intransitive phrasal verb: pan out

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This week’s phrasal verb is “pan out”. Unlike many phrasal verbs, it has only one meaning, so today’s entry will be quite short. It is used when we talk about someone’s plans and if they ended successfully or not. For example:

I heard you were trying to get a new job. How did that pan out?

Apparently, James was planning to start his own company. I wonder if that panned out or not.

I wanted to go to Italy for my vacation, but it didn’t pan out.

We almost always use this expression as a question (How did that pan out?), or in the negative (It didn’t pan out.)

In the case of the question, we are basically asking, “Was that situation successful or not?” In the case of the negative sentence, we’re basically saying, “No, it wasn’t successful.” or “It couldn’t be done.”

However, it sounds strange in English if we say, “It panned out.” Instead, we would say something like: “It was very successful.” or “It worked out well.” or something like that.

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