work up to
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work up to (something)
1. To build up or lead to some outcome. The film builds up to a climactic confrontation between the hero and his nemesis. It looks like those storm clouds might be working up to something nasty.
2. To develop, grow, or expand something to a better state or condition. In this usage, a noun or pronoun is used between "work" and "up." I always start with a rough sketch and work it up to a polished drawing. We'll have to work their first draft up to a more coherent state.
3. To make oneself mentally or emotionally prepared to do something; to gather or summon up enough courage, conviction, or energy to do something. In this usage, a reflexive pronoun can be used between "work" and "up." I'm working up to telling Mary the truth, but I'm not quite ready yet. She finally worked herself up to leaving her job and moving to LA to pursue her dream of being a movie star.
4. To achieve some position, result, status, etc., through diligent work. In this usage, a reflexive pronoun can be used between "work" and "up." Even though I had started off my first semester with two Ds, I worked myself up to a B average by the time I graduated. She managed to work herself up to Major in just nine years.
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.
work up to something
1. . Lit. [for something] to build or progress to something. (Usually concerning the weather.) The sky is working up to some kind of storm. The weather is working up to something severe.
2. . Fig. [for someone] to lead up to something. You are working up to telling me something unpleasant, aren't you? I think I am working up to a good cry.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.