Can you please tell if there is any difference in meaning between work out a problem and work through a problem? For example:

I can't tell why the laptop is going haywire not, but I'll work out that problem.

I can't tell why the laptop is going haywire not, but I'll work through that problem.

2 Answers 2


In American English, “work something out” and “work through something” have overlapping fields of meaning.

“Work something out” frequently means to resolve something.

I am serious about working this dispute out without lawyers and without jeopardizing our relationship

indicates a desire to end a dispute amicably.

“Work through something” frequently means to analyze something carefully with a view to understanding.

I am trying to work through Ricardo’s theory of value, but am finding it quite obscure

indicates a desire to fully understand that theory.

However, we frequently want to understand something in order to resolve it. In such situations, either locution may spring to mind.

I am trying to work through this notice of a tax deficiency

with the unstated purpose of resolving it

Yes, I am studying the notice of tax deficiency. I want to work this out promptly

Either phrase may be appropriate in such a situation. They have different primary meanings, but those meanings are often closely related.


work out a problem means to figure out how to do something.

The Brits use work out often where a AmE speaker would use figure out. However, work out is not only British.

"I can't seem to work out those parking tickets." [Why I got them]

Work through a problem means to go step by step when faced with a problem in order to resolve it using a process, even if that process is informal.

"We have to work through the structural load issues before starting to build."

  • 1
    Maybe I'm old, but I first used 'work out' to mean 'carry out one or a series of arithmetic operations', e.g. work out the cost of 12.85 tonnes of ready-mix concrete if one tonne costs £95.00 including delivery. Aug 28, 2022 at 16:21
  • @MichaelHarvey I agree but didn't put in every single thing. I actually had that and then took it out. Bad choice on my part.
    – Lambie
    Aug 28, 2022 at 16:58

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