“Work out” is often used to refer to vigorous physical exercise.


1.   (intransitive) To engage in vigorous physical exercise.
  • “She has been working out almost everyday since the start of the New Year.”
2.   (intransitive) The total amount or result of a calculation.
  • “That works out to $13.59.”
  • “The cost of the trip worked out cheaper than we had expected.
3.   (intransitive) When something is successful, like when a situation or a plan has a good or desirable result.
  • “It’d be nice if things always worked out that way.”
4.   (intransitive) When a situation develops in a particular way.

Because a situation can develop in different ways, you’ll need to describe the development.

  • “I hope your new job works out well.”
  • “That advice you gave me worked out to be really helpful.”
Subtle differences: development or success?

This definition is very similar to the previous definition but the emphasis here is on development, not success.

  • “I hope your new job works out well.”
    Refers to the development of the job, to wish it will go well.
  • “I hope your new job works out.”
    Refers to the outcome, to wish it will be successful.
  • 5.   “Work out (something)” – (separable) Plan something in detail.
    • “I have to work out the budget before the deadline next Tuesday.”
    6.   “Work out (something) – Decide or agree on something.
    • “We should work out a date for our next meeting.”
    7.   “Work (somebody/something) out” – (separable) To deal with a problem in a satisfactory way.
    • “You two need to work out your differences for the sake of the team.”
    • “I need to work something out with management after what happened last week.”
    8.   “Work (something) out” – To solve a problem.
    • “I know we’ve run out of options, but we need to work out what to do.”
    9.   “Work (someone) out” – (inseparable) To understand someone.
    • “Even though I’ve known him for so many years, sometimes I can’t work him out.

    Related expressions

    “(Things/everything) will work out”

    – To say that a bad situation will eventually improve and have a desirable outcome.

    • “I’m so sorry to hear about your job. I’m sure things will work out and you’ll get a better job in no time.”

    How’s that working out for you?” or “How’d that work out for you?
    – To point out that what someone is doing is not working out very well.

    These are sarcastic and rhetorical questions. When you see these used on TV shows or movies, it is usually set up as a joke. In real life however, they could come across as condescending and rude.

    Original post: 16 April 2020