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How to Use End Up

Kevin Naglich
Sales Engineer English Coach

We use end up to talk about unexpectedly being in a specific situation, state, or place after a series of events.

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. 


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. 

What we just did was active practice.

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.

📞 Want to practice with a former Sales Engineering Director at a global Cybersecurity company? Schedule a free 30-minute call with me today to talk about your professional goals.

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