Tim Bowen sets about giving a masterclass in the correct use of phrasal verbs.
‘Having signed the agreement, the two sides will now set about the task of getting their message across to the public’. Here, set about means to begin doing something, especially in a determined or enthusiastic way. To set about can also be used to mean to hit or kick someone several times, as in ‘A couple of teenage boys set about him with baseball bats’.
Usually used in the passive, to set against can be used to compare one thing with another or consider it in relation to something else, as in ‘The advantages of the new system must be set against its disadvantages’. It is also used in the context of stating officially that an amount of money is a cost to your business in order to pay less tax, as in ‘Your expenses can be set against tax’.
If something sets you apart from someone else, it is an aspect or quality that makes you different and special, as in ‘Barcelona’s passing and movement has often set them apart from other teams’. Usually used in the passive, set apart can also mean to keep something separate in order to use it for a particular purpose, as in ‘Several acres of public land have been specifically set apart for recreation’.
If you set money aside, you keep or save it to use later for a particular purpose, as in ‘I set aside a third of my salary each month’ or ‘Have you set aside some money for your children’s education?’ If you set aside your differences, you do not let them influence you as you try to achieve something more important, as in ‘They agreed to set aside their differences and work together for peace’.