Vikram (April 12, 2013) posed a question 'Is "work out of" correct English?'. My question is an extension of Vikram's question. In India where I live, the phrase 'out of' is used with opposite meanings, depending on the context! For example: (1) He works out of Delhi - meaning that he works from (that is, based in) Delhi. (2) She had a child out of wedlock. Here the writer wants to convey that the child was born not from a marriage.

In math, when we say 'She got four out of five answers correct', the phrase 'out of' is used in the sense of 'from' like in example (1) above. To avoid confusion, isn't it better to write example (2) above as 'She had a child outside of wedlock?'

  • Not quite re: math. In that sense, 'out of' is referring to the division operation and could be replaced by 'divided by'. – mcalex Aug 21 '13 at 6:39
  • A slight clarification: out of is not in general equivalent to divided by. Out of is more of a subset of divided by, which is only used to say a/b when a<=b. "Out of" (sometimes shortened to just of) in math is a shorter way of saying "from a total number of". So four out of five questions correct is saying four questions from a total of five questions were correct, which can be (and often is) represented as a fraction: 4/5 questions correct. – Walter Aug 21 '13 at 7:11
  • None of my math teachers ever had a problem with referring to improper fractions like 16/10 as '16 out of 10'. – mcalex Aug 21 '13 at 7:37
  • It would also be better to write example (1) as He works from Delhi or He is based in Delhi. Using "out of" in this context, sounds odd and weird. – Tristan Aug 21 '13 at 10:51
  • Your suggestion for example (2) is not better because it is verbose, wordy. The first wording of example (2) is sufficient. – Tristan Aug 21 '13 at 10:56

American English has both of the same usages you described from Indian English.

He works out of Delhi

Usually this is used in cases where the worker sometimes travels as part of that work, so he goes out from his home base to work; or when the worker delivers the product of their work to another location.

Our salesman works out of Delhi but supports clients in Mumbai and Hyderabad.

I know an engineer who works out of Delhi; her designs are manufactured in Shenzhen.

If neither of these situations apply, it would be more usual to say "he works in Delhi", but you might hear "he works out of Delhi" also.

  • I agree that He works out of Delhi sounds fine in AmE, and I was surprised to read Tristan's comment that it's unacceptable (presumably in BrE). I wonder if it's a legitimate difference between AmE and BrE...? – snailcar Aug 22 '13 at 8:15

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