since 1997, the world's premier FREE website for learners + teachers of English

read between the lines

This page is about the idiom read between the lines

Meaning: When you read between the lines you try to understand what someone implies, but doesn't openly state, when they say or write something.

For example:

  • I got a letter from Robyn and she isn't happy. She didn't say anything but I could tell by reading between the lines that something's wrong.

  • A good writer doesn't tell the reader everything directly but leaves it up to the reader to figure things out for themselves by reading between the lines.

Origin: Probably derived from a form of cryptography in which secret information was conveyed by writing it in invisible ink between the lines of a text.

Quick Quiz:

If you read between the lines, you will

a. know what the writer really thinks

b. be able to read a lot quicker

c. make up the story for yourself

Idiom of the Day

This entry is in the following categories:

Contributor: Matt Errey