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vava
Posted: Saturday, May 7, 2011 3:21:45 PM
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Although the walled compound (of bin Laden) edged with barbed wire was set back in relative isolation, it was surrounded by three neighbourhoods: Thanda Choha, Bilal Town and Hashmi Colony. The residents of these areas provide sometimes contradictory accounts of their now infamous neighbours.




Here, set back apparently means situated or something like this. Do you, native English speakers, frequently use it to mean situated or located?
blue2
Posted: Saturday, May 7, 2011 3:36:40 PM

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It's not something you'd see frequently. It refers to being situated away from a main road or where people would normally go: in relative isolation.
For example, a cabin set back in the woods or a house set back from the road.

That's my take on it.
Todd C. Williams
Posted: Saturday, May 7, 2011 4:20:25 PM

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Blue2 has the correct definition as used.

However, a closely related word, that cannot be distinguished in speech, is the noun "setback." This refers to a backward movement. In that sense, you can have a "setback in your health," meaning you health degraded.

It also refers to a buffer zone between two objects. This has significant relevance to how it was used in your example. This is closely related to the term "set back," since it often refers to how far back something, like a building, needs to be from some reference, usually the property line. "There is a six foot setback." Means you cannot build within six feet of the property line. The property line is implied, if it were referring to something else it would need to be referenced.

If you were studying architecture I think you would see this word frequently.
thar
Posted: Saturday, May 7, 2011 4:56:23 PM

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I agree with blue that it means situated slightly back, but would disagree it is uncommon. It is an easy way of saying something is not right at the front, eg- the house was set back from the road. It is a pretty common phrase.
mailady
Posted: Saturday, May 7, 2011 6:09:42 PM
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Yes,it is a common way to describe a location.
jmacann
Posted: Saturday, May 7, 2011 7:00:57 PM
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Quite common. Think of the policy on set back from houses when setting up certain power stations, for instance -i.e. of regulations on minimum setback distances. Besides, it is not necessarily a short distance.
blue2
Posted: Sunday, May 8, 2011 1:21:17 AM

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I guess I just haven't seen it for a while! d'oh!
intelfam
Posted: Sunday, May 8, 2011 4:48:52 AM
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vava wrote:
Although the walled compound (of bin Laden) edged with barbed wire was set back in relative isolation, it was surrounded by three neighbourhoods: Thanda Choha, Bilal Town and Hashmi Colony. The residents of these areas provide sometimes contradictory accounts of their now infamous neighbours.

Here, set back apparently means situated or something like this. Do you, native English speakers, frequently use it to mean situated or located?


I think the question has been answered but can't resist adding something.
"Set back" is idiomatic. Like a lot of idioms it is occurs by the original phrase being shortened as folk see the missing words as "obvious". The word "set" is used in the sense of "placed", so:
"She set the plates and cutlery on the table" - which gets shortened to "She set the table" in common usage. The idea of a house as "set back from the road" is used in this sense i.e. placed. In BE it is assumed that, when one talks about a house being "set back" that one means "from the road" and the phrase is shortened.
So you were getting quite near by seeing the sense as "located". Applause
excaelis
Posted: Sunday, May 8, 2011 2:11:01 PM

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Interestingly the word ' set ' is, I believe, the longest entry in the OED.
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