What does adding 'up' to a verb mean?

Recently I have faced these two sentences “There’s probably something trapped up in their ventilation system.” and “… the other three scouting up the hallway.”
It is a bit unclear for me how does the word ‘up’ change definition of a verb in those examples or similar situations? It looks like without ‘up’ the verb has the same meaning.
I have found this explanation “It reinforces the action of the meaning of the verb”. It seems ok, but I’m not complitely sure.
Could someone make it more clear?

In both of your examples, I don’t interpret the word “up” as modifying the verb. Instead, it refers to the location where the action is happening. For example:

  • “There’s probably something trapped up in their ventilation system”
  • In this sentence, the word “up” is referring to the fact that the ventilation system is above where people would usually be. So, the word “up” is simply stating that the ventilation system is located above something else
  • To make it more clear, it’s not: “… something trapped up in their ventilation system” - instead, it’s “… something trapped up in their ventilation system”
  • “The other three scouting up the hallway”
  • In this case, the word “up” can be used to mean “further”. Basically, it’s saying that the other three are scouting at a location further along the hallway
  • Again, instead of “the other three scouting up the hallway”, it’s the other three scouting up the hallway"
    In both sentences, the word “up” isn’t modifying the verb - instead, it’s talking about the location that comes after the verb.

However, the word “up” can also be used in the way you found online. For example:

  • “I’m cleaning the house” can also be expressed as “I’m cleaning up the house”
  • Both sentences have essentially the same meaning, just phrased differently and with a little more emphasis.

It doesn’t work that way. While there may be some patterns to what “up” adds to verb, it’s probably much more reliable to simply learn the compound verbs verb at a time, as independent verbs that happen to have at least some degree of relatedness through a morphological root.

This might make it easier to keep up, and to not give up or f- up or blow up in learning English. Anyhow, I’d better shut up and simply suggest, I wouldn’t take up this approach.

Otherwise, you might end up to regret it.

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I mentioned the compound verbs that use “up.”

Here, “up” is serving as an “adverb of place.”

In “scouting up,” “up” is an adverb of place. In “feel up,” the two words form a compound verb. In “look up,” it could be either, with two distinct meanings. Sheesh… Look out!

I mentioned the compound verbs because in common English, “up” will be encountered much more as part of a compound verb, as in “get up,” “set up,” “hook up,” “mess up,” “do up,” “be up,” “work up,” “grease up,” “hang up,” and on and on with simple little root verbs.

While “up” is used with typically more complex verbs as an adverb, “up” can refer to higher position, altitude, elevation, or even northern latitude as represented on a map.

Anyhow, these are such a mess in English.

I’d say that if “up” is working with a simple, single syllable, Germanic-in-origins root verb, it’s probably a compound verb and that if it’s tied with a French/Latin/Greek sourced, multi-syllable verb, it’s probably functioning as an adverb of place and emphasizes either further vertical, northern, or along a planned trajectory (such as “further up the hall” works but so does quite ironically “further down the hall.”).

English is messed up.

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Thank you so much for such a great explanation!

Great, thanks! I aware of the compound verbs, but in those examples it is not the case and it wasn’t so clear for me. That is way I decided to ask for help.
I think that I get it now, so thank you one more time!

Consider: If you really want to clean up the house, you should not just wipe down the counters but also clean out the closets.

Here, “up,” “down,” and “out” add bustling and emotion to the activity, in the ways that really cleaning one’s own home is and is so different from, say, how hotel housekeeping staff is emotionally distanced and less energetically doing the labor of their job.

I hope this helps give insight to this kind of usage, where these adverbs work much like adverbs of place, but where “place” is relatively emotional instead of physical.