#86 – TO MIX UP


Hello there, my name’s Luke Thompson. You’re listening to ‘A Phrasal Verb a Day’ and here is your phrasal verb for this particular episode. It’s number 86 and it’s ‘to mix up’, okay, ‘mix up’ and we’ve got loads of different meanings here including also an adjective and a noun at the end too. So, let’s begin.

First one, that’s when you think that someone is somebody else, okay? Does that ever happen to you?

You’re walking along the street and you see someone from behind and you go – Hey! That’s my friend – and you go up to them and you say – Hey! How are you? – and they turn around and then you realise it’s someone else and you say – Oh, I’m really sorry, I thought it was someone else. I MIXED you UP with someone else.

Okay? So, I MIXED you UP. In fact, no, I MIXED you UP with someone else, okay? So, if you think that one person, one thing is another person or thing it means you confuse them, you MIX them UP, okay? For example:

A lot of the time students of English always MIX UP certain words. For example people MIX UP the words ‘affect’ and ‘effect’. In fact ‘affect’ and ‘effect’. ‘Affect’ with an ‘A’ and ‘effect with an ‘E’. Students often MIX UP those words. They get them confused. What’s the difference? Well, ‘affect’ with an ‘A’ is the verb and ‘effect’ with an ‘E’ is the noun. I think they are pronounced in exactly the same way. Anyway, we’re not talking about the word ‘affect’ and ‘effect’. We’re talking about MIXING things UP with each other. So, students often MIX UP the word ‘affect’ with the word… They MIX UP the verb ‘affect’ with the noun ‘effect’ because they’re very similar but slightly different spelling. Okay. MIX couple of things UP with each other.

Number two. This means ‘to put things together but not in any particular order, in a jumbled up king of order’, alright? For example:

– I had some paper on the desk here. I had all my exam papers. They were all in alphabetical order and then a cleaner came and she moved them and she MIXED them all UP! I don’t know what happened. Maybe she dropped them and then put them back in a pile but she MIXED them all UP so now they are not in alphabetical order any more.
Okay? There’s an example, or it could be:

– When you’re doing laundry don’t MIX UP dark colours and white colours. Don’t MIX them UP, okay? Because all the colours will run and you’ll pull your white stuff out and it’ll be pink or blue or something. So, don’t MIX UP the dark colours and the light colours in a washing machine.

So, that’s ‘to put things together without any particular order’, so ‘muddle or jumble things up’.

Number three. This one’s often passive and it means ‘to confuse’ or ‘to make someone confused’, okay? For example… It’s often with ‘be mixed up’ or ‘get mixed up’.

So, I’ve got a one-to-one student and I was teaching him about rules of pronunciation and I went through all the rules with him explaining it carefully but I can tell he didn’t understand and in fact in the end he got all MIXED UP. He got all MIXED UP.

Okay? So:

– Wow, wow. Sorry, can you explain that again. I’m getting a bit MIXED UP here

meaning ‘I’m getting a bit confused’, alright?

– You know, don’t go into it in so much detail. You’ll just MIXED everyone UP.

‘You will MIX everyone UP’ meaning ‘you’ll make them all confused’, okay?

Number four and this one is always passive and it means ‘to get involved in something, especially something bad or embarrassing’. You know, for example:

– I told you before ‘Don’t go to that bar. Don’t go to that bar. You’ll get all MIXED…, you know, don’t get MIXED UP with those gangsters who go to that bar’, okay? If you go to that bar all the time you’re just going to get MIXED UP with those mafia guys. And you don’t want to…, you don’t want to get MIXED UP with the mafia guys because the next thing you know, they’ll do you a favour and then they’ll be like ‘Last week we did you a favour. Now it’s time for you to do a favour for us’ and then the next thing you know you’re in the mafia, aren’t you? You’ve got no choice. You’re in their pocket. Don’t get MIXED UP with those mafia guys.

Okay. I don’t know how often that happens. How often is it that you get MIXED UP with mafia guys? Not very often I hope. Unless you are a mafia guy. It’s possible these days that even mafia dudes are trying to improve their English. Maybe they can threaten people more effectively using phrasal verbs, you know:

– You don’t want to get MIXED UP with us. Give me the money!
You know, that sort of thing. Alright.

Number five, this is…, this is… Oh, wow, I’ve done this one really, ‘to spend time with someone who has a bad influence on you’:

– Don’t get MIXED UP with someone like that

Okay. So, what’s the difference between that and number four. Well, number four really means ‘just be involved in anything that bad’.

– You know, he is sort of getting MIXED UP in all kinds of legal activity

So, ‘to get mixed up in something’ and ‘to get mixed up with somebody’, alright? So,

– Don’t get MIXED UP with those mafia guys


– Don’t get MIXED UP in any of that criminal activity

for example. Yeah, it’s like:

– You got arrested. How did you get arrested?
– Well, I just… Well, I kind of got MIXED UP in a bank robbery.
– You got MIXED UP in a bank robbery?! How did that happen?!
– Well, I was in the bank and I was getting some money out and next thing you know – boom – all these guys arrived and they had guns and they were like ‘Get down on the floor! This is a bank robbery!’ and, well, you know normally there’s a hero who tries to stop them. Well, I thought to myself ‘Fair enough, yeah’, you know, ‘I quite like to rob this bank as well because, well, the bank won’t let me have any of my money’. So, I kind of joined in a little bit.
– You got MIXED UP in a bank robbery?!
– Yeah, I ended up sort of saying… I said to them ‘Hey, do you want a hand? I’ll be willing to help out as long as you don’t shoot me’ and they were like ‘Yeah, alright’. Next thing you know, I got MIXED UP in the bank robbery but on the plus side I’m rich.

