set to work

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set (someone or something) to work

To instruct or cause someone or something to begin working or functioning. Janet set us to work cleaning the house while she went and got groceries. I've set the system to work gathering data on all known suspects in the area.
See also: set, work

set (someone or something) to work (on something)

To order, instruct, schedule, or (in the case of a machine) program someone or something to undertake a task or begin working on something. I set the students to work on writing their college applications. Our neighbor owns a farm, so we've asked him to set our son to work for the summer. We can set the machine to work on sorting the various packages.
See also: set, work

set to work (doing something)

To begin to do something with a specific intention in mind. We set to work creating the most elegant and user-friendly smartphone ever made. He found a mop and set to work cleaning the floors in every room of the house.
See also: set, work

set to work (on something)

To undertake a task; to begin working on something. I knew I had to have the report finished by tonight, so I set to work immediately. She set to work on a new design that would reduce emissions from the engine.
See also: set, work

set someone or something to work

to start someone or something working; to cause someone or something to begin functioning. The captain set everyone to work repairing the tears in the fabric of the sails. We will set the machines to work at the regular time.
See also: set, work

set to work (on someone or something)

to begin working on someone or something. We have finished questioning Tom, so we will set to work on Fred. We set to work on dinner at noon.
See also: set, work

go/set to ˈwork (on something)

(also get (down) to ˈwork (on something)) start working on a particular task: I set to work on the car, giving it a good clean.I ought to get to work on that report.
See also: set, work

put/set somebody to ˈwork (on something)

make somebody start work (doing something): On his first day in the office they put him to work on some typing.
See also: put, set, somebody, work
References in classic literature ?
They could save money again, and when another winter came they would have a comfortable place; and the children would be off the streets and in school again, and they might set to work to nurse back into life their habits of decency and kindness.
He shut the door, hastened back to his fire, and set to work at his caudle, which he watched and stirred with a solicitude that would have amused a professed cook.
He pushed his pug-dog off his lap, dived under the table, appeared again with an old boot and a bottle of blackening, and set to work with tigerish activity.
A sumptuous breakfast of bacon and fish was shortly provided, and as the boys set to work upon it, Tom recounted (and adorned) his adventures.
All I did was to set to work with might and main to assist her inquiries.
Hunter brought the boat round under the stern-port, and Joyce and I set to work loading her with powder tins, muskets, bags of biscuits, kegs of pork, a cask of cognac, and my invaluable medicine chest.
The ease with which he had knocked it to pieces disconcerted him somewhat, and to guard against that danger he set to work again, fixing bars of iron on the inside until he was satisfied with its strength; and then, not caring to try any more experiments with it, he passed it and adopted it as a helmet of the most perfect construction.
Then the screw set to work at its maximum speed, its four blades beating the waves with in describable force.
And, on finishing these words, the young man, perceiving that his enthusiasm had deranged one of his ruffles, set to work to put it to rights with the greatest care imaginable.
Now, as she had not been asked to the feast she was very angry, and scolded the king and queen very much, and set to work to take her revenge.
He took a tract of land sixty miles in circumference and set to work to make this park and build this palace and a road to it from Paris.
Whereupon the cook set to work to prepare a breakfast worthy of the occasion.
It was to invite a young lady to a picnic, but I set to work and soon got it changed so that it would do very well.
The members of the Gun Club ought, therefore, without delay, to commence the works necessary for such an experiment, and to be prepared to set to work at the moment determined upon; for, if they should suffer this 4th of December to go by, they will not find the moon again under the same conditions of perigee and of zenith until eighteen years and eleven days afterward.
Still they set to work at once to prove to the world that the spirit that had created the Monitor and the Southern submarines of 1864 was not dead.