This is a mistake that I have heard even made by professional and fluent C1 speakers in business situations. One student I knew was so gobsmacked by the revelation that she had been making the mistake for years without realising that she instantly went to an online dictionary to check whether I was mistaken in my assertion. And so common is this confusion that THIS VERY MORNING a student made this mistake in a class of mine.
The confusion is compounded by the fact that the error upon which I have chosen to focus is a PHRASAL VERB, something that native Spanish speakers appear to have an irrational fear of. Phrasal verbs are (let me whisper this to you) … just vocabulary. What is made up of two or three words in English is usually a single word in Spanish, in the same way that the English word “afford” is “permitirse el lujo de poder hacer algo” in Spanish.
Phrasal verbs are the English language’s petty revenge for the random assignation of genders to inanimate objects in most other European languages, genders that often differ depending on the particular language. Why is the German word for "girl" neuter? Why are many objects that are masculine in Spanish feminine in Portuguese and vice-versa? Why is the informal Spanish word word for the male sex organ FEMALE and the informal Spanish word for the female sex organ MALE? Phrasal verbs are also another great example of the creative nature of the English language. For example, if you need to LOOK UP a word in a dictionary, you are probably looking DOWN.
Spain has Salvador Dalí and Luis Buñuel, English has the language itself.
Phrasal verbs are your friends and they are common everyday English. Most Britons would sound a little snooty if they informed a colleague that they had “arrived home late last night” despite the grammatical correctness of the phrase, yet if they mentioned that they had “got back / got home / got in late” the sentence sounds more natural and less “cold”.
Sadly phrasal verbs can sometimes be confused with the individual verbs that every phrasal verb contains, not unlike the way that Spanish often a CD player “un CD”, the same Spanish word used for the actual disc contained and played within. However, those two things are different words in English, in the same way that the verb to grow is NOT the same as the phrasal verb to grow up.
Which comes as a revelation to many an industrious businessman or woman who may have used the verb grow up to describe an increase of some sort, quite possibly so illustrated on a graph, bar chart or spreadsheet. Because it doesn’t mean that at all.
To grow up means to reach a greater state of psychologocal maturity, regardless of physical stature. If a colleague or classmate is behaving in a rather childish way, it would be appropriate to tell them to grow up. We all remember Peter Pan, the boy who didn’t want to grow up. Some rather cruel women have gone so far as to suggest that most modern men NEVER grow up, with their undying love for teenage passions such as video games, football, comics and science fiction, Small children who display surprising levels of responsibility or emotional intelligence for their tender years can be described as “very grown-up” despite being understandably short while similarly young boys and girls may well refer to a group of adults as “grown-ups”.
So whereas a company, a city, profits or even a tree can grow, these things cannot GROW UP.
Some things, like prices, taxes, crime, unemployment and temperature can GO UP, but not grow up. And no, other things that can mature in a non-literal way, like a Stilton cheese, a fine wine or some financial products, cannot grow up either, the verb is only used for psychological or emotional maturity.
So the next time you feel tempted to tell your Irish sister-in-law that your immature but lanky teenage nephew is very grown up, do remember my advice and maybe you'll avoid a reputation for unrequested sarcasm.