ELL Guide

A guide for ELL (English Language Learners) at the University of Maine at Augusta

Figure Out

Figure Out is a phrasal verb that means to solve a problem or answer a question. 

As such, it is often used with question words like Who? What? Where or phrases like How Much?  




FIGURE OUT: examples with question words.   


I need to FIGURE OUT how much money I owe next semester.  The question of "how much money is owed?" needs to be answered.  


I need to FIGURE OUT where I am going to live next year.   The question of "where am I going to live?" needs to be answered.   


I need to FIGURE OUT why I cannot get onto the internet.    The question of "why can't I get onto the internet?" needs to be answered.  


Can you help me FIGURE OUT where room 205 is?   The problem of where room 205 is needs to be solved.   


I FIGURED OUT what the problem was: someone changed the WiFi code.   The problem of why there was a difficulty connecting to the internet has been solved.   


Now I need to FIGURE OUT how to finish my assignment without internet access.  The question of "how can I finish my homework without internet access?" needs to be answered.   


Or I could FIGURE OUT what the new WiFi code is.  The question of "what is the new WiFi code?" could be answered.  


I am having trouble FIGURING OUT which section of the course I should register in.   The has been trouble answering the question "which section of the course should I register in?"  


When I FIGURE OUT who changed the WiFi code, I will have a few words with them.  A discussion will take place when the question of "who changed the WIFI code?" is answered.  


I FIGURED OUT who changed the WiFi code and FIGURED OUT why they did it–our neighbors had been logging on to our internet for free and slowing it down–so I now I understand and I am not so mad at them.   The questions of "who changed the WiFi code?" and "why did they do it?" have been answered.  

I would like to FIGURE OUT who keeps on leaving their dirty towel in the bathroom.   The speaker would like to solve the mystery of who keeps leaving their dirty towel in the bathroom.   

We need to FIGURE OUT when we are going to meet as a group to finish our project for class.   The question of "when are we going to meet as a group to finish the class project?" needs to be answered.   

Would someone like to help me FIGURE OUT how to assemble this dresser I bought online?   The speaker needs help solving the problem of how to assemble the dresser.   

Figure Out Quiz

After the phrasal verb "figure out," put the appropriate question word or phrase in the blank box.   

  1.  I need to figure out ______  time class starts.

  2. I need to figure out ______  class starts.   

  3. In multiple choice tests, you need to figure out _____ answer is correct.

  4. I am going to email my professor because I cannot figure out ______ my answer was wrong.

  5. Once I figure out ______ roommate cleaned the apartment, I am going to give her a big hug.

  6. I need to figure out _____ I should vote for in the student government association elections.        

  7. I would like to figure out ______  the next General Assembly Meeting is.  

  8. I should figure out _______ UMA campus my favorite instructor is based on, Augusta or Bangor.

  9. I need to figure out _______ UMA center is closest to me.    

  10. Did you figure out _________  money I owe you for lunch?  I can send it to you through Venmo right now.   

  11. Have you figured  out ________  that instructor gives pop quizzes?   

  12. Did we ever figure out _________ our classmate missed our meeting for the group project?   

Figure Out Quiz Answers 

  1. What 

  2. When

  3. Which (could also be “what”) 

  4. Why 

  5. Which 

  6. Who 

  7. When 

  8. Which 

  9. Which (could also be “what”)  

  10. How much   

  11. How often  

  12. How come (could also be “why”)   


Some phrasal verbs can be split by their direct object.  Figure Out is one of those phrasal verbs.  Here are some examples of Figure Out being split by its direct object.   

Who is my partner for the peer review?  I need to FIGURE THAT OUT.  Figure out has been split by the demonstrative pronoun that


I still have not answered the test question.  But I will FIGURE IT OUT.  Figure out has been split by the personal pronoun it.  


I am confused about my boyfriend’s behavior sometimes.  Even though we have been together for two years, I still haven’t quite FIGURED HIM OUT yet.  Figured out has been split by the personal pronoun him.  


My roommate uses the kitchen all of the time but never does the dishes.  How does she think that is fair?  Yet, other times she will be so considerate and thoughtful.  I don’t understand her.  I have not FIGURED HER OUT.  Figured out has been split by the personal pronoun her. 


The UMA basketball team will beat a good team and then lose to a bad team.  I can’t quite FIGURE THEM OUT.  Figure out has been split by the personal pronoun them.  


Sometimes our instructor in this class gives us a lot of work one week and then almost no work the next week.  I haven’t quite FIGURED THIS CLASS OUT yet.  Figured out has been split by the phrase this class.  


My biology instructor in that class would give us a really hard quiz and then a really easy quiz–and then a hard quiz.  I never quite FIGURED THAT CLASS OUT.  Figured out has been split by the phrase that class.  


I know we are having a difficult time finding our way home, but we will FIGURE THIS OUT.  Figure out has been split by the demonstrative pronoun this


These test questions are hard, but I will FIGURE THESE OUT.   Figure out has been split by the demonstrative pronoun these.


I have already glanced at the second section of the test and see those questions are hard too, but after I finish the first section, I will FIGURE THOSE OUT too.  Figure out has been split by the demonstrative pronoun those.   

Figure Out Exercise 

Write two sentences using figure out.  In the first sentence, put a question word or phrase after figure out.  In the second sentence, split figure out with a pronoun.  















Figure Out additional resources 


Here are additional resources we have vetted for the phrasal verb figure out.  









Text & Video:  




The English Band Royal Blood had a hit song called “Figure It Out.”  Here is a YouTube video that has the lyrics with Spanish subtitles:  Royal Blood - Figure It Out [Sub español + Lyrics] - YouTube

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