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How to Use End Up

Kevin Naglich
Founder, Deliberate English

A great way to speak more fluent English faster is to look for quick wins. Quick wins are things that are easy to fix but have a huge impact on how natural you sound. 

A quick win can often be learning how to properly use a phrasal verb. The thing is, you can't properly learn how to use a word from passively looking at an image on Instagram. 

Your brain is really good at ignoring or forgetting about things when you just passively do them. If you want to actually remember what you learn, you need to actively practice and focus on the details. 

Let's look at the phrasal verb, end up, and actively use it together.

We use end up to talk about being in a specific situation, state, or place after a series of events. This fits especially well when the situation, state, or place is unplanned or unexpected.

Imagine that you went out to a party with some friends one night. You are having a good time. Everyone's laughing and having fun. Eventually, it gets so late that you end up sleeping at your friend's house. You didn't plan to do this, but it is what happened after a series of events.

Now that we know the definition, let's spend a few minutes actively practicing to truly know how to use this phrasal verb. By the way, active practice means that you are saying all of these sentences that you're about to see out loud. 

If you don't practice out loud, you won't improve. 

Ready? 

How do you use end up in this sentence? 

Answer: I ended up quitting my job after one year.

This means that some series of events made you quit early. It wasn't your original plan to quit this soon, but maybe you had a bad boss. 

Does end up fit in this sentence? 

Answer: Yes.

After a series of events, in this case, travel, we finished in a specific place. After a month of travel, we ended up finishing the trip in Phoenix. 

Does end up fit in this sentence? 

There is a series of events, checking a bunch of dictionaries, and we are talking about a situation - in this case, not finding a good definition. 

Technically, it's okay to use end up here. But, to be honest, we usually use it when there are multiple possible outcomes to a situation. Not just two. When you check a dictionary, there are only two options: you either find the word, or you don't. Since there is less uncertainty here, you probably won't hear end up as often. Instead, you're more likely to hear, "I checked a bunch of dictionaries, but I couldn't find a good definition."

How does end up fit in this sentence? Remember to try to say it out loud as you think about the solution.  

Answer: I tried to avoid it, but I ended up with extra work yesterday. 

Here's another sentence. Read it and then close your eyes and try to repeat it out loud from memory. 

We just saw two sentences using the structure end up with.  What do the words problems and work have in common? They're both nouns

We usually say end up with if the word that comes next is a noun.

Now, look at this sentence. Is it correct?

I usually end up with understanding 30-40% of what I hear.

Answer: No. Here, the word understanding is acting as a verb. Instead of saying end up with, we should just say, "I usually end up understanding 30-40% of what I hear." 

Did you notice the other important pattern? 

If you use a verb after end up, it needs to be an ing verb.  

We always use ing verbs after prepositions. Since the up in end up is a preposition, we follow it with ing verbs

Let's look at two more quick examples. Does end up fit here?

Answer: No. 

There is no series of events here. We are asking about a simple fact. Where is the end of the road? Therefore it's better to say, "where does this road end?" 

Last one. Let's finish with a challenge. Change this sentence to the past tense and figure out where end up fits. 

Answer: I didn't think we would end up living in the same city. 

Active practice doesn't have to take hours. You don't need fancy tools, software, or money to do it. 

All you need is a desire to improve your English and the willingness to challenge yourself to use new expressions in different contexts. You can always ask native speakers for feedback using tools like HiNative

Prefer to get feedback from business professionals instead of random strangers on the internet? Join me in the Deliberate English Community. In the community, you'll learn and practice with real-life business challenges, boost your confidence with live classes, and get feedback from business pros like me on every single thing you say and write. Learn more and join the community today!

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