Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Keeping Up, Falling Behind, & Catching Up

Everyone in the group is running hard, but they're KEEPING
UP with each other so far. The guy in the back, though, looks
like he's getting tired and is beginning to slow down a bit.
When you're out running with some friends, you always want to KEEP UP with the group, right? You don't want to FALL BEHIND because that would be embarrassing. Do you agree? If you're in shape, it's a piece of cake, but if you're out of shape, it can be tough.

KEEP UP - be with the group
FALL BEHIND - be in the back because you're slow
IN SHAPE - physically fit; healthy & strong
OUT OF SHAPE - not healthy & weak

I knew it! The guy in the back was getting tired! He was
probably running out of breath and had to slow down or
start walking. Now he's FALLEN BEHIND and will have to
CATCH UP with the group. However, it won't be easy.
Once you've FALLEN BEHIND, it can be difficult to CATCH UP. You'd have to catch your breath, then run faster to reach the group. However, once you've CAUGHT UP with everyone, you'd probably be out of breath again if you're so out of shape and you may FALL BEHIND again.

CATCH UP - be even with everyone; be up to date
CATCH YOUR BREATH - try to breathe normally
OUT OF BREATH - having a hard time breathing

The three phrasal verbs used above (KEEP UP, FALL BEHIND, & CATCH UP) can also be used in school. You can easily FALL BEHIND if you don't do your homework or if you don't KEEP UP with assigned reading. In addition, you can FALL BEHIND when you're absent and miss a lecture. If this happens, you would probably do your best to get CAUGHT UP by reading the chapters you've missed and borrowing notes from a classmate. 

Eliana looks overwhelmed here looking at a TOEFL exercise.
Actually, she says she's used to having a lot of things to do
and can usually meet the challenge & get things done on time.
She's good at multitasking & KEEPING UP with her work.

When you're listening to a lecture, you can also FALL BEHIND if the professor speaks very fast or if you don't have good note-taking skills. To KEEP UP with the professor, you'll have to focus and try not to daydream in class. Otherwise, you'll have to play CATCH UP.

At work, a similar thing can happen. If you're swamped with projects, it can be tough to KEEP UP. Also, if you have additional things to do, it can be a challenge just keeping your head above water, and you can FALL BEHIND.  
SWAMPED - overloaded with work, assignments
KEEPING ONE'S HEAD ABOVE WATER - staying afloat; getting things done despite some difficulty

We also KEEP UP with friends so we don't LOSE TOUCH. As you know, this can be challenging when we're busy, so we sometimes call our friends and suggest meeting over lunch or a cup of coffee to CATCH UP. When you do this, you are suggesting meeting your friend to talk and get the latest news about each other. 

Here are some examples.
    1. Sorry, I can't come to the party. I really need to CATCH UP at work. I've FALLEN far BEHIND.
     2. He's so busy he now has to work 7 days a week just to KEEP UP with the work.
     3. We haven't seen each other in a while. Let's meet over coffee sometime and CATCH UP.
     4. If she gets CAUGHT UP with her work, she'll go on vacation with us.
     5. Maria and Sandra have always KEPT UP, but they've both LOST TOUCH with Peter. 

How do you KEEP UP with everything when you have so much to do? Do you have a strategy? Do you stress out easily when you start FALLING BEHIND or do you stay calm?

Share your answers here with us, on NYLC's page on Facebook, or on Twitter at NYLangCenter

-- Joe Yu, ESL instructor

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