‘Setup' or 'Set Up': What's the Difference Between the Two?

By Shanea Patterson, updated on December 5, 2022

Is it ‘setup’ or ‘set up’? Wondering what the difference is between the two? We’ll go over that in detail below, plus teach you how to use the phrase correctly in a sentence.

The short answer is that both versions of the phrase are technically correct.

‘Setup’ is a noun that means the assembly and arrangement of the tools and apparatus required for the performance of an operation, or it can mean ‘project’ or ‘plan.’

‘Set Up’ acts as a verb and means cause, create or bring about.

‘Set Up’ vs. ‘Setup’ vs. ‘Set-Up’

As you’ve just learned, there are differences between these three phrases, despite the fact that they’re spelled the same way.

‘Set Up’ is a verb that means to plan.

‘Setup’ means putting someone in a dangerous position for your benefit. But it also means project or plan.

'Set-up' is the British English version of the word and means the way in which something is positioned.

‘Setup’ vs. ‘Set Up’ – What’s the Difference? 

You’ve just learned the difference between ‘setup’ and ‘set up.’ Now you know they can never be used interchangeably because they mean different things.

Definition and Meaning of ‘Set Up’ 

The Merriam-Webster definition of ‘set up’ is: “to raise to and place in a high position,” “to place in view: post,” “to put forward (something, such as a plan) for acceptance,” “to place upright: erect,” “to assemble the parts of and erect in position,” “to put (a machine) in readiness or adjustment for an operation,” “cause, create,” “bring about,” “to place in power or in office,” “to raise from depression: elate, gratify,” “to make proud or vain,” “to put forward or extol as a model,” “to claim oneself to be,” and “found, inaugurate.”

It’s also defined as: “to provide with means of making a living,” “to bring or restore to normal health, “ “to cause (one) to take on a soldierly or athletic appearance especially through a drill,” “to erect (a perpendicular or a figure) on a base in a drawing,” “to make taut (a stay or hawser),” “to tighten firmly,” “to make carefully worked out plans for,” “to pay for (drinks),” “to treat (someone) to something,” “to put in a compromising or dangerous position usually by trickery or deceit,” and “to execute one or more plays in preparation for scoring.”

As a transitive verb, it means: “to come into active operation or use,” “to begin a business,” “to make pretensions,” and “to become firm.”

Definition and Meaning of ‘Setup’ 

The Merriam-Webster definition of ‘Setup’ is: “a carriage of the body, especially: erect and soldierly bearing,” “constitution, makeup,” “the assembly and arrangement of the tools and apparatus required for the performance of an operation,” “the preparation and adjustment of machines for an assigned task,” “a table setting,” “glass, ice, and mixer served to patrons who supply their own liquor,” and “a camera position from which a scene is filmed, also: the footage was taken from one camera position.”

It also means: “The final arrangement of the scenery and properties for a scene of a theatrical or cinematic production,” “a position of the balls in billiards or pool from which it is easy to score,” “a task or contest purposely made easy,” “something easy to get or accomplish,” “something (such as a plot) that has been constructed or contrived,” “the execution of a planned scoring play in sports,” “the manner in which the elements or components of a machine, apparatus, or system are arranged, designed, or assembled,” “the patterns within which political, social, or administrative forces operate: a customary or established practice,” “project, plan,” and “something done by deceit or trickery in order to compromise or frame someone.”

Using ‘Set Up’ in a Sentence

Now that you’re more familiar with the phrases let’s learn how to use them in a sentence.

Take a look at a few examples of how to use ‘set up’ in a sentence:

  • I helped my mom set up the dining area for lunch at our restaurant.
  • Let’s set up your new PS5; I want to play the new Call of Duty.
  • We set up by new bunny cage last week, and she loves how much space she has now.
  • I helped my dad set up a new bookshelf last weekend.
  • Sandra was supposed to help me set up for the birthday party.

Using ‘Setup’ in a Sentence

Now, let’s see how to use ‘setup’ in a sentence correctly.

  • My surprise girlfriends’ weekend was a total setup. I never saw it coming.
  • Luring his ex to the gas station was a setup.
  • The setup was the perfect plan to catch the thieves.
  • Have you ever considered that this could be a setup?
  • The table setup for my anniversary dinner was absolutely breathtaking.

Final Thoughts on ‘Setup’ and ‘Set Up’

Now that you’re familiar with both phrases and how they operate in a sentence, you should be able to use them effortlessly in your writing.

While there’s no easy way to remember which is which, you can keep practicing, and soon you’ll be a pro at using it correctly in your writing.

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Written By:
Shanea Patterson
Shanea Patterson is a writer based in New York and loves writing for brands big and small. She has a master's degree in professional writing from New York University and a bachelor's degree in English from Mercy College.

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