Speak up

To "speak up" is to say something when you might be tempted to stay quiet.

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Speak up

So the word we’re going to review today is “speak up,” which is a phrasal verb with a couple of meanings. In the original context, you heard that women were afraid to speak up about the culture of sexual harassment and abuse in Hollywood. They were afraid to say anything because they feared that doing so would cost them opportunities in their industry. Instead of speaking up, they stayed silent because they thought their career prospects would be better that way.

To speak up means to express an opinion or raise a difficult issue in conversation—not to stay quiet about something that’s on your mind. You might have heard your teachers say, “If you have any questions, speak up.” What they mean to say is that, if you don’t understand something, you should make sure to say something.

Recently I was working with a group of people and I wasn’t sure if everyone agreed with how we were doing our project. So I said to the group, if anyone has any concerns about what we’re doing, make sure to speak up. I didn’t want anyone to have concerns but not say anything.

We all know people who aren’t afraid to speak up if they have something on their mind—they’re always talking or raising issues. Other people are less comfortable raising difficult concerns or issues; they have a harder time speaking up when they have an opinion.

The sexual abuse scandal in Hollywood is a big deal because the industry is discovering that many people were afraid to speak up about the bad things they were seeing and experiencing. Hopefully the culture will improve now that so many people have spoken up about what they’ve seen.

There is one other way to use speak up—if you want someone to talk louder. You might say to someone, “Speak up—not everyone in the room can hear you.” Like that.


That’s all for today. I hope you like the new format—twice a week, but shorter episodes each time. Remember to find me on Twitter or Facebook at PlainEnglishPod, or shoot me an email at [email protected]. Thanks again for being in the audience and we’ll be back with a new episode on Thursday

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Story: Oprah for President?