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When I posted a question about usefulness or “unuseful-ness” of using Latin phrase in conversation and writing yesterday, I got an answer saying “If you did not know the meaning of a specific (Latin) phrase, it may be likely that many other people do not recognize that phrase, so it’s best to avoid it,” from someone, followed by the other user’s comment, “This answer has it right.”

As I’m not familiar with the expression, “Someone (or something) has it right,” I checked the usage of the phrase on Google, and found the following example:

  • The tea party movement has it right: Don't spend more than you have. - newsmax.com.

  • Obama has it right in deficit plan. His deficit- cutting plan is not perfect, but close to it. It's fiscally smart and politically smart. - realclear politics.com

  • Why the Supreme Court has it right on violent video games. - live.com

  • Which political party has it right for current retirees? - retireplan about.com

I also checked Google Ngram to find that the usage of ”has it right” had been low and stayed flat since 1840 up to 1980, but after 1980 it started to rise sharply.

I don’t think I’ve learned this expression in English textbooks I’ve read.

What is the exact meaning of “(Someone) has it right” and what is the difference of it from other affirmative statements such as “It is right (appropriate),” “It holds,” and “It makes sense,” by meaning and by nuance? Why can't it be simply "It (movement, decision, remark, answer) is right"?

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To me saying the answer has it right (as opposed to the answerer) is a bit of metonymy. An answer cannot literally "have it right", as I understand the expression. Not putting this as an answer, because I think it is peripheral to your question. –  Colin Fine Oct 14 '11 at 12:09
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2 Answers 2

I understand X has it right to often be a stronger statement than given in Hellion's answer. I do agree with him that exactly right is definitely a much stronger statement.

Saying: "The Supreme Court has it right on violent video games.* tells me that at least on that one issue, they have the correct perspective and understanding of the whole collection of issues surrounding violent video games. That deep understanding is demonstrated in their decisions, but once I realize that they have it right, I am more likely to trust other decisions they announce in that area.

The difference between X has it right regarding Y and the other affirmative statements you listed are that has it right is a statement about X while the other affirmative statements are about Y.

Saying: "The Supreme Court's decision on violent video games is right." doesn't tell me much about the Supreme Court. They might have arrived at a good decision after starting with a flawed understanding of the issues.

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Good point; I've updated my answer a bit to try and include that connotation. –  Hellion Oct 14 '11 at 15:01
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To have it right means that, in general terms, you are doing the correct thing or providing a proper path or giving the right answer. You may not have the perfect plan/answer, unless you have it exactly right, but you have demonstrated understanding of the situation and sound reasoning to arrive at a plan or conclusion that is correct on all the major concerns.

If your plan or answer makes sense, it's not necessarily the right answer or the best plan, but reasoning suggests that research or experience would probably show that it does turn out to be correct. Having your plan hold water or hold together is basically the same thing; it's not necessarily being confirmed as correct, but it appears consistent with the facts and likely to work out to the desired result.

If your plan or answer is right, that means that, according to the one claiming that it's right, it is the correct choice, or the one that they believe is the best.

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