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can't see the wood for the trees British English

Meaning: If you can't see the wood for the trees, you can't see the whole situation clearly because you're looking too closely at small details, or because you're too closely involved.

For example:

  • I don't think we can see the wood for the trees at this stage, so let's get an outsider to take a look at the project and give us a progress report.

  • Marcus is so focused on product details that he can't see the wood for the trees when it comes to the overall needs of the company.

Note: The U.S. equivalent is "can't see the forest for the trees".

Variety: This idiom is typically used in British English but may be used in other varieties of English too.

Quick Quiz:

The safety officer can't see the wood for the trees because
  1. she's too focused on safety issues
  2. she thinks all the trees look the same
  3. she doesn't know which way to look

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