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Language tip of the week: understand

Learn English with Macmillan DictionaryIn this weekly post, we bring more useful content from the Macmillan Dictionary to English language learners. In this new series of  language tips we will be looking at how metaphor is used to express some common concepts in English. This week’s tip looks at metaphors used to talk about understanding something:

Understanding something is like seeing it. If it is easy to understand, it is easy to see:

I see what you mean.
I saw through him at once: I knew he was lying.
They recognized the fact that they needed to improve.
She has great insight and will know what to do.
I could not foresee what would happen.
He’s very clear-sighted.
There was a change in the public perception of education.
The answer is very obvious.
I’m unclear about what they did next.
She had a clear understanding of what was involved.
Their motives are transparent.
How did you know? You must have read my mind.
I can read him like a book.
They turned a blind eye to what was happening there.

Understanding something is also like holding or touching it:

She has a good grasp of Japanese.
I need to get to grips with the subject.
I’m still grappling with the basics.
I couldn’t put my finger on it, but there was definitely something wrong.
You’ve certainly got your finger on the pulse.
Such abstract concepts can be very slippery.
It’s quite a difficult idea to get hold of.

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Liz Potter

Liz Potter

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