I have a question about the usage of the verb "set". According to definition 2 for the verb "set" in this dictionary:

  1. to cause the action of (a film, story, etc.) to happen in a certain place or during a certain time — often used as (be) set

, with these example usages:

-The play is set in Verona, Italy.
-The novel is set in 1943.
-a novel set during World War II
-The story is set against (the backdrop of) the Second World War.

But then, I saw this in a wikipedia article:

The election was set against the backdrop of World War II, which was going well for the United States and its Allies.

The 1944 presidential is not a play or movie or story. So, is the usage in the wikipedia article wrong?

  • 3
    It's a bit of a metaphorical usage. Note that the definition doesn't say that the thing has to be literally a play or movie. – stangdon Aug 3 '16 at 16:58
  • Why don't you try to find out what are the actual ways that native speakers abbreviate World War II? – Alan Carmack Aug 3 '16 at 22:38

What bigger drama can you imagine than an American presidential election?

Seriously, the writer of the Wikipedia article uses the term set to present an image of the election as a theatrical production: the use of the word backdrop reinforces this image.

The writer is simply using a little artistic license.


The play is set in Denmark. But that is not the definition of set that is used here in the collocation set against. The collocation is not referring to a locale.The word against is important. The one thing is placed in an arrangement where the "backdrop" acts as a foil, so to speak.

The underlying idea is juxtaposition or contextualization.

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