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"choked up"


“I choked up a bit. I had difficulty finding words through welling tears”

- Legendary journalist Walter Cronkite remembers reporting the death of President John F. Kennedy. (BBC)


to have difficulty speaking due to extreme sadness, emotion and/or tears


There are some things that are hard to do at the same time. For instance, it’s hard to put on your jacket as you’re walking. If someone is really bad at doing more than one thing at once, people joke that he or she can’t walk and chew gum.

One pair of things that everyone has a hard time doing at the same time is talking and crying, or trying not to cry. Have you been trying to say something really sad, but your throat gets tight and you can barely speak? You were choked up.

Walter Cronkite is a famous television newscaster who was on TV for decades. He reported all kinds of stories, but one was particularly hard. When President John F. Kennedy was shot in 1963, Cronkite was so sad that he could hardly deliver the news. Looking back on that day 40 years later, Cronkite remembers that he was chocked up.
The term choked up makes sense when you think about it. Choking someone is when you wrap your hands around their neck and squeeze so that they can’t breathe. When you try to speak and you want to cry, it kind of feels like someone is choking you.

But being choked up isn’t all bad! You can get choked up when you see something touching or you’re really happy. Sometimes people get chocked up at weddings because they’re just so happy for the bride and groom they can hardly speak.


“I could barely break up with her. I kept getting too choked up to finish what I was saying.”

“During his acceptance speech, the coach got a little choked up. He was just so proud of his team.”

Grammar Point

Don’t get confused. Choked up seems like a past tense verb, but the phrase is the same no matter what the tense. If you’re speaking in the past, you can say, “I choked up” or “I was choked up.” In the present you can say “I am choked up” or “I’m getting choked up” and in the future could say, “He’ll get choked up.”