I cannot understand which one of the following definitions for "work out" is appropriate for the piece of a conversation's one!

Advisor: Well, good. So, bookstore isn’t working out?

Student: Oh, bookstore’s working out fine. I just, I—this pays almost double what the bookstore does.

work out (phrasal verb):

1) plan: work something ↔ out - to think carefully about how you are going to do something and plan a good way of doing it:

▪ UN negotiators have worked out a set of compromise proposals.

work out what/where/how etc:

▪ We need to work out how we're going to get there.

▪ I had it all worked out (=had made very careful plans).

2) calculate: work something ↔ out - to calculate an answer, amount, price etc:

▪ See if you can work this bill out.

work out how much/how many etc:

▪ We'll have to work out how much food we'll need for the party.

3) understand: work something ↔ out - (especially British English) to think about something and manage to understand it:

▪ The plot is very complicated - it'll take you a while to work it out.

work something out for yourself:

▪ I'm sure you can work it out for yourself.

4) cost: if a cost or amount works out at a particular figure, it is found to be that much when you calculate it.

work out at/to £10/$500 etc:

▪ The bill works out at £15 each.

work out expensive/cheap etc (=be expensive or cheap):

▪ If we go by taxi, it's going to work out very expensive.

5) get better: if a problem or complicated situation works out, it gradually gets better or gets solved:

▪ Things will work out, you'll see.

▪ I hope it all works out for Gina and Andy.

work itself out:

▪ I'm sure everything will work itself out.

6) happen: if a situation works out in a particular way, it happens in that way (synonym: turn out).

work out well/badly:

▪ Financially, things have worked out well for us.

7) exercise: to make your body fit and strong by doing exercises:

▪ He works out with weights twice a week. ➔ workout

8) I can't work somebody out: (British English spoken) used to say that you cannot understand what someone is really like or why they behave in the way they do:

▪ I couldn't work her out at all.

9) be worked out: if a mine is worked out, all the coal, gold etc has been removed from it.

work somebody over: to attack someone by hitting them several times


1 Answer 1


I don't think any of the definitions listed in your question (taken from https://www.ldoceonline.com/dictionary/work-out) correspond exactly to the meaning of the idiom work out in the cited sentence (sense 6 is the closest, but there's no need to mention the way the situation (didn't) work out).

The OALD, however, has the following definition:

to develop in a successful way

  • My first job didn't work out.
  • Things have worked out quite well for us.

The Collins COBUILD dictionary defines it similarly:

If a situation works out well or works out, it happens or progresses in a satisfactory way.

  • Things just didn't work out as planned.
  • The deal just isn't working out the way we were promised.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .