English Idioms: ‘Pick up’ VS ‘Drop off’
A lot of students get confused about this but it’s really pretty easy. I’m going to be talking about these in the context of somebody going to school or going to work.
Okay, so I’m a father and in the morning my kid needs to go to school. So in the morning, I’m going to drop him off at school. So, we leave the house, we drive to his school; he gets out of the car and walks into his class. That is me dropping him off at school, or that’s me dropping him off.
Now, when school is over at 3 o’clock in the afternoon, I’m going to pick him up. I drive to school and when I arrive to the school, my son is there waiting for me. So he gets in the car and I drive him home.
So, when you drop someone off, you are taking them to a place that they need to go to and you are leaving them there. We don’t say “drop off” if you are going to stay there with them. So if I am going to take my friend to the movies, but I am also going to the movies I would just say, “We’re going to the movies.” I would not say, “I’m dropping him off at the movies.”
And “picking somebody up” is when that person is waiting for you at someplace and you go meet them there probably in your car and then you bring them back to some other place. It could be your house or another public location.
We can use these phrasal verbs in some other ways as well. For example I am going to pick up my friend from the airport. My friend is flying in from England and I am going to go to the airport and pick him up.
We can use “drop off” with other things such as a package or a letter. I can go to the post office and drop off a package or a letter for them to mail to somebody else. So we can use that in a variety of ways.
Another meaning of “pick up” which is unrelated to this meaning would be to lift something off of a surface. “I picked up my phone and made a call.” So that’s “pick up” in another context.
So, I hope that you learned something. And that now you know the difference between “pick up” and “drop off.” And that you can use them correctly when you’re practicing your English.
If you need additional practice with corrections, then please feel free to contact us. We’ll meet with you for private sessions and we’ll get you speaking and we will correct your mistakes for you, so you can start becoming more fluent with each session.