What does “end up” mean?


Does “end up” have the same meaning as “end”?

The phrasal verb “to end up” means to come to a conclusion or the result of something, so by doing something we end up with a result. For example, the heavy snow can often cause flight delays or even flights being canceled.

An unlucky passenger whose flight is canceled may end up making other travel arrangements. Therefore, the result of the heavy snow is that people traveling may need to change their travel plans due to canceled flights. Or a passenger whose flight is delayed may end up waiting in the airport for hours until the plane can take flight.


From the example above, we can see that the passengers have to take some course of action because of the change in travel plans. The phrasal verb here has a negative connotation attached to it, the passengers didn’t want to change their plans, instead, they had to.


Here are some more examples:

  • Many students don’t get their first choice when applying to colleges and universities so they end up enrolling for the second or third choice.
  • For the dinner party, the host had planned to serve salmon as the main course. However, when she went to the fishmongers, there was no salmon left. She ended up serving baked cod instead.
  • There are many young graduates who end up migrating to other countries in search of better employment opportunities, this is due to the lack of opportunities in their home country.


The phrasal verb can also imply an unintentional result. For example:

  • The hitchhikers were so lost that they ended up 30 miles away from the campsite that they were traveling to, in the end, they had to camp in the forest and contact the local police the next day.
  • At the wedding reception, one of the guests ended up sitting next to his ex-wife. Neither of them were happy about this arrangement and were eventually moved to different tables.
  • The first day in his new job, the nurse was so nervous that he ended up going to the wrong ward and introducing himself to the wrong warden.


From the examples and explanations above, we can see that the phrasal verb “to end up” and the verb “to end” are quite different. We use the verb “to end” to refer to the action of stopping or finishing something. For example, the recruitment agency ended their search for an HR consultant once they found the perfect applicant for the position. The agency ended up with a highly qualified applicant with many years of experience.


In that example, we see that the action of searching for an HR consultant has stopped or ended and the result of this search is that the agency found or ended up with a qualified applicant for their client.

“End up” is a phrasal verb and while it does refer to the end of something, its meaning is a little broader.

We would typically use end up to talk about how a situation is going to turn out or end. It can be used to express a conclusion that may have many different parts.

For example, when you finish reading a book, you have reached the end. It is a singular thing; there is literally nothing more to read.

But, if we were to ask, how did the book end up? We are asking about the story, about how it concluded, and what happened to the characters? This could involve many different aspects or parts of the answer.

We can use end up in a future tense also.

  • We will see how things end up tomorrow.
  • I am anxious to see how the movie ends up!

Put simply, in the end; you should be able to see what it means to end up!

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