What's the expression for touching someone with your forefinger or hand to, for example to get their attention, to wake them up, or to mark your presence.

  • Normally that's referred to as "tapping on the shoulder" -- "He tapped Fred on the shoulder to get his attention." – Hot Licks Sep 25 '16 at 13:22
  • Or you can touch someone on the shoulder. That is more gentle than tap and it accomplishes the same thing. It is understood that it is done to get their attention. ... Now, for waking someone up, you may need to shake his shoulder. – aparente001 Sep 26 '16 at 2:33

It depends how, and where on the body, you touch them. There are three main ways to do do this

  1. Tap, to give one or more light blows, usually on the shoulder.
  2. Prod, to jab with a finger or an implement such as a ruler or a stick. The jab can be gentle or it can be harder (sometimes referred to as more sharp), it's still a prod.
  3. Stroke (3rd definition of the noun,1st definition of the verb), this is a gentle moving of the hand or fingers over a part of the body, usually an arm or hand. Strokes on other parts of the body are more intimate.

Examples of the usage are

  1. "I gave him a tap on the shoulder"
  2. "I prodded his arm sharply with my pen"
  3. "I stroked her hand gently"

There are many ways to add subtle changes to these statements; there's probably enough material for a book, and the book would almost certainly miss some things. This is just a starting point.


Tapping is probably the best answer, but you can also poke him with your finger, just to give you another option.

  • This is the best one if you want to express that it is annoying to the person on the receiving end. This one is done face to face. – aparente001 Sep 26 '16 at 2:31
  • @aparente001 thanks for the supplement – habibhassani Sep 27 '16 at 9:59
  • @habibhassani - I just noticed I didn't write my comment very clearly. I meant to say that "poking" indicates that it is annoying and done face to face. "Tapping" is more innocuous and could be from the side or the back. – aparente001 Sep 27 '16 at 12:54
  • @aparente001 i got the annoying part but not the face to face, so thank you for clarification. – habibhassani Sep 27 '16 at 18:05
  • @habibhassani - and then "jabbing" would be incredibly annoying. Also done face to face. – aparente001 Sep 27 '16 at 19:58

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