Catch Word #163 – Testing the waters

Sometimes it’s smart to be cautious. In this episode, we take a look at three expressions that are used when you want to get more information about a situation before making a decision or a commitment. Join Harp and Andrew as they chat about getting the details and explain how and when these expressions can be used.

esl podcast

Expressions included in the Learning Materialstestingthewater

  • To suss something out
  • To test the waters
  • To workout
  • High-intensity interval training
  • Cheap
  • To put out feelers
  • A headhunter
  • To make a leap
  • To float an idea
  • To get the nerve to do something
  • To cross your fingers
  • In the first place

Sample transcript

Andrew: So, Harp, how have you been doing this week?

Harp: I’ve been pretty good. Busy, busy, but I’m good. How about you?

Andrew: You know what? I had an awful week.

Harp: Oh no! Why?

Andrew: I have been just completely sick all week.

Harp: Aw. Well, I hope you feel OK now.

Andrew: I feel a little bit better but you might be able to hear in my voice today; it’s a little funny, because I’m just a little congested.

Harp: OK. Well it sounds OK to me, so I hope the listeners are OK with it as well. Let’s get started?

Andrew: Yeah. Let’s start with today’s episode. Today we have a Catch Word episode.

Harp: Yes. So that’s where we look at some expressions, we explain them, we give you some examples, and we just teach them to you.

Andrew: And today’s expressions are all related to a certain type of situation. And before you commit to doing something, you want to get more information. You want to suss the situation out.

Harp: Yeah. So it’s when you’re being kind of cautious and you’re kind of examining the options before you decide to commit to an action.

Andrew: Exactly. And I think we can just get to the expressions.

Harp: I think we should start. Andrew: So, our first expression is to test the waters.

Harp: Yes. To test the waters.

Andrew: Mmhmm. Plural, right? Waters.

Harp: Yes. I’ve heard some people say to test the water, but normally it’s to test the waters.

Andrew: Mmhmm. And what does to test the waters mean?

Harp: So basically, to test the waters means when you’re not really sure about an action so you’re approaching it very cautiously. You’re not making a rash decision. You’re being very cautious about it.

Andrew: Exactly. You’re testing something out, right?

Harp: Exactly. So you’re… You’re kind of maybe talking to some friends about an action and seeing how they’re going to react. Or you’re talking to your boss about a new project. You’re… You’re testing the waters to see if this is a good idea, a good action to take.

Andrew: Exactly. Because committing 100% to doing something right from the start sometimes is a foolish idea. You need to try things slowly.

Harp: Yup. You need to get all the information you can, get a lot of reactions from people before you make a final decision to act on something.

Andrew: Exactly. And so this is testing the waters. And this expression… I think it has an interesting origin.

Harp: Oh yeah? Tell me about it.

Andrew: Well, if you think, you know… Sometimes before you go swimming, you wanna put your hand or your foot into the water to test the temperature before you jump in, right?

Harp: Yes.

Andrew: And so, this is just literally an extension of that idea. Putting your finger in the water to test the temperature is the same thing as trying out something before you commit fully to that thing.


english PodcastPodcast/Learning Materials: Culips English Podcast, Image ©Carlos Yudica

Share this episode!
Posted in Catch Word.