#84 – TO MESS UP



Hello everyone, this is Luke Thompson and you’re listening to ‘A Phrasal Verb a Day’ and here’s your phrasal verb for this episode. It’s I believe number 84 and it’s ‘to mess up’, ‘mess up’, ‘mess up something’ or ‘mess something up’, okay? And we’re going to took at four different meanings, fairly similar but let’s start. Okay.

Number one is to, kind of, do something badly or make a mistake, alright? For example:

– I completely MESSED UP my French exam.


– I totally MESSED UP that lesson, like I was trying to explain… I completely MESSED UP the grammar explanation.

So, for example, I was trying to explain the past perfect passive continuous verb form or something and I was attempting to explain it to students and I just completely MESSED IT UP and I got it all wrong. I got confused and in the end the students didn’t understand anything. In fact, they probably knew less that they did before the beginning of the lesson. So, I completely MESSED UP the grammar section of my class, for example, ‘to make a mistake’ or ‘do something badly’, okay?

– I had a guest on the podcast and I completely MESSED UP the interview. It was a disaster.

Okay. Another one it means to make something kind of dirty or untidy, okay? ‘To make something dirty’, yeah, so, it could be:

– What have you been doing in the kitchen? The kitchen is an absolute mess. You’ve completely MESSED UP the kitchen.
– Oh yeah, sorry. We were making cakes.
– I will, you know… Look, it’s fine if you make cakes in the kitchen. Just don’t MESS the place UP completely. At least you could, like, clean up when you finished.
– Oh yeah, sorry, it’s just the biscuits they’re so delicious.
– Look, I don’t want to hear your excuses. Don’t MESS UP my kitchen in the future, alright?

Okay, ‘to mess something up’ , ‘to make it dirty’.

You could also say, for example:

– In every morning, in the morning before I leave my flat I try and make my hair look good. You know, I put some stuff in it to make it look cool and I get it just right and spend ages working on it and then I leave the flat and the wind just MESSES it UP

Okay. Fine. ‘To make something messy’. ‘Messy’ is the adjective not the football player, no. It’s an adjective.

– You know, my hair is all messy because of the wind. The wind MESSED UP my hair and now my hair is a mess

So, that was number 2. Number 3 is a way of expressing the cause of someone’s emotional, physical or mental problems, okay? For example:

– Yeah, I think she is not very well. I think all of those drugs really MESSED her UP

Okay. Like, let’s see, an example could be, Elvis, you know, Elvis Presley. Obviously he was amazing, wasn’t he? He was the king of rock’n’roll but then in ‘70 he took loads of prescription drugs and they really MESSED him UP and in the end, you know, he just.. he was really unhealthy and overweight. I think it was the drugs. They really MESSED him UP.

Okay. You could say the same thing about a virus, for example:

– You know, I caught this horrible virus and it really MESSED UP my body.

– My immune system is completely MESSED UP.

Okay. So, physical, emotional or mental problems.

The fourth one it means to spoil something or damage something. It’s a bit like ruin or spoil, okay? For example:

– You know, drugs just really MESSED UP my life. Drugs MESSED UP my life.

for example, or:

– I’m not going to let her MESS UP my life too. She’s a real heartbreaker. She always MESSES UP the lives of whoever she goes out with. She’s not going to MESS UP my life

for example, and, you know:

– Oh, I’m really sorry. I hope I haven’t MESSED everything UP for you

meaning ‘I hope I haven’t ruined or spoilt everything for you’. Okay. So, that was ‘to mess something up’.

Alright, that’s the end of this recording. I’ll speak to you again soon but for now it’s goodbye.

  • riddle

    Can’t download this one;/

  • Andrzej

    There are so many interesting things going on around your podcast that I have no time to make a sensible comment to APVAD. I find the phrasal verbs you present very easy to move to my active vocabulary. It means a lot to me because what I’m mainly being focused on now is to expand my vocabulary and make it active to possibly large extent. I’m constantly working on and changing my methods of learning so that my brain couldn’t get bored and always was ready to learn. But I’ve been using one method since I started learning and I’m not going to give it up because it’s so effective. The method that helps keep all my growing vocabulary (words, collocations, phrases, idioms, pronunciation, that sort of stuff) fresh and active taking up approximately 22 minutes of my day. It’s not a secret at all and I would dearly love to share this method with the listeners one day. I’m deeply convinced that some of them actually use it but I’m afraid that it’ll turn out to be even more divisive and inflammatory than “Learning a language in 6 months” if it turns into an episode of the podcast. I think I’ll try to put some information as a comment on “Fun/useful websites” page when I find some time to get everything together then you’ll make a decision. OK, enough of this rambling. Cheers.

    ps. Still nothing about Jeff.

    • That sounds great.

      P.s. Jeff will return… Soon…