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To treat someone badly, like criticising them, when it’s unfair.
“Why are you always picking on me?”
“Pick on someone your own size for a change!”
“The other kids at school used to pick on me for being a swot”

Hello, you’re listening to ‘A Phrasal Verb a Day’. My name’s Luke Thompson and here is your phrasal verb for today and it’s ‘to pick on someone’, ‘to pick on someone’. ‘Pick’, P-I-C-K and ‘on’. So, ‘to pick on someone’. Now, this means to treat someone particularly badly. So, to treat someone badly and make criticisms and say negative comments in a way which is unfair, okay? It’s unfair. So, treating someone badly, criticising them, giving them negative comments in an unfair way. Alright? For example, at school you often find that the older kids will pick on the younger kids, especially when the academic year has begun and a whole year of new kids have joined the school then the other kids start to pick on them and in the playground they might make fun of them or tease them maybe even bully them a little bit and, you know, the kid might go home and the parents would say – So, how was your first day little Johnny? – and little Johnny goes – Oh, it was horrible. The older kids kept picking on me – okay? ‘To pick on someone’. When I was a kid my brother used to pick on me a little bit because he was my older brother and sometimes he had his friends around and I’d want to play with them and he would just pick on me and make fun of me and it was all lot of fun for him but it made me feel miserable. Obviously these days it’s fine and he doesn’t pick on me any more. In fact, if anything I’m the one who picks on him. So, if he says something stupid or does something wrong then often I laugh at him and sort of make jokes about it later. So, you know, we’re brothers. We’re always picking on each other to an extent. OK.

Another example. When I was a student at college I was studying, amongst other subjects, I did sports studies and I remember we had this one particular class with a very strict teacher and the teacher had an army background. He used to be in the army and now he was a teacher. So he kind of used the same approach with the students in his classes. He was like this overbearing, very strict army guy teaching us sport and I was in a group with lots of other very sort of big athletic guys. They were like these big tough guys all doing sports studies and me. Now, I was quite athletic too but I wasn’t as big as the other guys and often when we were doing our training sessions everyone was rubbish. I mean often the whole group was just failing or doing something badly and I remember one particular time … what happened was whenever we did something badly for some reason the teacher would always pick on me. So, he’d always single me out as the one for criticism even though everyone else had been doing it wrong as well. I remember one particular time. We were doing this basketball exercise where we had to pass the ball back and forth while running towards the basket and then in the end someone would dunk the ball in the basket, right? And we were trying to do it and everyone was getting it wrong. Everyone kept failing and it felt like no one was really caring about it too much. No one seemed to be making enough effort. So, everyone was getting it wrong time after time. The teacher was getting more and more angry and frustrated and it came to be my turn and we did the exercise and I failed to score a basket and the teacher snapped and he lost his temper and he had a go at me and he was like – “Luke, what’s wrong with you? Why can’t you do this exercise?” – and… this is a very scary teacher but I snapped as well, you see. I got really frustrated and turned around to him and I said to him – “Why are you always picking on me?! Why do you always pick on me?! Everyone else got this wrong and you chose to pick on me! It’s not fair!” – and he actually apologised to me and in fact from that moment on I felt like a sort of won his respect and in fact I won the respect of everyone else in the group as well. So, I called him out for picking on me. So, there you go, ‘to pick on someone’.

Now, there’s another phrase and that is ‘pick on someone your own size’, ‘pick on someone your own size’ and that basically means why don’t you choose to pick on someone who is the same size as you. So, you could say that to a bully if a bully is picking on you.

– Pick on someone your own size! Why are you always choosing to pick on people that are smaller than you?

Okay? So, there you go, ‘to pick on someone’. When you were a kid at school did anyone used to pick on you? Did you pick on anyone? Can you think of any examples when someone picks on someone else? OK, so, have a think about that and you can leave your comments on the page for this episode of ‘A Phrasal Verb a Day’ but that’s it for this one. Thanks for listening. Bye!