Phrasal Verbs with “Mess” in English

25 English Phrasal Verbs With 'MESS'

What do you need to know about the word “Mess” in English?

The word “mess” [mes] in English carries a whole spectrum of meanings – from the literal view of physical disorder to the figurative meaning of difficult life situations. “Mess” can be a noun or a verb. As a noun, it can have a singular form (mess) or plural form (messes). As a verb, it can have different forms depending on the tense and person. For example: Don’t you dare mess my hair! He messed up his final exams. They were messing around with the computer. The word “mess” has different meanings and uses in English. Let’s look at some of the most popular ones:

  • Mess can mean dirt or disorder, especially when something or someone looks untidy or unclean. For example: He makes a terrible mess when he’s cooking. Jem’s house is always in a mess.
  • Mess can also mean a problematic or complicated situation. For example: She said that her life was a mess. I got myself into a mess by telling a lie.
  • Mess can be a liquid or sticky substance that has accidentally spilled onto something. For example: I’ll clear up the mess later.
  • Mess can be a room or building where military personnel eat or spend free time. For example: The captain was having breakfast in the mess hall.

As a phrasal verb, “mess” can combine with various prepositions, changing its meaning:

  • “Mess up” – to spoil, to do something incorrectly: “I messed up the instructions and the whole recipe went wrong”.
  • “Mess around”- to waste time; to joke or behave foolishly: “Stop messing around and get to work”.
  • “Mess with” – to interfere, to bother someone: “Don’t mess with things you don’t understand”.

In this article we will look closely at the use of the word “mess” as a phrasal verb, since such verbs are very common in English and have different meanings.

The most popular phrasal verbs with “mess” and their meanings

  1. Mess up
    • Meaning: To make a mistake or to do something badly.
    • Meaning: Cause mental, physical or emotional problems.
    • Meaning: Spoil or ruin.
    • Example: “I really messed up the presentation yesterday by forgetting my notes.”
  2. Mess around
    • Meaning: To spend time doing things in a relaxed way, often without any particular purpose or plan.
    • Meaning: Not be serious, play with something.
    • Meaning: Treat someone badly.
    • Example: “Instead of working on his project, he spent the afternoon messing around on his phone.”
  3. Mess with
    • Meaning: To interfere with or meddle with someone or something.
    • Meaning: Become involved in something damaging or dangerous.
    • Meaning: Annoy, bother.
    • Meaning: Associate (negative).
    • Meaning: Try to repair or improve, usually unsuccessfully.
    • Example: “Don’t mess with the settings on the computer if you don’t know what you’re doing.”
  4. Mess about
    • Meaning: To behave in a silly or aimless manner.
    • Meaning: Not be serious, not use something properly.
    • Meaning: Treat someone badly.
    • Example: “Stop messing about and focus on your homework!”
  5. Mess something/someone up
    • Meaning: To damage or ruin something or someone.
    • Example: “I accidentally messed up my sister’s painting when I knocked over the paint.”
  6. Mess with someone’s head
    • Meaning: To confuse or deceive someone psychologically.
    • Example: “Her constant mind games are really messing with my head.”
  7. Mess about/around with
    • Meaning: To experiment or tamper with something.
    • Example: “He’s been messing around with his car’s engine, trying to fix it himself.”
  8. Mess in
    • Meaning: To interfere or become involved in something, often causing problems.
    • Example: “I wish she wouldn’t mess in my personal affairs.”
  9. Mess about with
    • Meaning: Try to improve something, usually making things worse.
    • Meaning: To play or fool around with something in a careless or unserious way.
    • Example: “The computer was working fine until they started messing about with it.”
  10. Mess something/someone around
    • Meaning: To treat something or someone carelessly or without respect.
    • Example: “Don’t mess around with the fragile equipment; it’s expensive.”
  11. Mess with someone’s feelings
    • Meaning: To play with or manipulate someone’s emotions.
    • Example: “It’s not fair to mess with her feelings like that; just be honest with her.”
  12. Mess someone about/around
    • Meaning: To treat someone unfairly or playfully inconvenience them.
    • Example: “Stop messing him around and give him a straight answer.”
  13. Mess someone up
    • Meaning: To psychologically or emotionally disturb someone.
    • Example: “The traumatic experience really messed him up, and he hasn’t been the same since.”
  14. Mess something/someone around
    • Meaning: To delay or hinder the progress of something or someone.
    • Example: “The bad weather messed our plans around, and we had to postpone the event.”
  15. Mess out
    • Meaning: To make a place or situation untidy.
    • Example: “Don’t mess out the kitchen; I just cleaned it.”
  16. Mess around with
    • Meaning: To engage in playful or teasing behavior with someone.
    • Example: “He likes to mess around with his friends, but he’s serious when it comes to work.”
  17. Mess with someone/something
    • Meaning: To confront or challenge someone or something.
    • Example: “You don’t want to mess with her; she can be pretty intimidating.”
  18. Mess in with
    • Meaning: To get involved in a situation where one is not welcome or needed.
    • Example: “I don’t appreciate you messing in with my personal life.”
  19. Mess up on
    • Meaning: To fail or make a mistake on something.
    • Example: “I really messed up on that exam; I didn’t study enough.”
  20. Mess up something/someone
    • Meaning: To cause confusion or disorder in something or someone.
    • Example: “The sudden change in plans really messed up our schedule.”
  21. Mess up with
    • Meaning: To disturb or disrupt something.
    • Example: “The construction noise is messing up with my concentration.”
  22. Mess with someone’s mind
    • Meaning: To confuse or manipulate someone mentally.
    • Example: “His constant mind games are really messing with my mind.”
  23. Mess with someone’s plans
    • Meaning: To interfere or disrupt someone’s intended course of action.
    • Example: “I don’t want to mess with your plans, but could we reschedule our meeting?”
  24. Mess up something/someone’s life
    • Meaning: To cause significant problems or difficulties in someone’s life.
    • Example: “His addiction to drugs really messed up his life.”
  25. Mess over
    • Meaning: To treat someone unfairly or dishonestly; to betray or deceive someone.
    • Meaning: Treat someone badly.
    • Example: “I can’t believe he messed me over like that, promising to help and then abandoning me when I needed him the most.”

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