Let's say a policeman wants to ask a question to a suspect, but he fears that the suspect might not give an honest answer. So the policeman starts talking about other things first that hopefully will minimize this problem.

Are the following sentences correct in this case? Are there better verbs (phrasal verbs) that can be used?

A) The policeman warmed up the suspect for the question.

B) The policeman paved the way for the question.

  • 1
    "Warmed up" or even "paved the way" almost sound like the policeman is making things easier for the suspect, but I don't think that's what you mean.
    – stangdon
    Jul 13, 2021 at 19:41

2 Answers 2


The phrasal verb soften up has the definition:

to treat (someone) very well or kindly in order to make that person more likely to help one, give one something, etc.

So you could say, "The police softened up the suspect with some friendly questions before getting to the tough one."


lay the groundwork

"to provide the right conditions" -- Merriam-Webster

Any work police officers do before asking the "dangerous" question to put a suspect in a particular frame of mind so that they are more likely to say something self-incriminating, they are laying the groundwork for that question.

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