Okay, ‘to get mixed up in a bank robbery’. ‘To get mixed up in something’ and ‘to get mixed up with somebody’. Alright. So, we’ve got an adjective and that is ‘mixed up’, ‘to be mixed up’ and it means to have lots of emotional problems, okay?

– Look, I’m just feeling a little bit MIXED UP at the moment. Okay?


– Yeah, I’m not ready for a relationship. I’m not ready for another relationship just now. I’m just feeling a bit MIXED UP because, you know, I just came out of a long relationship. I’m just trying to get my head together. So, I’m really sorry but it’s just not going to work out between you and me. I’m just not ready for a new relationship. I’m feeling a bit MIXED UP because of my ex-girlfriend. She MIXED UP my head so much.

Okay. And then the noun ‘mix-up’, ‘a mix-up’ is a mistake or a problem or a confusion.

– Sorry, I think there’s been a bit of a MIX-UP. I’m not the guy you’re looking for I think.

You know, if, like, the police knock on the door ‘Bang, bang, bang.’
– Police! Open up!
– Hello officer. I’m sure there’s been a bit of a MIX-UP. I can’t be the guy you’re looking for. Bank robbery?! No, not me, I’m just an English teacher. I couldn’t… I’d never get MIXED UP in a bank robbery. Oh, you’ve got a search warrant. Well, certainly come in. I’m sure this is all just a bit of a MIX-UP officer. Oh, you’re arresting me? Oh, look, I would never get MIXED UP with any gangsters or anything. Of course not. I’m just an English teacher. Oh, you’re taking me to the police station? OK. Well, look, I’m sure there’s just been a bit of a MIX-UP. I’ll be willing to answer any of your questions. Oh, you’ve found a suitcase full of money? Ah! Right.

Okay. So, there you go. We’ve had ‘to mix something up’, ‘to confuse two people’, ‘to confuse two things’:

– I’m always MIXING those two people UP with each other.

‘To put things in a sort of jumbled up or disorganised way’:

– You know, the cleaner MIXED UP all my exam papers

for example. ‘To confuse someone’:

– You’re just MIXING them UP.

– Don’t… you know, he got all MIXED UP.

– Sorry, I’m a bit MIXED UP about this.

Alright. And then ‘to get involved in something bad’: ‘to get MIXED UP in a bank robbery’ for example. ‘To get involved with people’:

– Don’t get MIXED UP with those gangsters

‘To feel mixed up’:
– Oh, I’m a bit MIXED UP. Look, I’m just not ready for another relationship right now.

And then ‘a mix-up’:

– Look, I’m sure there’s been a bit of a MIX-UP

Okay, that’s the end of this slightly long phrasal verb episode but it just shows, doesn’t it, that ‘mix up’ has got lots of different uses and things. That’s it for this one. Speak to you again soon. Bye.

  • riddle

    I was cleaning my sister’s room yesterday and I mixed her papers up. When she discovered it she was so angry at me. When I saw her furious face I ran for the hills. She should be thankfull for clearing her room out and yet she’s angry with me! What an ungrateful person. I got mixed up in a money fraud. I don’t know HOW to proceed. I’m going tell the police that it is a bit of a mix-up. The other day I was walking down the street and suddenly I saw someone very similar to my friend, so I ran up to him and patted him on the back. As he turned around I understood that it wasn’t him. I mixed him up with someone else. It was a bit of a fun. Luke, your podcasts are so addictive that I cannot abstain from listening to them. I reckon it’s a good addiction. But it’s been enough for today. I spent one hour on reading the transcripts to them. Now I’m going to indulge myself with a great book, of course in English. It’s a self-help book. Some of the rules that occur in this kind of books may be applied in language learning. I’m learning four languages currently with emhasise on English. I’m afraid I will mix them up. I certainly don’t want it happen. People who speak Spanish and learn Italian have a tendency to mix those two languages up. When I was in high school I used to mix English and German up. How come? I have no idea. They’re not too similar. In fact, I was doing it on purpose to infuriate my teachers.

  • Andrzej

    You know what, Luke? Earlier on today yet another time I watched “Force Majeure 2013” by Eddie Izzard (84 min.). I don’t actually know how many times I have already watched it and I still can’t get enough. The fact that there are still some moments which I don’t understand gives me incentives to learn harder. Your comedy routine schedule looks pretty tense. I dream to be a part of your audience one day. I didn’t manage to visit Paris this year as I had planned because unexpectedly my August was full of work. I hope next year I am more lucky.

    ps. As far as I know you have already ventured the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge :) I have seen the video on YouTube. There’s a TED talk published today given by the mother of Pete Frates, mother who started the Ice Bucket Challenge. Quite interesting but I don’t quite get the idea of pouring a bucker of cold water on my head and how it is connected with charity to raise money to find cure for a relatively rear disease. I have listened to her. I have read the Wikipedia page and it still doesn’t appeal to me. Of course I feel sorry for every sufferer no matter what the reason is and try to take part in charities but why it’s gone viral online is still beyond my comprehension. What shall I pour on my head to signal that we shouldn’t discard still edible food for example? In America 40% of food is binned! Maybe an iceberg or something…

    ps2. I have vowed to abstain from mentioning Jeff for some time.