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1. To determine the location or state of a person or thing. After the plane crash, authorities were unable to account for five of the passengers, and they still haven't found them. The cashier was unable to account for the missing cash from the register at the end of her shift.
2. To give an explanation of something, typically at the request of someone who wants to fill a gap in information. When Justin finally got home, his parents demanded that he account for his whereabouts earlier in the night. Can you account for the missing files?
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.
account for someone or something
to know the state of or whereabouts of someone or something. (Usually in reference to some person or thing placed in one's charge.) They cannot account for three of the passengers.
account for something
to explain something. Your explanation accounts for everything that has happened.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
1. Be the determining factor in; cause. For example, The heat wave accounts for all this food spoilage, or Icy roads account for the increase in accidents.
2. Explain or justify, as in Jane was upset because her son couldn't account for the three hours between his last class and his arrival at home . Both of these related usages are derived from the literal meaning of the phrase, that is, "make a reckoning of an account." [Second half of 1700s]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer. Copyright © 2003, 1997 by The Christine Ammer 1992 Trust. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
1. To keep a record of how money has been spent: The job of the treasurer is to account for every penny that is earned or spent.
2. To know or find out where something or someone is: She has accounted for every item that was missing.
3. To explain or justify something: This is a good theory, and it accounts for all the data that the scientists collected. How do you account for their strange behavior?
4. To form some proportion or amount of a larger whole or group: These useless catalogs account for at least half the mail we get every day.
5. To be the reason or explanation for something: His good manners account for his popularity.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of Phrasal Verbs. Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.