set the scene

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set the scene

1. To describe something so that others can understand or envision it. Let me set the scene for you: I walked into the middle of an all-out food fight and was promptly hit with a plate of spaghetti. So I think I punished those students appropriately.
2. To be the catalyst for something that happens later. Their squabbling at Thanksgiving dinner set the scene for a total screaming match on Christmas. A positive conversation with the CEO today could set the scene for a promotion tomorrow.
See also: scene, set

set the scene

COMMON
1. If you set the scene, you briefly tell people what they need to know about a subject, so that they can understand what is going to happen next. I was writing an article and wanted to set the scene by giving a few details about how widespread the custom was. To visualize this period of his career it is first necessary to set the scene and describe the events leading up to World War 2. Note: You can also use the noun scene-setting. There's a certain amount of scene-setting in the initial chapter.
2. If something sets the scene for an event, it creates the conditions in which that event is likely to happen. Some members feared that Germany might raise its interest rates. That could have set the scene for a confrontation with the US, which is concerned that increases could cut demand for its exports. The first hour's cricket set the scene for a superbly entertaining day as England and South Africa played some of the best cricket ever seen.
See also: scene, set

set the scene

/stage for
To provide the underlying basis for: saber rattling that set the stage for war.
See also: scene, set