To Get Worked Up

My client, “T”, had heard about a problem patient. His colleagues said,

“This patient really gets worked up.”

What does “worked up” mean?


If you’re “getting worked up” over something, that means you’re irritated and on the way to being angry.

So could you just swap out the words? Sure.

Then, why would people use “worked up”? Remember, being a better speaker means you get to have a preference for which words you use. You can develop your own speaking style.


You would rarely use “worked up” for yourself. It’s much more common to use it to describe someone else.

“Wow, he’s really getting worked up over this meeting.”

In other words, you’re surprised that the meeting is bothering him so much.

Let’s took a look at some more nuances:

  • I’m angry. (perfect English, but it just sounds too simple to be said)
  • I’m really upset. (similar problem as above, but now it sounds even more formal; by sounding too “polite” it really won’t convey your feelings)
  • This is pissing me off. (very casual, you’ll totally sound like a native speaker)
  • This has me all worked up. (technically correct, but still sounds weird because it’s not common to use it for your own perspective)
  • I know I shouldn’t be getting so worked up over this. (using your own perspective, but it’s downplaying the situation; sounds ok)

Don’t Confuse With:

There are a lot of phrasal verbs using “work” as its base, but many of them are positive in meaning.

work out – to exercise

“I try to work out three times a week.”

work out – to negotiate, to come to an understanding, to solve a problem/disagreement

“We managed to work things out.”

work up to – to gradually reach a point

“It’s rare to be hired as a CEO. You need to work your way up to that position.”

Published by Jon Dao

Formerly, the Conversation Coach

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