Some colloquial uses of the word pop

If you pop a balloon, you break the balloon and it makes a small explosive sound. If your eyes pop out of your head, you’ve probably just seen something shocking. On a plane, your ears might pop during landing.

But informally, we often use the word pop when going somewhere or moving an object:

  • I’m just popping to the loo. (I’m going to the loo, but I won’t be long.)
  • I popped some clothes in my bag and left. (I put some clothes in my bag and left.)

These uses of pop are British English – they don’t exist in American English. This led to a dispute during the trial of a British au pair in the United States after the death of a baby in her care. Louise Woodward allegedly told police that she ‘popped the baby on the bed’. She meant that she placed the baby on the bed, but unfortunately people thought that she was using the word with a less common, more violent meaning:

  • He popped me on the nose. (He hit me on the nose.)
  • She popped him in the eye. (She punched him in the eye.)

There is also an idiom, have a pop at someone, which means that you attack someone physically or verbally:

  • I was worried he was going to have a pop at me, so I backed away.

Pop gives the idea that we are doing things swiftly or easily:

  • Give me your address and I’ll pop it in the post. (I’ll send it to you by post, no problem.)
  • Pop it in the fridge. (Put it in the fridge – it doesn’t matter where it goes.)
  • I’m just popping out. (But don’t worry, I won’t be long.)

And it can give the idea of spontaneity:

  • I just popped in to see how you’re doing.
  • You don’t need an appointment; you can just pop in.

Your doctor might ask you to pop yourself on the bed or pop your shirt off to make the instruction sound less dictatorial. And even if the journey is longer than a visit to the shops, it’s still possible to use pop to suggest that we don’t think it’s too long, difficult or serious:

  • I am going to pop back to England for a week at the beginning of June.

Pop is used when asking to visit someone’s home or location briefly, often for a particular purpose:

  • Do you mind if I pop over to borrow some eggs?
  • Any chance I could pop round tomorrow to collect my things?

It can also be used when inviting people for a short visit in your home or other location:

  • Would you want to pop by mine? ( = to come to my house briefly.)
  • Pop round any time. (Come to my house any time.)
  • We’re at the pub across the road. Feel free to pop over and join us.


A. Match 1-4 to their responses a-d.

1. The wedding date is confirmed for 14th July. a) I popped in yesterday evening.
2. Can I call you? b) Great news mate, I’ll pop it in the diary now.
3. What are you up to this evening? c) Just popped out for a drink with a friend.
c) Just popped out for a drink with a friend. d) I’m just popping out for a run. Shall we talk in 45 minutes?

B. Complete the sentences with the correct particle.

Example: I might just pop out for five minutes. (into / to / out)

  • I could pop _____ tomorrow afternoon if you’re free. (to / into / over)
  • Would you mind watching my bag for two minutes while I pop _____ the loo? (to / back / round)
  • I’m popping _____ to the shop briefly. I’ll be back soon. (into / out / on)
  • I’ve left the house, but I can pop _____ any time to let you in. (out / back / to)
  • I’ll pop _____ school and meet you there if that’s okay. (into / out / back)

C. Match 1-4 to a-d to make full sentences.

1. Is now a good a) home for lunch.
2. Would you like to pop b) out, but he’ll be back soon.
3. I’ve got a break, so I think I might pop c) time to pop in?
4. Sam has just popped d) by and see the place?
5. Are you in on Saturday? I could pop e) in to see you if so.


  • 1 b, 2 d, 3 c, 4 a.
  • 1 over, 2 to, 3 out, 4 back, 5 into.
  • 1 c, 2 d, 3 a, 4 b, 5 e.

This blog was written by Liberty

Published on 30 March, 2023