Put Something Up or Out? (An ESL Teacher has your Answer)

Words and phrases in English that are similar but have different meanings can be easily confused. I used an occasion in Japan called “Girl’s Day” to explain to my students the difference between putting something up and putting something out. Now I want to share this lesson with ESL students around the world.

The phrasal verbs put up and put out both mean to set something in a place where it can be easily seen.
Put up is more commonly used with things that are hanging somewhere. “Put up a poster.”
Put out is more commonly used with things that are meant to be seen and used. “Put out some snacks.”

Many places around the world have celebrations at different times of the year. People often decorate their homes, local shrines, churches, mosques, and temples to mark the occasion. Keep reading to learn more ways to use these two phrasal verbs correctly. You will find lots of natural examples that you can use right away in your own conversations.

Put (something) Up

One use for put up is to fix something in a place where it will be seen.

We use put up with decorations, posters, paintings, etc. that are placed on a wall. (Where it will be seen.) 

Put up is a separable phrasal verb. This means that we can put a noun in between the verb put and the preposition up. *Separable = can be separated

We put up something or we put something up.

Put Something Up or Out? Put UP

Here are some examples.

  • There is a special events committee at my school. They are in charge of putting up the Halloween, Christmas, and other festival decorations.
    The committee hangs posters and decorations on the walls around the school.
  • I love the Avengers! I bought an Infinity War poster today and I can’t wait to put it up on my wall.
    – I will attach the poster to my wall.
  • The new Apple store will open in 4 days. They put up a sign this morning, I saw it in the store window.
    – They placed a sign in the window that says when the store will open.

The phrasal verb put up with different conjugations.

Verb formExample sentence
Infinitiveto put
“I want to put up the Christmas decorations this weekend. Can you help me?” 
Present simpleI/you/we/they put
“I can help you put up the decorations on Saturday.” 
Present simple 3rd person singularhe/she/it puts
“My dad puts up the Christmas decorations in October. I think it’s too early.” 
Past simpleput (put is an irregular verb
“Our neighbors put up their Christmas decorations last weekend.” 
Past participle put 
“The house behind us had already put up their Christmas decorations by October. It’s too early!” 
Continuous (TO BE) putting
“The family across the street is putting up their decorations right now.” 

Put up can be used in a similar way to set up for things that don’t necessarily hang somewhere.

Set up = to build something or to put something somewhere

  • It’s time to set up the Christmas tree. (Put up the tree.)

The only real difference is that put up is used for things that you want to be displayed, you want people to see them. Set up is not always used this way. 

  • “The police set up barricades on the road to keep people away from the accident.”
    The police want the barricades to be seen by other drivers.
  • “My dad set up a workbench in the garage with all his expensive tools. I’m not allowed to touch anything there.”
    The workbench is not meant to be displayed or shown to other people. It’s just an area for my dad to work with his tools.

Put (something) Out

One use for put out is to fix something in a place where it will be seen and/or used. This phrasal verb is used for decorations that display on a stand, on the ground, or by themselves rather than being hung on something. 

Put out is also a separable phrasal verb.

  • March 3rd (third) is “Girl’s Day” in Japan. Many people put out special dolls and display them during this event.
    – People display dolls in their homes to be seen by their guests. 
  • Some friends are coming over tonight so I put out some snacks and napkins.
    – I want my friends to eat the snacks and use the napkins.
  • Can you put the garbage out tomorrow morning when you leave for school?
    – Please put the garbage where it can be seen and collected by the garbage collectors.
Put Something Up or Out? Put OUT
Infinitiveto put
“I want to put out the new towels before the guests arrive. Can you help me?” 
Present simpleI/you/we/they put
“I can help you put out the new towels. Where are they?” 
Present simple 3rd person singularhe/she/it puts
“My mom puts out the fine China whenever we have guests for dinner.” 
Past simpleput (put is an irregular verb) 
“I put the garbage out before I went to school this morning .” 
Past participle put 
“The house behind us had already put out their garbage last night and today the bags were ripped open by crows. That’s why you should always put your garbage out in the morning.” 
Continuous putting
“Mom is putting out new towels right now. I think I’ll give her a hand.” 

The phrasal verb Put UP other uses 

put up something to show a particular level of skill, determination, etc. in a fight or contest

  • “It took me 45 minutes to get that fish in the boat. He really put up a great fight.” 

put somebody upto let somebody stay at your home

  • “Let me know the next time you’re in town and I can put you up, no need to waste money on a hotel.” 

put something upto build something or place something somewhere

  • “My neighbors just installed a pool in their backyard. By law, they must put a fence up to prevent accidents.” 

– ​to raise something or put it in a higher position

  • “She put her hair up for the party and looked very elegant.” 

– to provide or lend money

  • “If the staff raises $100 to buy a new coffee machine for the break room the company will put up another hundred dollars. We can buy a nice machine for that price.” 

Oxford Learner’s Dictionaries put up

put up with something To accept someone or something that is annoying, unpleasant, etc. without complaining

  • “My neighbor is very noisy. He often plays loud music late at night. I’m not going to put up with it any longer. I’m calling our landlord tomorrow morning.”
    = I’m not going to accept this unpleasant situation anymore. (noisy neighbor) 
  • If you want a rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain.

The phrasal verb Put OUT other uses 

put somebody out ​to cause somebody trouble, extra work, etc.

A: “Let me know the next time you’re in town and I can put you up for the night.”
B: “I don’t want to put you out.”

put something out  – to stop something from burning or shining

  • “He saw the no smoking sign on the door and quickly put out his cigarette before he went in.”
  • “The fire truck arrived quickly and the fireman put the fire out in just 15 minutes.” 

to produce something, especially for sale

  • “The factory puts out over 400 smartphones every hour.” 

to publish or broadcast something

  • “This magazine puts out a new issue every 2 months.”

Oxford Learner’s Dictionaries put out

More great Phrasal Verb posts below!

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