sort out

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  • (file)


sort out (third-person singular simple present sorts out, present participle sorting out, simple past and past participle sorted out)

  1. (transitive) To clarify by reviewing mentally.
    It's a bit confused at the moment, I'll try to sort it out later.
  2. (transitive) To arrange.
    Could you call Dave and sort out a meeting for tomorrow?
  3. (transitive) To fix (a problem).
    The computer won't let me delete that file; could you sort it out?
  4. (transitive) To organise or separate into groups, as a collection of items, so as to make tidy.
    Could you sort out your wardrobe and put the clothes you no longer use in one pile to give away and another to throw away?
  5. (transitive) To separate from the remainder of a group; often construed with from.
    We need to sort out the problems we can solve from the ones we can't.
    They've already sorted out the students in group A, so we just need to worry about groups B and C.
  6. (transitive, British, slang) To take action to stop someone who has been causing trouble, often by physically attacking them.
    If you do that again, I'll soon sort you out.
    • 2016, Jon Bounds, Danny Smith, Pier Review: A Road Trip in Search of the Great British Seaside:
      Most of the babies and kids would be put to bed by one of the adults and left on their own. Every half an hour a bluecoat would walk around the aisles and if they heard crying from your chalet they would put your block and chalet number on a board to the right of the stage. The first few times I went to a proper church and saw the hymn order to the side of the pulpit I wondered why nobody was going to sort out those kids.
  7. (UK, slang) To provide (somebody) with a necessity, or a solution to a problem.
    Hey man, I want some weed. —I'll sort you out, mate.
    We really need to sort Chris out with a girlfriend.

Usage notes[edit]

  • In senses 1 and 2, the object typically refers to an abstraction: a problem, or a situation, or the like.
  • In senses 3 and 4, the object may refer to any sort of collection — a collection of physical objects, or of people, or of abstractions. In sense 4, there is very often a from phrase, characterizing the remainder of the collection.
  • In sense 5, the object refers to a person or group of people.
  • In all senses, the object may appear before or after the particle out. If the object is particularly short or lexically "light" — as with all personal pronouns — it will usually appear before the particle ("sort it out"), and if it is particularly long or lexically "heavy" — as with a noun phrase with a modifier phrase attached — it will usually appear after it ("sort out the patients with scoliosis"). Intermediate-length objects may appear either before or after ("sort the wheat out", "sort out the wheat").
  • In British usage, in sense of “to fix a problem”, often used without “out”, as in “I’ll get that sorted.”

Derived terms[edit]