English Idiomatic Expression: “Couldn’t Put My Finger On It”

By Robby

If you are new here please read this first.

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Hello my fellow foreign English speaker!

Today’s English idiomatic expression is a real idiom which means you actually have to know what it means or else you won’t know how to use it and you’ll have a hard time understanding what another English speaker means when they say things like “Yes, there’s something weird about the place but I can’t really put my finger on it…”

Well… It’s not that it would be impossible to infer the meaning of this expression out of the context alone – in fact, I’ve always been encouraging you guys to acquire new vocabulary and phraseology contextually.

It’s just that this particular expression is figurative speech and you have to imagine performing the actual activity – putting your finger onto something – in order to fully understand why this phrase is used.

Now, imagine you’re able to clearly see some detail on a larger object right in front of you; let’s say, for argument’s sake, there’s a small insect crawling along the desktop. You can quite literally put your finger onto the insect because you just spotted it (personally I wouldn’t kill the poor guy, I’d just blow him away or something…), but if someone tells you to do it before you’ve actually seen it, you can’t put your finger on it for the simple reason that you don’t see it!

In real life conversations you can use this phrase whenever it comes to being able to spot just about anything – not just an actual physical object like in our example with the insect.

  • Noticing some detail about a person or a thing.
  • Being able to identify any quality or a feature.
  • Spotting changes in a person or a physical object.

All these and a whole lot more situations are the perfect situations for using the English idiom “I can’t put my finger on it”, and if you want to hear some examples of this phrase in use – please watch the video above!

Thanks for tuning in,


English Idiomatic Expressions

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