The following are example sentences and comments extracted from the Merriam Learners' entry for the adverb straight :

1 — She walked straight up to him and slapped him in the face. [in a straight or direct way]
2 — She told him straight to his face that she hated him. [in a straight or direct way]
3 — (informal) Straight up, what did you really pay for the tickets? [in an honest and direct way]
4 — I told him straight off that I wouldn't help him. [US, inf.; without del. or hesitation : immediately]
5 — I asked him straight out if he was doing drugs. [informal, in a very direct way]

  • Can't straight up (1) be used after verbs like ask/tell (2,4,5), as opposed to before some direct speech/interrogative construction (3)? Does the adjectival use for the drinks (not mixed) preclude using this?
  • With such verbs (ask/tell), is straight to his face (2) the most usual and non familiar way of saying someone is being direct in context?
  • Is it accurate that asking/telling straight out yields the most powerful (direct) "intensification"; does each component (up/to his face/off/out; prepositions?) carry a significantly different intensity or cue which the native speaker picking up generally or is it register which is the key difference with straight here?

1 Answer 1


So, here we really are dealing with phrasal things, and straight up has nothing to do with a straight drink. There's no chance of confusion between these two. That said, could you give me an example of what you mean by your first question?

No, I don't think straight to his face is meant for that. It's a lot more literal, one can be direct in speech without being close in person, but straight to his face implies standing close, gazing directly into their eyes, and saying it forcefully. It's the most engaging possible way to say something.

I mean, each one of these phrases has a slightly different meaning, so I'm not sure comparing their intensity makes sense. Straight up and straight out have the most in common when relating to questions, but even there up seems to imply a little nervousness or anxiety, and out is calm, cool, collected, but direct, that's synonymous with "full on", it's turning calmly and facing them straight in their path, with the manner of a stone or wall, no flinching, just a direct challenge. But it's still not even that intense, a stone or wall doesn't glare at you as you speed towards it, it's just there, and you can't do anything about it. You either rise to the challenge, or wreck yourself.

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    I left out straight off because I don't have anything to add to the definition given. It means "at the outset or beginning" or "without hesitation". The idea is that you use it for things that you need to settle before starting on something else. (Literally, as you went off on your journey, you went straight to addressing this issue. Straight from setting off, straight off.) Jan 13, 2016 at 0:19
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    About straight up: this phrasal usage is very informal, as is out. It's really a piece of slang that arose in the past 25 years or so. All of the ngrams you see aren't actually of this phrase, except if you zoom in on "told straight up" at the end of the graph, you can see that it starts about 1990. Jan 13, 2016 at 0:30
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    The previous usage is likely more literal, something that directly went in an upward direction, or that formed a straight line pointing up. I recommend using these resources: corpus.byu.edu Jan 13, 2016 at 0:33
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    Unlike NGrams, that website lets you actually see small excerpts of text with the phrase you entered in them. I recommend COCA (Corpus of Contemporary American English.) though the rest are also very good. Jan 13, 2016 at 0:35
  • Thank you for your patience. I know questions that approach this from a top down sort of perspective are not always well received. I have lots of experience with the language but I would have been at a loss to even tentatively talk about up/on/off/out the way you did. Thanks also for the useful link!
    – user16335
    Jan 13, 2016 at 1:40

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