outcome is defined as "the way a thing turns out" by "Google: define outcome". What does "the way" mean here? What does "turn out" mean here?

  • 2
    A quintessential ELL question! "The way a thing turns out" would make perfect sense to a native speaker, but the words way, thing, turn, and out have so many meanings in English, it would be extremely hard for a novice to make heads or tails out of the phrase, even with much dictionary research.
    – J.R.
    Mar 27, 2014 at 9:36
  • @J.R. Agreed. It's a pretty rubbish definition if you ask me - they could at the least have come up with something more specific than "thing"! Mar 27, 2014 at 15:00

3 Answers 3


The word "how" could be substituted for "the way"; and the phrase "ends up" could be used in place of "turns out." So, an alternate definition would be:

outcome (n.) – how something ends up

It might be easier to explain by using the word outcome in context.

The election had a very questionable outcome.

Remember, outcome means "the way a thing turns out," or "how something ends up". In that sentence:

  • The "thing" (or "something") is the election.
  • "The way it turned out" (or "how it ended up") is with a questionable result. (In this context, questionable could mean two things: It could mean that the election was so close, a winner has not yet been determined; or, it could mean that foul play is suspected, and that observers don't believe it was a fair election.

Now, a more complex example:

A more recent study found that the most predictive factor for a favorable outcome for adolescents was length of treatment, even when patient problem severity was statistically controlled. (Gallanter and Allen, 2003)

  • The "thing" (or "something") is the treatment for a disorder.
  • "The way it turned out" (or "how it ended up") is favorable – meaning the patients either no longer had the disorder, or else it was less severe.

The sentence is reporting the results of the study: the longer an adolescent patient is treated, the more likely that patient will be cured.

  • Is it correct to reword the "way" with "manner" in the definition of outcome, just as this case "Life didn't turn out the way I expected"? Mar 27, 2014 at 14:07
  • 1
    Both manner and way are pretty vague terms that could be used in various contexts. I don't think I'd use manner when talking about life in general, though; manner is more often used to describe a certain way of doing something small. For example: I don't appreciate the manner in which he talked to me – he was rude. Or: Really? You gave your student an F because his speech was too long? I would have handled that in a different manner.
    – J.R.
    Mar 27, 2014 at 17:06
  • You mentioned, "The word "how" could be substituted for "the way". Is "could" here a tentative form of "can", used for a suggestion? @J.R.
    – Kinzle B
    Jun 18, 2014 at 16:04
  • @J.R. Can these be interchangeable? "turns out" and "outcome"
    – Boyep
    Sep 26, 2019 at 17:34
  • 1
    @Boyep - No, it's a different grammatical structure. However, the outcome of the experiment and how the experiment turns out mean roughly the same thing.
    – J.R.
    Sep 26, 2019 at 20:04

Turn out - Prove to be the case

Example -

The job turned out to be beyond his rather limited abilities

Way - A method, style, or manner of doing something; an optional or alternative form of action

Example -

  1. I hated their way of cooking potatoes
  2. There are two ways of approaching this problem

And "the" in "the way" refers to that particular "way". Does it help?

  • How to explain them as a whole? Mar 27, 2014 at 9:28
  • The way it turns out = It's a particular manner in which it turns out. Mar 27, 2014 at 9:31
  • Careful with this explanation as the multiple meanings of prove could confuse non-native readers. Mar 27, 2014 at 15:00
  • 1
    @starsplusplus Agreed, I'm confused before you mention it. Now I think prove should mean "be seen or found to be"(e.g. the plan has proved a great success ) here, instead of its another common meaning --"demonstrate the truth or existence of (something) by evidence or argument."( e.g. the concept is difficult to prove). Mar 28, 2014 at 3:13
  • @wangzhihao Yes, exactly. It's the first meaning you said, but the second meaning is so much more common and "prove to be the case" doesn't give enough context to make it clear. Mar 28, 2014 at 9:12

Outcome means, simply, what happens with regard to a particular event.

For example,

Police launched an investigation. The outcome was that they decided Mr X was the murderer.

The outcome of my pay review was that I got a 5% salary increase.

Let's break it down.

Starting with

the way a thing turns out

  • the way - the way something happens means how something happens. So now we have

    how a thing turns out

  • how [something] turns out - the end result of [something]. So now we have

    the final result of a thing

  • a thing - you have to be talking about a particular event, circumstance or situation in order to talk about its outcome. It has to be an outcome of something.

    In my examples above, the first example talks about the outcome of the investigation. The second example is speaking about the outcome of the pay review. Note that in the first example you don't need to say "outcome of the investigation" because it's clear from context which outcome you are talking about.

    So we can finally rephrase to:

    the final result of a situation

And that's what outcome means.

You must log in to answer this question.

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