English for parents – Clean up or Tidy up?

I’m a big believer in consistency, especially around children. I think if you are going to teach them something you should use the same word for it every time.  Especially around toilet training time – it’s no good telling your kid to pee one day and the next day telling him to wee. How will he ever know whether to wee or pee and what’s the difference anyway!?? (see here for a blog about pee and wee!)

But here’s a couple of phrases that I’m always mixing up – Clean up and Tidy up. Why? Basically they mean the same thing.

Clean up your room! = Tidy up your room!

Clean up your toys! = Tidy up your toys!

Time to clean up = Time to tidy up.

So I tell my daughter to tidy up her things, and then I tell her to clean up as well. I hope she’ll learn both.

Up changes everything

Clean your toys is not the same as clean up your toys. Clean your toys means wash them. Clean up means put them away in their proper place.

But! Tidy your room and tidy up your room are almost the same. Tidy up suggests that the action should be complete –  don’t tidy one part, you must tidy the whole room.

Pack up?

Here’s another similar phrase: pack up your toys which means put the toys away in their proper place. But! Pack up your room would suggest putting everything into boxes and moving the lot to another room or house.

Which do you say at home?


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Published by Abbie

English teacher, coach and writer. Helping English learners and teachers get more confident in their skills.

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