You just arrived at work, and you see one of your colleagues sitting at their desk. They look very focused, and you want to ask them what they're doing. There are a few different ways to formulate this question, but one of the most common colloquial ways is "What are you up to?" By learning to use this simple idiom, you can enhance your casual conversations.
Just make sure you say "up to" and not "up for" in this situation. If you're now wondering "Is there a difference between being up to something and up for something?" the answer is yes! Keep reading, and you will learn the differences in meaning, structure, and usage below.
be up to something.
to be engaged in an activity; to be engaged in secretive (often mischievous) behaviour
“Hey, Dan. It’s Michelle. What are you up to?” (Like asking “What are you doing?”)
“What are you up to these days?” “I’m not really up to much. Just working.”
“The kids have been quiet for fifteen minutes. I wonder if they’re up to something.”
“We were always up to something when we were kids.” (variation: “up to no good”)
common sentence: “What are you up to?” (What are you doing?)
be up for something.
to be interested in and have energy for an activity; to be ready and have the desire to do something; to be in the mood for something
(variation: “feel up for something”)
“We’re going golfing this weekend. Are you up for it?”
“Wanna go to the park?” “Nah, I’m not up for that.”
“Do you feel up for a drink after work today?” “Sure, I’m up for that.”
“Hey, we’re going hiking in a few minutes. Wanna join?” “Yeah, I’d be up for that.”
common sentence: “Are you up for it?” (are you interested in doing this activity?)
As you can see, if you are up to something, it means you are working on something or doing something. In some contexts, it can mean you are doing something you shouldn't be doing, so if you ask someone "What are you up to?" in a suspicious tone, you can imply that you think they are doing something mischievous.
If you are up for something, it means you have the interest and energy for an activity. Another way to say this is "I'm in the mood" for something. For example, you can say "I'm up for pizza/live music/a game of cards/etc." to mean you are in the mood for those activities.
That's it! You now have two common idioms you can add to your vocabulary.
Are you up for more?
If you enjoyed this post and want to learn even more everyday idioms, pick up a copy of my book, 200 Practical English Idioms. It has over 1,000 examples, multiple definitions, and only the most current usages. There are no old idioms in my book, so you can read it and use the language you learn with confidence. Like all of my materials, 200 Practical English Idioms gives you language you can use. Check it out and let me know if it works for you!
Until next time, I wish you success in your studies.