Chalk Up;What does this phrasal verb mean?

It is difficult to stop being surprised by the amazing ability of the English language to transform any-want, and I say WHAT-WANT, word in a verb – and then, with the help of any unemployed preposition, in a phrasal verb .

Example: take a chalk. That’s right, a simple piece of chalk, nothing more than a humble set of minerals. He may be humble, but that doesn’t save him from becoming a verb.

Chalk , the word for “chalk” in English, soon became the verb “write with a chalk”. From there, the process continued at an accelerated pace: a phrasal verb was created, chalk up . At first he wanted to say the same thing as chalk (“write with chalk”), but soon he acquired other meanings.

Let’s see. Open your Anki there, because you will need it.

1 – Chalk up , same as to chalk , “write with chalk” or “write on the blackboard”.

Once I finish chalking up tonight’s homework assignment , we can discuss last night’s reading.
Once I finish writing tonight’s homework on the blackboard , we can discuss last night’s reading.

Let me chalk this formula up so you all can see it.
Let me write this formula on the blackboard so that all of you can see it.

I’ll chalk up the formula .
I will write the formula on the blackboard .
(Note that here the phrasal is separable: you can place the preposition before or after the object: chalk up something or chalk something up.)

2 – Chalk up promptly acquired the meaning of “writing down” or “marking” something:

Hank just scored a basket, so chalk one up for him.
Hank has just scored a basket, then check one for him.

Chalk up a few more states for the incumbent president.
Mark some more states for the incumbent president.

Chalk another goal for Sarah.
Score one more goal for Sarah.

Chalk up another basket for the other side.
Check another basket for the other side.

3 – From then on, chalk up changed a little and gained another meaning: here, it means to “score” or “accomplish” something, usually (but not always) a victory.

He chalked up a record that is likely to stand for a long time.
He set a record that will likely remain for a long time.

The team chalked up its first regular-season victory by beating Miami.
The team scored its first regular season victory by defeating Miami.

Most of the largest banks in the country chalked up large losses on foreign loans.
Most of the country’s largest banks have marked large losses on foreign loans.

For almost 11 months, the army chalked up one victory after another.
For almost 11 months, the army scored one victory after another.

Andy Wilkinson chalked up his first win of the season.
Andy Wilkinson scored his first win of the season.

4 – Already a very different sense, but one of the most common ones, chalk up also came to mean “attributing” something to someone. Look:

Let’s chalk up her weird behavior to simple nervousness.
Let’s attribute her weird behavior to simple nervousness.

They’re a very young team, so we’ll chalk this loss up to inexperience and nerves.
They are a very young team, so we will attribute this defeat to inexperience and nerves.

Don’t get too down on yourselves after this loss, boys. Let’s just chalk it up to inexperience and move on.
Don’t criticize yourself too much after this defeat, boys. Let’s just attribute it to inexperience and move on.
(Note another phrasal: to get down on oneself, or “criticize yourself.”)

We chalked her bad behavior up to her recent illness.
We attribute her bad behavior to her recent illness.

5 – Finally, in a sense similar to the latter, chalk up against means “to mark something against someone” when that someone is guilty for some reason. For example, if the referee marks a foul by a player X, it can be said that he chalked up a fault against Player X.

I will have to chalk another fault up against Fred.
I will have to mark another foul (made by) Fred.

She chalked up a mark against Dave.
She noted a mark against Dave.

I had nothing to do with the prank, but I’m sure they’ll chalk it up against me anyway.
I had nothing to do with the hoax, but I’m sure they’ll mark it against me anyway.

Ufa! How many senses. As you can see, what started with a simple chalk writing on the blackboard ended up in a very popular phrasal verb with a number of different meanings. English is a living, personal organism!


by Abdullah Sam
I’m a teacher, researcher and writer. I write about study subjects to improve the learning of college and university students. I write top Quality study notes Mostly, Tech, Games, Education, And Solutions/Tips and Tricks. I am a person who helps students to acquire knowledge, competence or virtue.

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