The Many Meanings of Catch (Catch on, Catch up, a Catch, & more) | English Dialogue

Heads up … catch! This seemingly (or should I say “deceptively”) simple word is stuffed and loaded with different meanings. Do the many uses of “catch” confuse you? Here I want to look at the traditional meanings, as well as some common slang and figurative uses of the word. There are also short and realistic dialogues to help. So, are you ready to catch some knowledge? Let’s do it.

The normal meaning of Catch

Normally, to Catch means to receive something that is thrown or has fallen. As people, we mostly catch things with our hands.


 — “Look, Charles, I got you a new iPhone charger. Catch!”

While attempting to grab the charger, Charles accidentally dropped his phone onto the floor.

 — “Gee, thanks! Now I’m going to need a new iPhone too.”

 — “Well, you should have caught it before it hit the ground.”

Catch something (figuratively)

As you can imagine, “catch” also has several figurative and even slang meanings. As a verb, you can catch something not visible such as an illness or some attention.


 — “Did you hear what happened to Kevin Hart? He said he caught the ‘Vid’,” Charles said to his friend, Jonah, sitting behind him. Jonah gave him a firm Shhh! 

 — “Be quiet, man! Whenever I talk in class, I catch an angry look from Ms. Delaware. You’ll get me in trouble.”

‘Catching’ someone

Another meaning is when you catch someone, or find them. Usually, this is while they are doing something they shouldn’t be.

 — “Hey, Sheila. Do you think we could take your little bro out for ice cream?”

 — “I don’t know. He got caught eating cookies out of the cookie jar last night. I think he’s had enough sweets.”

 — “Well, we could always take him to the Salad Bar,” Charles suggested.

 — “Oh, no. You won’t catch me anywhere near that place.”

Still, catch can be about meeting another person, in general. This is usually at a designated time or place.

 — “I hope we can hang out soon, Sheila. What do you think?”

 — “For sure! I’ll catch you after our game tomorrow.”

Other random meanings of Catch

To catch can be to understand what someone else said or what has happened. It’s usually said as a question to check for comprehension or as a way to show a lack of understanding.


Jonah’s mind wandered as he daydreamed about the upcoming game that night. Suddenly, he realized Charles had been mumbling at him for the past five minutes.

 — “Sorry, what did you say? I didn’t catch that.”

 — “I was telling you about my plans to quit working for this lousy school. Did you catch it this time?!”

… Or, going to see something, such as an event. 


 — “Do you want to catch a movie after you get off work?” Charles asked Sheila. She turned at him and grinned.

 — “Yeah … Or, we could go to the game like everyone else.”

Or, boarding a transportation vehicle. 



Sheila gave Charles a big hug.

 — “I have to catch this bus. If you want to see a movie, it’s fine. Can we talk later?”

 — “Yeah, either way is fine. Let me know. Maybe we can catch a ride together.”

Phrasal verbs: Catch on, Catch up

And that’s just “Catch” by itself. Of course, there are also phrasal verbs like catch on — to begin to understand something — or catch up — to reach a desired point in understanding or place from behind.


 — It used to be so much fun to speak in German around your friends. I think they’re starting to learn now.

 — Right, especially Mark didn’t use to understand our conversations, but now he’s catching on.

 — It’s about time! Why is Mark so far behind in his German, anyway? He needs to catch up!

.

A Catch, as a noun

All verbs aside, there is also catch used as a noun. A catch is a hidden condition or problem when something seems too good to be true.


Charles looked at his neighbor in disbelief. 

“You’ll give me this car for four hundred bucks and all repairs are up to date? What’s the catch?”

 — “No catch! It’s a good car, man. What, you don’t believe me?”

.

A catch can also be a person who seems like a perfect match, or a great person to be in a relationship with. They are like the ideal partner.


 — I don’t know why you’re so in-love with Sheila. Look at Jenny. She’s the boss of her own business, helps her community, and owns a Benz. She’s a catch, for sure.

 — “Uh-huh, Jonah. Total catch.”


**These are just some of the main uses of “catch”. Can you think of any others meanings? Can you think of your own examples for these words? Share it with us and spread the English love! Thanks for reading and learning. Take care out there.

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