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I noticed that, in the dictionary, the words True, Right and Correct can have a meaning resembling accurate or exact. ODO says:

True (adj) = accurate or exact.
Right (adj) = true or correct as a fact.
Correct (adj)= free from error; in accordance with fact or truth.

and I'm writing about allegations made against a politician. I'm considering saying:

The allegations made against [politician] were true (or correct or right).

I would like to know:

  1. Is there a difference between those three? Would you imagine that allegations made against the politician are true has a slightly different meaning from allegations made against the politician are right or allegations made against the politician are true? (I have searched in ELU and read the post right vs. correct which doesn't help much to identify the difference particularly in this context).

  2. All of those three words have other meanings in the dictionary. For example, right has other meanings like denoting or worn on the side of a person's body which is toward the east when they are facing north.

If all these three words are essentially the same meaning, is there any reason I should avoid using one word or the other?

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You can make allegations against someone (X is a crook) or about someone's behavior (Y cheats at cards). Including information like unrelated meanings of words you're considering using {in the paragraph numbered (2)} isn't helpful for you or for us. You wouldn't intend right to have that meaning in the context you created, & no native speaker of English would think of such a meaning. You can skip that kind of evidence of dictionary research. Including it seems kind of silly to me, even if you're trying to appease some of the more demanding "experts" who seem to ask for it. –  user21497 Dec 26 '12 at 10:01

2 Answers 2

Allegations are "unsupported assertions of wrongdoing", especially in the context you've provided. They are usually considered to be true or false rather than right or wrong or correct or incorrect; however, all of those words can be used to describe them in one way or another.

Those who make the allegations often attempt to prove them true in a court of law or in the court of public opinion. Once the public or a judge or a jury has accepted them as accurate statements, they become true and are no longer allegations.

Therefore, I'd use "true" and say The allegations made against [politician] are true, if they're still being considered and debated, and "were true" if the politician is no longer alive or in office or in the country or in danger of being prosecuted for them, or if the allegations have been withdrawn because of political pressure.

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Words often have several — even many — meanings (polysemes) even limiting analysis to what are agreed to be usages of the same word (unlike different homonyms, bear = "animal" and bear = "carry" etc.). There can be many subtle shades of meaning and connotation.

I'd say that in your example, correct is unmarked for pragmatic comment (just as when a maths question is answered correctly); true carries fairly strong overtones of the dispelling of the assumption of a false smear campaign (ie there has been a suggestion in the media that the allegations are fraudulent); and right would be somewhere in between — but perhaps in a more informal register.

These shades of meaning are not universally carried by these words — a right-angle is no more morally acceptable than any other angle, and if a fence-post is out of true, it hasn't been dishonest. (Though it may have been lying in the garden.)

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THWACK. (Just doing my job; good answer, carry on, carry on.) –  Marthaª Dec 26 '12 at 21:38

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