I already heard and read on various occasions Americans use the expression "to set up" to seemingly mean "to arrange" as in "I'll set up reservations for you" or "I'll be more than happy to set up a custom tailored schedule of activities for as long as you're with us".

The funny thing is I can't seem to find one dictionary online that states this sense of "to set up" as fact.

Actually, the definitions of "to set up" that I found to approximate "to arrange" the most are "to make carefully worked out plans (usually mischievous ones) for" [set up a kidnapping, a jewelry heist, etc.] -- and "to assemble and erect" [set up a new machine], which, I guess, can also be used metaphorically.

And so, I wish you could tell if "to set up" for "to arrange [a reservation, a program, a schedule, etc.]" has any accuracy in modern day AmE, and if it's safe to use in every which context and register but the most formal ones.

E. g.

Teen campers will be contacted by their group leader prior to camp to find out their goals for the week and set up a program of activities for the group. source

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    Yes, it's perfectly normal. Your example is fine. Mar 22, 2014 at 21:44
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    +1 because you're correct that the dictionary entries I've looked at are not overt on this meaning which is 100% current use in AmE.
    – David M
    Mar 23, 2014 at 4:09

1 Answer 1


Here is a dictionary link that shows the example you're looking for. It is #11: To make carefully worked out plans for. Although the example given is a bank robbery, any sense of planning makes sense here.

As to its currency and usage in American English. This is everyday, commonly used American English. Please feel free to use it in this sense as you see fit. I'm actually rather surprised that the definition was so obscured in the dictionary entries I've looked at.

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    The only thing is -- as you correctly pointed out -- that "to,set up" in your sourced example has a pejorative connotation to it, i.e. to make carefully worked out plans for a bank robbery. In addition, can you actually "make carefully worked out plans for" a schedule, a program, or a reservation? Sounds to me like you can make carefully worked out plans for an elegant dinner, a vacation, a package tour or a trip, but not for a schedule, a program or a reservation.
    – Elian
    Mar 23, 2014 at 4:38
  • @NourishedGourmet Correct. Make careful plans for anything. Not just a bank heist.
    – David M
    Mar 23, 2014 at 4:46

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