Setup vs. Set up: What’s the Difference?

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of words in the English language that confuse writers on a daily basis. Words that sound the same, words that are spelled the same, words that have only slightly different meanings, etc.

Today’s two words are confusing because they have two different functions and meanings, yet just a single space separates them from each other.

What is the Difference Between Setup and Set up?

In this post, I will cover the differences in use and function between setup vs. set up. I will give real life examples from national newspapers and magazines, and you will be able to test your knowledge at the end with a quiz.

After reading this post, you won’t ever again think to yourself, “Should I use setup or set up?”

When to Use Setup

how to use setup or set upWhat does setup mean? Setup (one word) is a noun and is defined as the way in which something is constituted, arranged, or planned.

  • This house has a great setup for hosting parties.
  • In the setup of many present-day families, both parents are working.
  • Under the current setup, Yahoo’s core assets are overshadowed by those stakes, giving Yahoo’s actual businesses a valuation of less than zero. –USA Today

Another meaning of the one-word setup is a scheme or trick intended to incriminate or deceive someone.

  • He didn’t talk. The entire thing was a setup.
  • The police lured the gang leader into the setup.

The one-word setup is sometimes hyphenated to appear as set-up. There is nothing wrong with this, but it much more frequently appears as a single word, especially in American English.

setup versus set up grammar

For point of reference, here is chart that graphs setup vs. set-up. Setup, spelled as one word, is much more common, and many popular style guides, including The AP Stylebook, list it without any hyphen.

When to use Set up

correct English words and phrasesWhat does set up mean? Set up (two words) is a verb phrase and is used to describe the actions of putting things in order, installing software on a computer, arranging a date, creating a trap for someone, among other meanings.

  • Before we play chess, we need to set up the board.
  • This computer still needs to be set up with software.
  • Can you set up a lunch meeting for me next week?
  • You set me up didn’t you?
  • He created a “smart store” that can be set up quickly and stowed just as effortlessly. –New York Post

Quiz and Sentence Examples

  1. I haven’t quite finished the ______ of this computer yet.
  2. I want to ______ my business here, but I can’t afford it.
  3. In this video, we unbox and ______ a new iPad pro.
  4. The iPad is very user friendly; its ______ is a breeze .
  5. The victim helped ______ the suspect in a sting operation.

Display the answers below.

Trick to Remember the Difference

The easiest way to remember set up vs. setup is to look at how each word works in a sentence.

The one-word setup functions as a noun. A good indicator of a noun is an article. If you see a or the in front of the word in question, it’s probably a noun.

  • A setup.
  • The setup.

The two-word set up functions as a verb. You can usually see if it’s a verb by looking to see if another verb or the word “to” is nearby.

  • To set up.
  • Will set up.
  • Helped to set up.


Is it set up or setup? That depends on the context of your sentence. Both words have different meanings and different functions.

Setup is a noun and means the way in which something is arranged.

Set up is a verb and refers to the action of putting things in order or arranging them.



  1. Setup
  2. Set up
  3. Set up
  4. Setup
  5. Set up