Give In vs Give Up: What’s the Difference?

The phrasal verbs “give up” and “give in” can be confusing. Sometimes it seems like they are similar, and sometimes they seem very different. That’s partly because (like many phrasal verbs) they have multiple meanings. In this article we’ll try to make things crystal clear.

First off, their meanings.

Give Up

Meanings

  1. Stop trying.
  2. Stop believing.
  3. Stop doing something you normally do.
  4. Allow someone to take something that belongs to you.

Examples

1. Stop trying (to do something you really want to do):

  • Joe gave up learning to cook after he almost burned the house down. (=he caused a fire in the kitchen and decided to stop learning to cook.)
  • The English teacher gave up trying to teach the present perfect. (=after months of trying, the students still didn’t understand, so he stopped trying.)

2. Stop believing / lose hope:

  • I’ve given up on finding a girlfriend. (=he no longer believes he can find a girlfriend.)
  • Trump? Yes, I used to be a fan but now I’ve given up on him. (=she no longer believes Trump will be a good president.)

3. To let go of a habit:

  • Tony finally gave up smoking and drinking. (=he has stopped smoking and drinking, permanently.)
  • I’ve given up chocolate for Lent. (=she won’t eat chocolate during Lent, which is the 40 days before Easter.)

4. To let go of something that was yours:

  • Andrew gladly gave up his seat to the attractive redhead. (=he had a seat on the train but stood up to allow the woman to sit there.)
  • Andrew reluctantly gave up his seat to the pregnant woman.
  • Mr. Smith gave up his inheritance. (=he was due to get some money but he said he didn’t want it. Don’t ask me why.)

Think About It (A)

Answer these questions. You can find my answers below.

  1. Is it ever okay for a teacher to give up on teaching you?
  2. If you had to give up something for Lent (or a similar event), would you give up savoury (salty) food or sweet food?
  3. If a pregnant lady and a grandmother got on your crowded bus, which would you give up your seat for?
  4. Which flag colour symbolises somebody giving up or surrendering? Red or white?

Give In

Meaning

  1. Stop fighting/submit to pressure.
  2. Stop controlling a feeling.
  3. Give a document to someone.

Examples

1. Submit to pressure:

  • The authorities had to give in to the hostage-takers. (=some baddies took some hostages, and the police decided they had to give the baddies what they wanted. In movies that’s normally some pizza and then a helicopter.)
  • After what felt like hours of their daughter crying, the parents gave in and bought her a toy. (=the little brat cried and cried, demanding a toy, and her stupid parents finally said ‘okay’.)
  • Churchill said Britain would never give in, even if they had to fight alone. (=He said Britain would fight against Hitler forever, and alone, if needed.)

2. Stop controlling a feeling:

  • After losing his family to a tragic accident, he gave in to despair. (=despair is like ‘extreme sadness’. He tried to control his sadness, but it was too much for him.)
  • She nearly gave in to an urge to laugh at his moustache. (=his moustache was funny, but it would be rude to laugh at it, and it was hard to control that laughter. But she controlled it.)
  • Andrew gave in and ate the entire tub of ice cream. (=’I won’t eat the WHOLE tub’, he said to himself. Then when he was halfway through he thought ‘hmm this is nice, but I should put the rest in the freezer’. But all the time there’s another voice saying ‘yeah this is good I want it all’. And THAT is the voice he listened to.)

3. Give a document to someone:

  • I gave my project in five minutes before the deadline.
  • We’re going to renovate the house. We just gave in our planning permission documents. (=to make major changes to a house you need planning permission. You fill in a bunch of forms and then hand them in/give them in to your local government.)
  • Helen asked Susan to give in her homework because she’s off sick, but Susan didn’t! Now Helen’s in trouble and we think Susan did it on purpose. (=ooh, gossip! I love gossip, even though I know I shouldn’t.)

Think About It (B)

  1. Who are you more likely to give in to? Your family or friends?
  2. What do you think of parents who give in to their children’s tantrums?
  3. Who would you trust to give in an important document for you?

Give Up vs Give In

One big reason people get confused is that the phrases are often used together.

On Instagram and Pinterest you see a lot of quotes like this:

In this quote it looks like give in and give up have the same meaning. I think the guy is saying:

Never give in (to pressure)

and

Never give up (on your dreams)

Similar, but you couldn’t swap them around.

Challenge Yourself!

Read the sentences below and see whether you should use “give up” or “give in”.

You could do it just by reading the sentences carefully, but it’s best if you watch the videos first.

#1 – What’s Your Motivation?

The young athlete was told by his coaches to _______. Instead of _______ to his coaches’ discouraging words, he used them as motivation to practice longer and harder than anybody else.

#2 – The Friendless Hedgehog

Hedgehog has been so long without friends that he almost _______ to thinking that he would be alone forever. Fortunately, the other animals did not _______ on him and came up with a unique solution — styrofoam!

#3 – The Zookeeper and The Pandas

It’s this zookeeper’s job to clean the panda pen. If it was me job, I’d _______ to their cuteness and let them do whatever they wanted. But she never _______ and in the end, everything is clean.

Memorable quotes

“You can’t beat the person who won’t give up.” ―Babe Ruth

“Never give up, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn.” ―Harriet Beecher Stowe

“Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.” ―Thomas Edison

“If you fall behind, run faster. Never give up, never surrender, and rise up against the odds.” ―Jesse Jackson

Answers

Think About It (A)

  1. I think so. Not everyone can learn everything. I’ve had students who couldn’t learn something, so I gave up. Sometimes they need 6 months or a year, and then they’re ready to learn it.
  2. I’d give up on sweet foods. I love chocolate, but I love pizza more. No way am I going 40 days without pizza.
  3. Hard! I suppose I’d look and see which one looked stronger. A lot of the old women in Switzerland are really fit. They go on long hikes and things like that. If it was that type of old woman, I’d give up my seat to the pregnant lady.
  4. White.

Think About It (B)

  1. I can’t imagine giving in to either. But if I had to choose, probably friends, because my family mostly live 1,600km away.
  2. Bad parents! But I know that’s easy to say from the comfort of my babyless house. When my cat yells that he wants something I run to give it to him. I imagine with a baby it’s 100 times harder to say no.
  3. My girlfriend. She’s reliable and trustworthy.

What’s Your Motivation?

The young athlete was told by his coaches to give up. Instead of giving in to his coaches’ discouraging words, he used them as motivation to practice longer and harder than anybody else.

The Friendless Hedgehog

Hedgehog has been so long without friends that he almost given in to thinking that he would be alone forever. Fortunately, the other animals did not give up on him and came up with a unique solution — styrofoam!

The Zookeeper and The Pandas

It’s this zookeeper’s job to clean the panda pen. If it was me, I’d give in to their cuteness and let them do whatever they wanted. But she never gives up and in the end, everything is clean.

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