Phrasal Verb Friday: Work Out

Happy Friday!

This week’s phrasal verb Friday post is inspired by the phrasal verb(pv): work out

As you probably know, in English sometimes words have more than 1 meaning, and such is the case work out. So, in today’s post, rather than focusing on many different pvs, or just looking at the base verb, we will go over the different meanings of only WORK OUT, and learn some relevant vocabulary for each category. Are you ready?

work out: to exercise; improve physical fitness

I try to work out at least 4 times per week. I usually go to the gym and do a mix of cardio and strength building to remain fit and healthy. My favorite cardio machines are the stationary bike, treadmill, and the elliptical. I can burn a good amount of calories, while increasing my endurance and stamina on all of them. For strength building, I like to to use dumbbells (or weights) when I do a variety of standing exercises, or I use one of the many weight machines depending on the muscle I would like to build. 

  • cardio: an exercise that causes the heart to beat faster/harder for a period of time
  • strength building: an exercise that targets a muscles/muscles to build size and strength
  • fit: physically healthy, strong and in good shape
  • cardio machines: a type of exercise equipment that provide cardio exercises, designed to increase heart rate
  • stationary bike: a type of cardio machine that moves like a bicycle (in one place); however, a person is sitting in a seat like a chair
  • treadmill: a type of cardio machine that has a large belt that moves around while a person walks or runs on it
  • elliptical: a type of cardio machine used to simulate stair climbing, walking, or running
  • to burn calories: use calories as a source of energy, often to lose weight
    • calories: a unit of heat used to indicate the amount of energy that foods will produce in the human body
  • endurance: the ability to do something difficult (ex: exercise) for a long time
  • stamina: great physical or mental strength that allows you to continue doing something for a long time
  • dumbbells: also, “weights” or “free weights”, a bar with weights attached at the end as a tool to build muscles
  • standing exercises: exercises not performed on a machine or a bench
  • weight machines: a type of exercise equipment that is used to build muscles while staying stationary

Check out this helpful picture, courtesy of Merriam-Webster Learner’s Dictionary, to see some more vocabulary: cardio machines (rowing machine), examples of standing exercises, and equipment.


work out (something) or work (something) out: to create a plan or find a solution to problem by thinking

We can use this phrasal verb to talk about a mathematical equation; for example, what is 2 + 2? Are you able to work out the answer? You probably don’t need a piece of paper to work it out, but you most likely would for a calculus or advanced algebra problem.

note: you can put the object after the particle “out” – EX: work out the problem
or you you can separate the verb and particle – EX: work the problem out
However, if you use a pronoun “it” or “them” then it must go in between the verb and particle: – EX: work it out

If we are talking about a plan, or finding the solution, we can imagine this scenario:  Luci and Dylan don’t know how they are going to save enough money to buy the house of their dreams, so they both tried to work out a way to do it. Dylan worked out a budget that would fit their financial needs, and even though all of the details weren’t organized from the beginning, they decided to work out those details later.

  • “work out a way”: create a plan (a way) to save money
  • “worked out a budget”: created a budget (money guide)
  • “work out those details”: organize the details to find the solution

Let’s Practice!

In order to practice the difference between these two phrasal verbs, you need to personalize them and create some context relevant to you! I have a couple of challenges for you to do, and all of theme encourage you to connect with me and other learners. The more you do, the more you practice, so start now by….

1) Comment below this post (under: “What do you think”) and answer the following questions:
-When was the last time you worked out at a gym? Do you prefer working out inside or in the fresh air?
-What was the last problem you worked out? Did anyone help you work it out?

2) INSTAGRAM! You know I love Instagram for learning, and if you don’t make sure you read this. To practice these phrasal verbs you can post  A)  a picture or video of you working out (exercise), and make sure you tag me and/or use #eotbworkout. In the caption section, make sure you include a sentence using the phrasal verb.   B) Upload a picture of your achievement: a problem you solved or plan you created (WORKED OUT), or take of video of you trying to work something out. Same as your part A challenge: tag me and/or use #eotbworkout

I hope you enjoyed this post, and please share with a friend! As always…

Happy Studying! ♥


  1. UIU Intensive English on August 18, 2015 at 8:21 am

    Great post! I love phrasal verbs, just because of all the nuance they carry with them. Still, I think they’re one of the hardest aspects of English for non-native speakers.

    • Jennifer on August 18, 2015 at 5:21 pm

      Yes! Isn’t that the truth!? It’s difficult for me learning other languages, too. 😉

  2. eflnotes on July 10, 2015 at 7:54 am


    it’s a tricky one work out, according to the PHaVE dictionary ( it has 4 common meanings.

    in addition to the two you describe there is work out + well/badly – happen or develop in a particular way ; and prove to be successful


    • Jennifer on July 10, 2015 at 8:25 am

      Yes there is, I chose only 2 for the post to not overwhelm! 🙂 Thanks for the additions!

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