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Perhaps there are many other expressions to say that in your mother tongue, but this is the only one that dawns on me to let you get what I meant straight/right.

I would like to know if the sentence above is understandable. Which word is correct, right or straight?

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    The sentence is not understandable, but I'm not sure whether it is because of poor formulation or because of lack of context. – Daniel Aug 7 '13 at 20:15
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    Without the word "straight/right" at the end, it almost seems to make sense... but it needs more context for me to be sure. – Flimzy Aug 7 '13 at 20:43
  • "Let me get this straight" is an expression that means "Let me make sure I understand". "Let you get what I meant straight" is a bit awkward, though one might say, "Let me help you get this straight." However, the phrase would be used as a lead-in, you wouldn't put it at the end of a long sentence as you did here. – J.R. Aug 8 '13 at 8:55
  • Yes J.R. You've hit it on the nail!! I was just trying to "recycle" that phrase in my sentence, but I made such a mess :-) – jeysmith Aug 8 '13 at 10:47
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The expression to dawn on [someone] does convey the right meaning in your sentence, but it isn't very idiomatic in this case. I think comes to mind would flow off the tongue more easily, or perhaps that I can think of.

Also expressions to say that isn't quite correct. You can say there are many ways to say that or there are many expressions that mean that, but an expression can't say anything, so you don't mix the two.

The last part of your sentence is very confusing. I think I know what you mean, but it's very awkwardly written. I'll try to rewrite it for you in a way I think is idiomatic for native speakers, and if I've got the meaning wrong you can let me know and I'll rewrite it.

Perhaps there are many other ways to say that in your mother tongue, but this is the only one I can think of that conveys my meaning.

Here conveys my meaning means that gets my meaning across to you correctly. I think this is what you were trying to get at in the last part of your sentence.

  • I think your sentence is what I was trying to say. Thank you Wendikidd. – jeysmith Aug 7 '13 at 21:09
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I think what you're trying to say is something like

Perhaps there are many other expressions to say that in your mother tongue, but this is the only one that I can think of that gets my idea across correctly.

but that totally avoids the question in your title. Oops. So, let's ignore the sentence and just look at the two words in question.

One of the definitions of straight is, indeed,

right or correct, as reasoning, thinking, or a thinker.

(That's definition #8 out of 43 at Dictionary.com)

This is, at root, a metaphorical extension of the basic meaning of straight, namely, "not crooked". The opposite of this usage of straight is "confused".

Right, on the other hand, would generally have antonyms like "incorrect" or "wrong". The two words can be interchangeable:

I can never get it straight: do you feed a cold and starve a fever, or is it the other way around?

The above would mean pretty much the same thing if you substituted "right" for "straight". But in many cases, only one of the two words will work:

Before you can teach that concept to others, you have to get it straight in your own mind.

For the life of me, I can't learn the right way to fold up a map.

In both of these sentences, "right" and "straight" are being used in the sense of "correct", but you could not interchange them without either getting nonsense ("the straight way to fold up a map") or a subtly different meaning ("get it right in your own mind").

  • Nice answer, +1! I absolutely agree that "the straight way to fold up a map" is clearly wrong, but I don't see the distinction between "get it straight in your own mind" and "get it right in your own mind." Would you mind elaborating? (I definitely think straight is more idiomatic, but I don't see a difference in meaning if it were substituted, is what I'm saying I suppose.) – WendiKidd Aug 7 '13 at 21:12
  • Martha beat me to it. :) I kind of like my example, though. @WendiKidd: my example might draw a meaningful distinction. – BobRodes Aug 7 '13 at 21:16
  • It is possible to say "you got it crooked", but only in a literal sense: "You may think that you drew that line straight, but you got it crooked." – BobRodes Aug 7 '13 at 21:35
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The sentence is convoluted, yes, and WendiKidd's change conveys the probable intended meaning much more clearly. I'll focus on the difference between to "get something right" and to "get something straight."

They have slightly different meanings. "Get it right" conveys the idea of correctness, whereas "get it straight" conveys the idea of fixing (straightening out) some sort of confused thinking. A parent will "straighten out" a wayward child, for example. In that case she might say "Get this straight. You are not going to the movies until you finish your homework." She would not say "get this right" in this situation. Then, if the child were working on a math problem, he might ask his mother to look and see if he has "gotten it right." In this case, he is asking if his answer is correct and would not ask if he had "gotten it straight".

The meanings can overlap. A person might ask another "Do I have this [straight/right]? Go down three blocks, take a right, go to Main street, take a left, and the library is two blocks down on the left?" In this case, the person is either asking if he is not confused or if he is correct. If he isn't confused then he is correct, so the meanings overlap.

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"Right from the horse's mouth" Vs "straight from the horse's mouth".

"Record video right from your browser / computer" VS "Record video straight from your browser / computer"

Thank you people :)

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