“Grow up” is often used to refer to a person’s development over time.

Because this phrasal verb is associated with time, care should be taken when using different tenses.


1.   The change or development from when one is young to when they are older.

You can use this to talk about the transitions from a baby or a young child TO an older child or an adult.

Past perfect: “She’d grown up a lot faster than I expected when I saw her last time.”

Present continuous: “She’s really growing up!”

Future: “She’s going to grow up really quickly.”

a. With “to become” – To talk about the result of the development.

Past simple: “She grew up and became a teacher.”

Present perfect: “He’s grown up to become a very ambitious young man.”

Future: “She wants to become a pilot when she grows up.”

* Please note: Don’t use with Past and Present Continuous tenses

When we talk about the result of development, we cannot use the past and present continuous.

  • “She grew up and became a teacher.”
    Not – “She is growing up to become a teacher.”
    Not – “She was growing up and became a teacher.”

  • 2.   What happened during one’s development, specifically referring to the period of time when one is young.

    Usually this is used in the past tense, although the future is possible.

    Past simple: “I grew up in Brunei.”

    Past continuous: “When I was growing up in Brunei, I went to an international school.”

    Future simple: “My nephew will grow up in Malaysia.”

    *Please note: Don’t use with Present tenses

    The exception here are the present tenses because this definition in particular is usually used by someone who is older and talking about the past. 

    3.   To stop behaving like a child or become more mature and wiser.

    With this definition, a variety of tenses can be used although “grow up” is sometimes used as a gerundinfinitive, or an imperative to tell someone to stop behaving like a child.

    Past simple: “He finally grew up when she got really sick.”

    Gerund: “He only started growing up because he lost everything.”

    Infinitive: “She had to grow up quickly because her father passed away.”

    Imperative:Grow up!”

    4. The start and development of towns or cities.

    Although this use is less common, the previous grammar rules also apply.

    a. Transition from a young town/city to an older town/city.

    Present perfect: “The city has grown up to become the cultural capital of the country.”

    b. What happened during its period of development.

    Past simple: “The town grew up and flourished by the river.”

    Original post: 9 October 2018