Catch Up or Catch-Up or Catchup?

Catch-up with a hyphen can be an adjective. E.g., “We had a catch-up meeting.” Alternatively, catch-up can also be a noun. E.g., “We should meet for a catch-up.” Also, catch up without a hyphen is a phrasal verb. E.g., “He needs to catch up on last week’s work.”

You can write the phrase catch up in two ways.

The first is with the hyphen, in which case catch-up is an adjective modifying a noun, or it is a noun. In both instances, you need a hyphen.

The following examples show the difference between the adjective and noun word forms. For instance, in the first sentence, catch-up describes the style of call, i.e., a call to catch up on events.

  • Now that you are back, we should have a catch-up call when I get a moment.

In the second example, we refer to the whole event as a catch-up, so it is a noun because there is no other noun that it modifies.

  • Now that you are back, I will have a catch-up with you when I get a moment.

The second way you can write catch up is without a hyphen, in which case it is a phrasal verb that means to reach someone or something ahead of you or to become updated on events or news.

  • I couldn’t catch up to Mark, who was in 1st place for the whole race.
  • We should catch up sometime next week.

Furthermore, the rules are the same in both the UK and the US.

Using different word forms and phrasal verbs correctly is challenging, so it is vital that you get it right. Keep reading the rest of the page to learn more about the grammar rules regarding catch up.

Catch Up

The term catch up as two words without a hyphen is a phrasal verb that has two principal meanings.

The first is to become up-to-date on events or news with someone.

  • I want to catch up with Mary when she comes back. I haven’t seen her for ages.
  • We need to catch up soon; I haven’t heard about your new job yet!
  • Let’s catch up over coffee this weekend; it’s been too long since we’ve chatted.

In addition, catching up means reaching someone or something in front of you. You will often use this term when referring to sports, races, or any competition that has a leader.

  • I couldn’t catch up to any of the leaders.
  • I had to jog to catch up with my friends who were already a block ahead of me.
  • The competitor managed to catch up in the final stretch, turning the race into a nail-biter.


The hyphenated version catch-up is either a compound adjective or a compound noun.

Here are a few examples that show the different forms:

  • You should have a catch-up with Paula to find out what you missed. (noun)
  • We scheduled a catch-up over lunch to discuss the latest updates on the project. (noun)
  • During our team meeting, we’ll have a catch-up session to review everyone’s progress. (adjective)
  • You should have a catch-up talk with Paula to find out what you missed. (adjective)

As you can see, the adjective describes the talk. However, the noun stands alone and does not describe another noun.

A slightly different meaning of the noun catch-up is when you say you are playing catch-up. For example, you say this when you are behind in some competition or game involving a score.

  • We were playing catch-up from the first five minutes after conceding a goal.
  • After falling behind in the first half, our basketball team spent the rest of the game playing catch-up.
  • We started the project late and now we’re playing catch-up to meet the deadline.

Furthermore, the rules of AP Style and the Chicago Manual of Style state that you should use a hyphen with the term catch-up when it is an adjective or noun.


The word catchup as one word without a hyphen is incorrect, and you should not use it.

There are two ways you can write catch up, and it has three different functions.

You need to put a hyphen for two of those functions, the noun and the adjective.

Have a look at these examples to see what we mean:

  • The catch-up we had this morning was useful. (noun)
  • The catch-up I had with my old friend was truly refreshing. (noun)
  • Our catch-up conversation helped me understand the new policy changes. (adjective)
  • The catch-up meeting we had this morning was useful. (adjective)

For the other function, the phrasal verb, you do not need to put a hyphen, but you do need to write catch up as two words.

Here are some examples:

  • We should catch up when you are free. (phrasal verb)
  • Let’s catch up next week; I’m eager to hear about your new adventures. (phrasal verb)

Even though there are a lot of rules concerning how to use catch up and catch-up, we hope that all your doubts about the grammar rules have now disappeared.