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Could you tell if both of the following sentences equally correct, natural and mean the same?

This is the first time I have seen the word, that's why I'm going to check it in a dictionary.

This is the first time I have seen the word, that's why I'm going to check it out in a dictionary.

I would've thought that in this context check only made sense, but I've heard native speakers of English use check out in this context.

3 Answers 3

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Both are fine.

out often stresses the completeness or the end of something.

To check it means to examine it, to check it out means to examine it more closely, carefully, completely (usually in order to make sure it's correct), to get more information about it.

Also consider these:

  • pull it up (especially, if you are on your computer looking for a word in an e-dictionary)
  • look it up
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Well, if you looked up yourself both verbs in the dictionaries available on line, you would have found out that

check means to examine (something) in order to determine its accuracy, quality, or condition, or to detect the presence of something.

whereas

check out means to establish the truth or inform oneself about someone or something

The difference in meaning is rather subtle and so it is natural for native speakers to use both in this situation.

To check something out is very often used and it can also mean, to examine or have a look at. You often hear sentences like:

Check out this new song, it's fantastic!

or

Go without me, I need to pass by the office and check something out.

So you can definitely "check out a word in a dictionary" too.

Having said all that, to check/check out a word in the dictionary is not an idiomatic phrase. The idiomatic phrase is what the previous answer has just indicated (to look up a word in the dictionary).

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Both options seem to be the equally correct and natural, however, just in case it's relevant, I'd suggest using the following transitive verb, which sounds more natural in this context:

This is the first time I have seen the word, that's why I'm going to look it up in a dictionary.

Since, "to look [something] up" means "to search for [something] in a reference work". [Source]

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  • Welcome to ELL. Note that the OP does not ask for a synonymous phrase, but whether the given sentences are correct and if they mean the same. Also, this site encourages people to prove the information they give by providing links for the research they have done in order to answer.
    – fev
    Dec 18, 2020 at 11:35
  • I've answered OP's question in the first sentence of my answer, and the suggestion for the synonymous phrase is merely expanding upon my answer and providing extra knowledge. Additionally, since I performed no research prior to providing my answer, I haven't provided any links to any relevant resources. I'll make sure to do so when it is relevant!
    – uriyaba
    Dec 18, 2020 at 11:46

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