Let's say I want to tell someone a story, but in order that he'll be able to deeply understand it, I need to tell (or better - start with quite a lot of) certain additional facts, incidents, whatsoever.

How would this be expressed usually?

Edit: To clarify here's a more concrete situation:

Let's assume someone is in severe problems concerning several aspects of his life. Now he calls a friend tells him about the situation he is in, but to make him understand he needs to start with things which happened long ago already, e. g. that in his youth he once had a certain incident and then moving on from there adding facts which will lead to a proper understanding of his situation.

The conversation could start like this

Joe: I have some serious problems, Peter.
Peter: What is it?
Joe: I will tell you, but I have to ...
Peter: It's fine, go ahead.

  • 1
    Wow. There's plenty of words. Essentially every synonym of clarify and elaborate. Extrapolate. Or are you looking for a phrase?
    – Tucker
    Commented May 11, 2014 at 21:58
  • @tucker could be I'm looking for a phrase. It should be a word or phrase which can be used even before one starts telling. I think of it as smth like "I'll tell you about XY, but I have to ...". It's not about adding details but to set a base for whats coming up.
    – user61752
    Commented May 11, 2014 at 22:11
  • You mean you need to 'contextualise' the fact before you tell them?
    – user66974
    Commented May 11, 2014 at 22:16
  • @embert Go over. I've added it to my answer, but I think it fits the best in this context.
    – Tucker
    Commented May 11, 2014 at 22:18
  • 2
    You need to give him the background? Or (if it is predominantly events) the backstory? Commented May 11, 2014 at 22:21

9 Answers 9


Aren't you simply giving him some background information?

Background: the circumstances and events surrounding or leading up to an event or occurrence.

First, I need to give you some background.


Don't you need to provide a preamble - setting out the background to your account?

Or you could say "Let me give you the story so far".


With the details you have added in your notes I think you are referring to:

contextualise :

to put (a linguistic element, an action, etc.) in a context, esp. one that is characteristic or appropriate.


Epexegetically: Additional explanation or explanatory material...1.an additional explanation; the use of more words to clarify further. — epexegetic, epexegetical, adj. See also: Understanding


Give some context would fit.


I have a specific problem I need to solve, but first, I need to give you some context.


I would say that you are implicitly providing a frame of reference.

a set of criteria in relation to which judgements can be made.


What you are describing is usually called giving the back story. (In TV shows and movies, this is often achieved by means of flashbacks or the voice of a narrator.)


Consider *fill (or clue) someone in* and give someone some background.

In order that he'll be able to deeply understand the story, you need to fill him in on/about the situation.

fill someone in: to give someone detailed (background) information; to give someone information that they need.

Joe: I have some serious problems, Peter.
Peter: What is it?
Joe: I will tell you, but I have to fill you in on the situation first/give you some background first. Peter: It's fine, go ahead.

background: information that is essential to understanding a situation or problem.


Extrapolate: To project, extend, or expand (known data or experience) into an area not known or experienced so as to arrive at a usually conjectural knowledge of the unknown area.

We're going to go over the basics that extrapolate from there.

in extenso: (Latin) in the extended - In full; at full length; complete or unabridged

a pedibus usque ad caput: (Latin) from head to foot - Completely. (Also: a capite ad calcem: from head to heel, ab ovo usque ad mala: from the egg to the apples)

in toto: (Latin) in all - Totally; entirely; completely.

We are going to go over everything Latin phrase goes here.

Cram: Study intensively over a short period of time just before an examination.

It can also mean to just an individual to remember a lot of information (not necessarily for an exam).

We are going to cram everything into that brain of yours.

Go over: Go over something to practise and repeat something in order to learn it.

We are going to go over this story until I'm satisfied you know everything.

  • these sound all kind of scientific or related to education, are they? Is there something colloquial? Also go over seems to imply repetition somehow?! With deeply understand I didn't mean understanding in academic sense. I made an edit, trying to be more precise.
    – user61752
    Commented May 11, 2014 at 22:34
  • @embert I saw your amendment to your question. Sadly, the only word that I can think of is counselling. This might not be what you're looking for as this is a niche word in psychology and psychiatry for a process of understanding the patient, which includes learning about the past. In your example about learning someone's traumatic past, they will use counselling to get to the bottom of it. As for a specific phrase or word for this, it's Understanding (in psychology) or assess (in psychiatry).
    – Tucker
    Commented May 11, 2014 at 22:54