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The Phrasal Verb 'Wrap Up' Explained

An explanation of the different meanings of the English phrasal verb 'wrap up', with examples and exercises.


A girl wrapping up a present next to a Christmas tree

Hello and welcome to my website all about English phrasal verbs. Each week, I take a different phrasal verb and look at how it is used by native speakers, with a focus on the different meanings that it has and the expressions and idioms that it is used in.


'Wrap up' is a phrasal verb that you will often hear a lot around Christmastime in English speaking countries, especially in the US and the UK where it tends to be very cold at that time of year. Aside from it's more "wintry" meanings, 'wrap up' does also have several other meanings that can be heard all year round and in this post we will look at all of these different meanings, both wintry and non-wintry. So, without further ado, let's get started....

WRAP UP: KEY INFORMATION

Usage

Common

Number of meanings

5

Separable

Yes

Past tense forms

Wrapped up / Wrapped up

British or American?

Both

For more explanation of the terms in the table above, click here.

 

THE BASICS


The letters ABC written on a chalkboard with books and chalk sticks in the foreground

Before we look at the meanings of 'wrap up', let's just take a minute to examine the constituent words 'wrap' and 'up', as this can often help us to understand some of the more idiomatic meanings of a phrasal verb.


The verb 'to wrap' is a semi-common verb in the English language, which means to cover something with paper or some other kind of soft material, such as cloth. More often than not, the action of 'wrapping' is done by a folding or winding action. Make sure that you do not confuse it with the similar sounding verb 'to rap', which has very different meaning.


Aside from its literal meaning of 'towards the sky' ⬆️ ⬆️ ⬆️, the prepositional particle 'up' is commonly found in phrasal verb constructions and can often be used to add an idea of completion or readiness, among many other things.


So, now that we have covered the basics, let's move on to the different phrasal verb meanings of 'wrap up'....

 

MEANING 1: To cover something in paper or material



CEFR Language Level

B1 - Intermediate

Usage

Common

British or American

Both

Potential synonyms

To wrap, to enclose, to envelop

The first meaning of 'wrap up' is to cover or to enclose something in soft material, typically paper or cloth, much like the meaning of the verb 'to wrap'. This application of 'wrap up' is most commonly used for presents and gifts, which is why you are likely to hear this more at Christmastime when it is customary in many anglophone countries for people to exchange gifts.


We can use the verb 'to wrap' as a synonym here, but often the phrasal verb 'wrap up' conveys the idea of completion or readiness, i.e. when a gift has been wrapped up, it is ready to be presented to the lucky recipient.


Grammatically, this application of 'wrap up' is separable and the direct object can go either between 'wrap' and 'up' or after them, without changing the meaning.


Examples of usage....

I have bought my husband's Christmas present but I haven't wrapped it up yet.
Helen spent all evening wrapping up birthday presents for her son.
You have wrapped this up so nicely, I don't want to unwrap it and undo all of your hard work!
 

MEANING 2: To put on warm clothes



CEFR Language Level

B2 - Upper intermediate

Usage

Medium

British or American?

Both

Potential synonyms

To put on warm clothes

The second usage of 'wrap up' is another one that you are likely to hear during the wintertime in many English-speaking countries as it means 'to put on warm clothes'.


I guess this is similar to the previous meaning that we have just looked at, however this time the thing that we are covering with material is ourselves, rather than a present. Often, this application of 'wrap up' is used as an imperative or when someone gives a warning that the weather is cold and therefore they should be put on thick, warm clothes in preparation for it. As you can imagine, this is often something said by attentive mothers and grandmothers!


You may often hear this this used with the additional adjective 'warm' as this is a common collocation for this application of 'wrap up'.


Examples of usage....

It's freezing cold out there. Make sure you wrap up warm if you are going to go out!
Lisa had seen that it was snowing outside, so she wrapped up in thick wooly clothes before going out to the shop.
 

MEANING 3: To complete or conclude something



CEFR Language Level

B2 - Upper intermediate

Usage

Medium

British or American

Both

Potential synonyms

To finish, to conclude, to end

The third meaning of 'wrap up' is slightly informal and means 'to complete, conclude or finish something, normally in a way that is considered satisfactory'.


We tend to use 'wrap up' in this way when we are talking about processes or tasks that tend to revolve more around speaking than physical action. Two of the most common places in which you would hear this application of 'wrap up' are in business meetings and negotiations and also on film and TV sets. When used in business meetings or negotiations, 'wrap up' is used to talk about bringing the things to an end but still ensuring that all of the topics are covered and discussed. On TV and movie sets, 'wrap up' is used to talk about finishing the filming process of a particular scene or of the entire production in general.


