Find Out vs. Figure Out – Confusing English Vocabulary Lesson

Michael Confusing Words, Vocabulary 6 Comments


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I recently found out that my grandfather was a barber. It was his first job after finishing school. He was a smart guy and liked doing puzzles. I heard that he could figure out a crossword puzzle faster than anyone else in my family! I’m not so good at puzzles like that. It would take me a long time to figure out a crossword or sudoku.

Today, let’s look at the difference between find out and figure out. These phrasal verbs in English are similar, but have different uses.

Find out means to discover information. Generally, we find out something by chance, in other words, we were not intentionally looking for the information. We happened to discover it.

  • I found out that my grandfather was a barber.
  • Jane found out her husband was cheating on her when she found the evidence in his jacket pocket.
  • We found out the boss was going to quit at the staff meeting on Monday.

Figure out means to learn some information by taking action to do it. Generally, we intend to figure out something. It does not happen by chance, as in find out.

  • After working on my PC for a few hours, I finally figured out why it wasn’t working.
  • My mom can figure out a crossword puzzle very quickly.
  • The police figured out how the robber was able to bypass the bank’s security.

So basically, you find out something by chance and you figure out something by your intention and effort. Have you found out or figured out something recently?
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