I've heard the usage those phrasals basically in two contexts:

I straighten him out.

As far as I could understand from the dialog it meant to do something offensive to the person.

We can straighten things out tonight

This I think may mean to settle some bussiness...

Also, I used the phrasal in the meaning of describe something:

I'm describing the problem in details, now telling them what actually I'm confused by and finishing the monologue by the phrase Couldn't you straighten the things out in the meaning of explaining the things so that I will be able to understand them.

Is that correct ways of using the phrasal?

1 Answer 1


I straightened him out

would be correct. This doesn't necessarily mean that you've done something offensive to a person, but it was probably unpleasant. What you're implying here is that you took some stern action against another person in an adversarial position and prevailed against them. This could range from correcting someone and proving your point in a debate, to maybe punching someone in the face to settle a physical altercation.

What you're implying is that you have in some way prevailed against this person.

We can straighten things out tonight

This would be implying that you're going to come to some resolution regarding a problem at a later time. Again, this could be appropriate in a wide range of contexts. You could be talking about settling the payment of a debt later tonight. You could be in a heated argument, know that you're going to see the person later tonight, and make this statement to imply a threat. You could be arguing about which sports team is better and, knowing that a game between the two teams will be on later that evening, make this statement to suggest that your team will win.

Couldn't you straighten the things out

The use of "the" in this sentence isn't really right. It should be more like

Couldn't you straighten things out?

This is just asking if it's possible to come to a more beneficial resolution to a problem. An example use:

Jim says "It looks like my wife and I are going to court." George replies "Couldn't you two just straighten things out?"

... where George is obviously implying that Jim and his wife work things out together instead of going to court to wage an expensive legal battle against each other.

  • 3
    To straighten out a person's thinking is not always confrontational or unpleasant. It can also refer to a needed correction in someone's thinking. My chemistry students were doing stoichiometry incorrectly, but I straightened them out, and now they're doing well. Commented Jun 25, 2015 at 15:25
  • @JasonPatterson You're right, it doesn't necessarily need to be unpleasant. I was simply referring to the fact that the terminology is typically used with an implied, mildly aggressive undertone, something the OP seemed to pick up on. But yes you're right it's perfectly valid with no implied unpleasantness.
    – user20827
    Commented Jun 25, 2015 at 15:28

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