Examples of usage....

Ok, we have 30 minutes left of our allotted meeting time, so let's try and wrap things up now.
Can we wrap it up now please. This has been going on for far too long.
Production of the movie wrapped up in August this year and it is expected to be ready for audiences by Christmas.

BONUS

The word BONUS spelled out using different coloured helium balloons held up by different hands


As I have just mentioned, 'wrap up' is commonly used in film and movie production to talk about when the filming of a scene or an entire production is concluded. As a result of this, the expression "it's a wrap" has come to be used in this industry when a scene or an entire movie or show is finished. It is normally said as a way for the director to let all of the crew members and actors know that the filming of that particular scene etc. has finished.


 

MEANING 4: To provide a summary of the main points



CEFR Language Level

C1 - Advanced

Usage

Medium

British or American?

Mainly US

Potential synonyms

To summarise, to recapitulate

The next meaning of 'wrap up' is 'to summarise* or to recapitulate something', or in other words to give the main points or details about a given subject.


As a British English speaker, this usage seems more American to me, however I would certainly understand the meaning if I heard it in a conversation.


Examples of usage....

To wrap things up, I would say that the main points to note from today's meeting are....
Thanks very much, John, for wrapping that up so well.

*Summarise is spelt summarize in US American English

 

MEANING 5: To be absorbed in something



CEFR Language Level

C1 - Advanced

Usage

Medium

British or American?

Both

Potential synonyms

To be absorbed in something

For our fifth and final meaning of 'wrap up', we are looking at the way that the past tense form 'wrapped up' can be used as an adjective to mean when a person is absorbed in something.


If someone is 'wrapped up' in something, then they are absorbed or captivated by it and their attention is focussed solely on that one thing, so that they do not notice other things that are happening around them. This could be used for when someone's attention is captivated in the short term by some form of entertainment, or it could be used to talk about something more long term, for example when someone is so focussed on the things happening in their own life that they do not notice someone else's problems etc.


Examples of usage....

Jim was so wrapped up in what was happening outside on the street that he failed to notice that all of his colleagues had left the office.
I'm so sorry, Julie. I've been so wrapped up in my own problems over the last few weeks that I haven't even asked you how you have been doing!
 

IDIOM ALERT


The word BONUS spelled out using different coloured helium balloons held up by different hands

Before I finish this post, I want to make you aware of the idiom "to wrap someone up in cotton wool". This idiom means to protect someone from the dangers and difficulties in life and normally refers to parents in relation to their children. Furthermore, you can also say that a person has been "wrapped up in cotton wool", when referring to a child who has been overprotected and sheltered for their whole lives.


Example of usage....

John and Helen are such overprotective parents, they've wrapped their daughter Alice up in cotton wool her whole life. She will have a shock when she goes to university!
 

Question marks in different coloured, overlapping speech bubbles on a black background

EXERCISE Re-write the following sentences using 'to wrap up'....

  1. How long did it take you to cover all of these presents in paper?

  2. You should put some warm clothes on if you are going outside.

  3. Let's finish this meeting, it's getting late.

  4. He summarised all of the points of the meeting very succinctly.

  5. Linda was totally absorbed in her problems and she didn't think about her husband's.

  6. John has been completely protected from dangers and difficulties for his whole life.

The answers will be available on next week's post.

 

EXERCISE ANSWERS FROM 'GO OVER'


  1. John WENT OVER the road to go and speak to Lisa who was on the other side.

  2. In a shock move, the leader of extreme right quit his party and WENT OVER to the extreme left party.

  3. Could you please GO OVER the finance report and check it is all ok before I submit it to the board of directors.

  4. Before a performance, I always GO OVER my lines a few times to make sure I know them off by heart.

  5. The President's speech was WENT OVER very well with the audience.

  6. The meeting was supposed to finish at 5pm but WENT OVER until shortly after 6pm.

 

This brings us to the end of the post. Thank you so much for taking the time to read it and I sincerely hope that it has helped you a little bit further on your English learning journey.


If you found the post useful, please like and share it on social media, so together we can help as many English learners as possible to understand and master these tricky phrasal verbs.


Also, please leave any comments, questions, suggestions or examples of 'wrap up' below. I really love reading them. If you want to receive new blog posts directly email every week, please sign up on the form below.


LASTLY, I WANT TO WISH ALL OF MY READERS A MERRY CHRISTMAS! THANKS SO MUCH FOR ALL OF YOUR SUPPORT THIS YEAR! JAMES



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Guest
Jun 28
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

Thanks! :)

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James
Jun 30
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You're very welcome! 😀

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