spent the entire evening catching up on her assignments.

      This example shows how the idiom "catch up" can be used in a sentence to mean "to complete or make progress on something that has fallen behind or been neglected". Here, Emily was behind on her homework, so she spent the evening catching up on her assignments in order to bring herself back to where she should be.

    • Despite being a busy professional, Sarah managed to catch up with her old friend over dinner last night.

      In this example, "catch up" is being used more broadly to mean "spend time with someone or be in contact with them after a period of being apart". Here, Sarah had been too busy in her career to see her old friend for a while, but last night she was able to catch up with her over dinner.

    • After the power outage last night, the office had to catch up on all of their work today due to the lost productivity.

      This example shows how "catch up" can also indicate that progress or productivity has been lost, and that effort must be made to regain what was lost. Here, the office's power went out last night, causing them to lose productivity. Today, they are catching up on all of their work that they were unable to complete due to the lost productivity.

    • Since the new policy was implemented, the team has been struggling to catch up with the increased workload.

      This final example demonstrates how "catch up" can be used to indicate that a new situation or change has created additional work or tasks that need to be completed. Here, a new policy has created a larger workload for the team, causing them to struggle to catch up with the increased volume of work.

    • After a week of being sick, I finally caught up on my emails and phone calls.

      In this example, 'catch up' is a phrasal verb meaning to become even again or to bring oneself back into line with someone else's progress. In this context, the speaker fell behind on their emails and phone calls due to being sick, but is now able to respond to them all, as they have caught up.

    • The research department is working hard to catch up with the competition's product releases.

      Here, 'catch up' is being used in the context of keeping pace with, or matching the performance of, another individual or company's progress or output. In this situation, the research department is working hard to stay competitive and will need to work quickly to ensure they don't fall further behind.

    • My child is playing catch up in math class now that they've joined the school mid-semester.

      This example uses 'catch up' to mean that someone is trying to quickly learn and understand the material they have missed since joining the class later than its start. Here, the child is trying to catch up to the level of understanding of their classmates who have been learning the material for longer.

    • I've been reading a lot to catch up on my favourite author's latest novels.

      This final example uses 'catch up' in the context of reading or studying in order to become more familiar with a specific author's work, or to stay current with the latest releases. By reading as many novels as possible, the speaker is catching up and ensuring they don't miss out on anything important from the author's latest works.


    The idiom "catch up" is versatile and can be used in a variety of contexts. It commonly denotes the act of reaching someone or something that is ahead, whether in a physical or metaphorical sense. This could be catching up with a friend in a race or catching up on work assignments. It can also imply reaching the same standard or level as someone else, often used in academic or professional settings. Finally, in a more social and casual context, it refers to the act of updating each other on personal life events, typically after a period of not being in touch. "Catching up" in such a scenario could involve exchanging news, sharing stories, and narrating experiences.

    Origin of "catch up"

    The origin of the idiom "catch up" comes from the individual meanings of the words "catch" and "up". "Catch" in Old English, known as "cæccan", meant to "seize or take", while "up" implies a direction or movement towards a higher position or level. The phrase started being used in English during the late 14th century. However, its use as an idiom in the current sense, particularly to "catch up with", started appearing in written texts around the mid-19th century. For instance, it was used in the sense of reaching someone ahead in a race or journey. Over time, the idiom's usage expanded to include other contexts, such as reaching the same level or standard, or updating each other on personal life events.