“Read Between the Lines” Meaning of Idioms

Posted On: November 8, 2014

Though Americans are known for being direct and getting to the point, there are times when Americans talk vaguely or answer indirectly. In such cases, it’s important for you to ‘read between the lines’ to make educated guesses on what they are actually talking about. Remember, though if you do make an assumption in such cases, do ask questions to assure your ideas are in line with theirs. 


"Read Between the Lines" Meaning of Idioms


If you are unsure what it exactly means to “read between the lines”, watch this really cool video where they act out the meaning! 
So, from the video, you would have understood the meaning of “read between the lines” to be: 
“to understand a suggested meaning that is not directly stated.” 
Reading between the lines is a skill in any language and culture, and if you are good at it, you are probably also a person with a high EQ (emotional intelligence). 
Also, reading between the lines is a good skills to help you understand the unstated meanings of idioms (including this one!). (I share one more tip for understanding the meaning of unknown idioms at the end of the post, too.) 


As an important side note, this idiom has another unsavory meaning that should never happen in the corporate environment. Be wary if someone holds up their first three fingers and tells you to ‘read between the lines.’ Here, they are giving you ‘the finger,’ which is vulgar and offensive. I hope this never happens to you.


In addition to exposing watchers to the idiom, ‘reading between the lines,’ the video also has an important cross-cultural lesson. If you are a foreign student in the US, it’s important that you do not copy work from other sources or get others to do your work for you. If you do this, you could get expelled from college. It’s important to learn to take initiative, speak up in your own words, and not copy other’s work. This is not only true in college, but in the corporate environment as well.

I have used this idiom in two other blogs. Can you find the idiom in these posts on time zone resentment or clear communication? Are you able to understand the meaning from the context of the other text or content surrounding it? This is the first step to understanding AND responding not only to idioms but vocabulary you may not understand the meaning of.



Jennifer Kumar, author of this post helps Indians working in the software industry to read between the lines of American corporate culture, get familiar with the ways of the Americans and take initiative in daily communication with Americans offshore or onsite. Contact her for more details.



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