Set Up vs. Setup vs. Set-up

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Candace Osmond

Candace Osmond studied Advanced Writing & Editing Essentials at MHC. She’s been an International and USA TODAY Bestselling Author for over a decade. And she’s worked as an Editor for several mid-sized publications. Candace has a keen eye for content editing and a high degree of expertise in Fiction.

Is it setup or set up? And is set up hyphenated? These two words are confusing to writers because they’re either a noun, adjective, or a verb. 

Find out how to use set up, setup, and set-up correctly to write better in British and American English. I’ll also show you some sentence examples. 

Setup is one word when it is a noun (e.g., “it was a setup!”) or an adjective (e.g., “follow the setup instructions”). It is two words—set up—when it functions as a verb (e.g., “I’m going to set up the computer”).

How Do You Use the Word Set Up?

Some writers and publishers use set-up, with a hyphen, instead of setup. In any case, the one-word form and the hyphenated form do not function as verbs.

Use the noun setup to refer to the way in which something is positioned. And use the phrasal verb form set up to prepare for something or put things in order.

The verb phrase set up is made of a transitive or intransitive verb and a preposition. Merriam-Webster defines it as to place in a higher position or to place in view.

Set is an irregular verb in the present and past tense. Irregular verbs are verbs where the past form does not end in -ed. Set only changes spelling when it’s in the progressive tense.

As a transitive verb, set up is followed by a direct object. Therefore, you can set something up or set up something.

Some examples of this phrase in a sentence include:

  • Set up the birthday decoration before the guests arrive.
  • Thanks for assisting me in setting my new laptop up.
  • You’re getting good at setting up these flower arrangements.

Set up is simple. It starts with registering for an online account, which includes deciding on that master password. – (The Guardian)

It takes less than five minutes to set up, and this guide will help. (The Washington Post)

Set Up Synonyms

  • Arrange.
  • Build. 
  • Build up.
  • Assemble.
  • Construct.
  • Create. 
  • Establish.
  • Open.
  • Go Into. 

How Do You Use the Word Setup?

The one-word setup functions as a noun which means the way in which something is positioned. Take a look at these sentence examples:

  • My setup is all about simplicity and functionality.
  • The setup of the device is easy if you follow the instructions.
  • She made the classroom setup conducive to learning 
  • We need user-friendly templates and an option for a custom setup of the blog.
  • This year’s carnival setup is unicorn-themed.

“The goal of setup is to make sure a new guitar or bass sounds and plays its best, or to get your longtime favorite playing as well as it did the day you bought it.” – (nytimes/wirecutter)

Many households were unprepared for the entire family’s transition to working from home. “In some homes, there needed to be four or five setups,” says Jeff Miller. (The Washington Post)

You can also use the word as an adjective because it can modify another noun. A noun functioning as an adjective is precisely how it sounds like. It’s a noun that becomes a word to describe a fellow noun. Here are some sentence examples:

  • The setup time for the new software is only ten minutes.
  • Our setup crew is trying their best to make the installation smoother. 

In the first example, the adjective setup movies the noun time. And in the second example, the noun crew is modified by the word setup.

The usage of setup can also be a scheme to deceive someone–for example:

  • The syndicate member walked unto the setup.
  • Cops are planning to create a setup to catch the thief. 

Setup is also an American English spelling of the noun. Note that there’s more than one way to spell this word without a change in definition. 

Is Set Up Hyphenated?

English spellings can be tricky. Another version of the American spelling setup is set-up, which is the British spelling form.It’s a hyphenated compound noun that also means the way in which something is positioned–for example:

  • Her PC setup is not suitable for gaming. 
  • The setup is already complete.

Set-up can also be the British spelling for the noun functioning as an adjective. Check out these examples of the adjective in a sentence:

  • The set-up shift at the office is easier to follow.
  • The company requires a set-up fee of $10 for your furniture.

Both words are correct as long as you use them as a noun or adjective. That means lovely setup and lovely set-up are the same. And setup time and set-up time have the same meaning. So are current setup and current set-up. 

But make sure to use only one spelling consistently throughout your text. If you have an American audience, stick to the one-word noun. But if your audience comes from the UK, use the hyphenated spelling.

The noun function for setup and set-up can also mean a scheme to deceive someone. 

  • The business aspect is just a set-up for the networking company’s scam.
  • The cops’ setup plan turned out to be a success.

Setup Synonyms

Here are some synonyms to consider if you’re looking for a substitution for setup:

  • System.
  • Structure.
  • Situation.
  • Layout.
  • Composition.
  • Foundation.
  • Order.
  • Plan.
  • Organization.
  • Organization.
  • Arrangement.
  • Format.
  • Configuration. 

The following are synonyms for setup as in a scheme to deceive someone:

  • Trick.
  • Conspiracy.
  • Trap.
  • Frame.
  • Frame-up. 
  • Put-up job.

Do You Say Setup or Set Up a Meeting?

To set up a meeting is the correct choice among the two English spellings. Remember that you aim to perform an action on a meeting, so use the verb phrase set up. You can also say set a meeting up.

As a noun, you can say meeting setup or meeting set-up. This phrase refers to the arrangement or structure of the meeting.

The trick to remembering the difference is to look for an article. If you need to use a, an, or the before the word, use the one-word noun setup.

Setup vs. Set Up Examples

Setup as a Noun

  • She’s an award-winning event stylist who once made a fairytale-like wedding setup.
  • The new iPad’s setup is a breeze.
  • I never memorized the chess board setup.
  • The gang leader was lured into the setup. 
  • The entire strategy is a setup to get more victims. 

Setup as an Adjective

  • The setup guide is written in another language.
  • Navigate the setup screen.
  • This setup shift has been perfect for the restaurant.
  • Why are the setup instructions not on the presentation?

Set Up as a Verb

  • Please set up the eBook reader before the class starts.
  • Let’s set up a meeting for tomorrow. 
  • We should set Anne and Allan up so they can go on a date.

Summary of Setup vs. Set Up

This guide has given you explanations and examples of the difference between setup and set up. It also answered the common question, is set up hyphenated? Here’s a rundown of the essential details:

  • Setup is a noun or adjective that means arrangement.
  • The British spelling for setup is set-up.
  • Set up is a verb that means to put things in order.

 Learn about more hyphenated words and when to use a hyphen or em dash on our site!