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    #1

    set about doing; set out to

    Hello everyone,
    I read this sentence in OALD6 (set, set about):

    We need to set about finding a solution.

    I thought we should say:
    We need to set about looking for a solution. or:
    We need to set out to find a solution.

    This is because we set about doing sth means start doing sth while we set out to do sth means we begin sth with a particular goal or aim:
    We set about clearing up the mess. (LONGMAN DICTIONARY OF CONTEMPERARY ENGLISH, set about)
    She set out to break the world record. (again: OALD6, set out)

  1. RonBee's Avatar
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    #2

    Question Re: set about doing; set out to

    Quote Originally Posted by joham View Post
    Hello everyone,
    I read this sentence in OALD6 (set, set about):

    We need to set about finding a solution.

    I thought we should say:
    We need to set about looking for a solution. or:
    We need to set out to find a solution.
    All three sentences are more or less interchangeable. (I am not sure what the question is.)


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    #3

    Re: set about doing; set out to

    You mean we can say "She set about breaking the world record"?

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    #4

    Re: set about doing; set out to

    Quote Originally Posted by joham View Post
    You mean we can say "She set about breaking the world record"?
    Yes. (Especially if she did break the world record.)

    (Not so loud!
    )
    Last edited by RonBee; 12-Nov-2007 at 23:29. Reason: spelling

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    #5

    Re: set about doing; set out to

    Quote Originally Posted by RonBee View Post
    Yes. (Especially if she did bread the world record.)

    (Not so loud!
    )
    I'm sorry I wasn't thinking. I mistook it a way of emphasis to use big letters. I didn't know using big letters meant speaking loudness and being rude. I was so sorry that I BEHAVED BADLY. I apologize.

  3. RonBee's Avatar
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    #6

    Re: set about doing; set out to

    Quote Originally Posted by joham View Post
    I'm sorry I wasn't thinking. I mistook it a way of emphasis to use big letters. I didn't know using big letters meant speaking loudness and being rude. I was so sorry that I BEHAVED BADLY. I apologize.
    It's okay. No problem.


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    #7

    Re: set about doing; set out to

    Perhaps if I add to what RonBee has said:
    Each of the sentences is grammatically correct, but have different shades of meaning:
    We need to set about looking for a solution.

    The picture I have in mind is, say, the directors of a company have recognized a problem that they have in the company, say, on the production line. They "set about looking for a solution" by coming up with ideas, such as, let's ask the people on the production line if they have some solution for what's going wrong; or we could find out whether other companies have had this same problem and how did they solve it; or perhaps, we could call in a specialist consultant to analyze the problem and offer a solution; or....etc They may then chose one these ideas and act on it.

    We need to set about finding a solution.
    This is the same as above, but has a more determined, active quality to it. We are not just "looking" , we are determined to find one.

    We need to set out to find a solution.
    We have the expression, "to set out" on a journey, as in, "Columbus set out to find the New World."*** So, you take the first steps towards the goal of finding a solution, and your energies and mind are focused on the goal. Here, I picture a group of researchers setting out to find the cure for a disease. This particular group will probably work on no other illnesses, but concentrate all their efforts each day towards the goal of coming up with the cure.

    This is also the sense in the sentence:
    She set out to break the world record.
    However, here, we have different time frames. One could say an athlete sets out to win the gold medal at the Olympics the first day of her training program leading up to the Games. Her daily life would be structured around this program, so that her focus is on getting herself in peak condition for the Games. A commentator could equally say of the same athlete, half way through the 26 mile Marathon Race, "She set out (at the start of the race) to take home gold in this event, and by george, it looks like she's going to do it!"

    They set about clearing up the mess.
    This one is more difficult (for me) to convey. They see the problem (the mess) and just get on and clear it up. It may take a few minutes, or a lot longer, but it lacks the sense of some major process that they have to do through to reach the goal of a tidy room.
    Compare this with:
    "He set out to tidy up his room but soon got bored and went off fishing."
    Again, no major process, but it is used to convey the idea of starting out on performing the task.
    Hope that helps.
    *** My knowledge of history, or should I say, my woeful lack of it, causes me to suspect that in fact, in Columbus' mind, it was not the New World he set out to find, but the Spice Islands; or was it that he thought by sailing west, he could reach China more quickly then sailing east? Oh, dear.
    Last edited by David L.; 13-Nov-2007 at 09:38.

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    #8

    Re: set about doing; set out to

    Quote Originally Posted by David L. View Post
    Perhaps if I add to what RonBee has said:
    Each of the sentences is grammatically correct, but have different shades of meaning:
    We need to set about looking for a solution.

    The picture I have in mind is, say, the directors of a company have recognized a problem that they have in the company, say, on the production line. They "set about looking for a solution" by coming up with ideas, such as, let's ask the people on the production line if they have some solution for what's going wrong; or we could find out whether other companies have had this same problem and how did they solve it; or perhaps, we could call in a specialist consultant to analyze the problem and offer a solution; or....etc They may then chose one these ideas and act on it.

    We need to set about finding a solution.
    This is the same as above, but has a more determined, active quality to it. We are not just "looking" , we are determined to find one.

    We need to set out to find a solution.
    We have the expression, "to set out" on a journey, as in, "Columbus set out to find the New World."*** So, you take the first steps towards the goal of finding a solution, and your energies and mind are focused on the goal. Here, I picture a group of researchers setting out to find the cure for a disease. This particular group will probably work on no other illnesses, but concentrate all their efforts each day towards the goal of coming up with the cure. This is also the sense in the sentence:
    She set out to break the world record.
    However, here, we have different time frames. One could say an athlete sets out to win the gold medal at the Olympics the first day of her training program leading up to the Games. Her daily life would be structured around this program, so that her focus is on getting herself in peak condition for the Games. A commentator could equally say, half way through the 26 mile Marathon Race, "She set out (at the start of the race) to take home gold in this event, and by george, it looks like she's going to do it!"

    They set about clearing up the mess.
    This one is more difficult (for me) to convey. They see the problem (the mess) and just get on and clear it up. It may take a few minutes, or a lot longer, but it lacks the sense of some major process that they have to do through to reach the goal of a tidy room.
    Compare this with:
    "He set out to tidy up his room but soon got bored and went off fishing."
    Again, no major process, but it is used to convey the idea of starting out on performing the task.
    Hope that helps.
    *** My knowledge of history, or should I say, my woeful lack of it, causes me to suspect that in fact, in Columbus' mind, it was not the New World he set out to find, but the Spice Islands; or was it that he thought by sailing west, he could reach China more quickly then sailing east? Oh, dear.
    That is an excelent analysis!

    You are right about Columbus, by the way. He set out to find the Indies, and although he found something else entirely, to his dying day he thought he had indeed found the Indies.

    ~R

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