the difference between words: find and find out


Recently, one of my students was having trouble understanding the nuance between “find” and “find out” in English. So, I’ve decided to write about that today.

I think the easiest way to think about the difference between these two is to realize that we use “find” when talking about discovering something that is tangible or physical such as a person or an object. However, we use “find out” when talking about discovering or learning some kind of information. Here are some examples to help you:

I need to find an apartment downtown which is not so expensive, but it’s really hard.

I found this watch when I was cleaning the house. Is it yours?

Can you find out what Harold’s phone number is?

I just found out that my coworker got married last weekend! I’m so happy for her!

It’s important to note that both of these can be used when talking about actively looking for something or some information or passively discovering it by accident. In the case of my first sentence with “find”, the person is actively searching for a physical thing (an apartment); in the second sentence, the person accidentally discovers something (the watch).

In the case of my first sentence with “find out”, the person actively wants to know some information (the phone number); in the second sentence, the person accidentally discovers some information during a conversation (the marriage).

You can also think of “find out” as the first step in the process of knowing something. First, we “find out” some information, and then we “know” it for a long time, unless we happen to forget it.

I hope this is clear to anyone who has ever been confused about these words.


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