Let's say my shirt has been ruined by a dry-cleaner and I am very furious about it, so I am going back there. My friend asks me where am I going.

I can say

I am going back to the dry cleaner's to have a word with him about my t-shirt.

What I want to say is that I am going there to criticize or to yell at him for ruining my shirt, To say 'to have a word with him' seems very polite and using confront seems very violent, but I might be wrong.

What is the correct/more appropriate word here for to have a word?

  • 6
    "Confront" actually does not always mean a violent meeting or encounter, even though it can be used that way. You would definitely find native speakers who use it for this situation. However, in this instance the idiom "to give him a piece of my mind" would fit nicely. – Jonathan Garber Mar 14 '13 at 13:19
  • 2
    If you think have a word with is too circumspect/polite, and confront/remonstrate/etc. are too confrontational, you might consider see about to take care of, look after; investigate; enquire into. Often heard as "We'll see about that!" meaning I don't approve of 'that', and will take steps to prevent it happening. – FumbleFingers Mar 14 '13 at 16:22
  • @JonathanGarber: Confront is always quite aggressive, but it is not always violent. – Matt Mar 14 '13 at 19:15
  • @Matt: An excellent point. I would be cautious about using "aggressive", but as you say it certainly does not imply violence necessarily. – Jonathan Garber Mar 14 '13 at 20:15

To have a word with him would be correct in the context. While it is typically used to mean to have a (brief) private conversation with him, it's also a common euphemism for exactly what you want to say.

A similar phrase that is possibly more appropriate is to have words with. Note the change from a word to words. This expression typically implies a harsher, more critical tone.

  • To have a talk with him or simply to talk with him would work as well. – Trish Rempel Mar 14 '13 at 19:05

In this context, have a word is completely appropriate.

A slightly more formal way to say the same thing would be:

I am going back to dry cleaner's to complain to him about what he did to my t-shirt.


“To have a word with him” is a correct phrase, but apparently less expressive than you desire. A few alternative verbs that spring to mind include
upbraid, “To criticize severely” or “To reprove severely; to rebuke; to chide” etc.
remonstrate, “To object; to express disapproval”
reproach, “To criticize or rebuke someone”
admonish, berate, castigate, censure, chastise, excoriate and many more synonyms, as found in Wikisaurus and in onelook.com or in dico

Idiomatic flea in one's ear also is possible: “I'm off to the dry cleaner's to put a flea in his ear about what he did to my t-shirt.” Also pick a bone with: “I'm going to go pick a bone with that dry cleaner about what he did to my t-shirt.”

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.