When a person reads between the lines, they are inferring meaning which is not explicitly represented. What is an idiomatic version of this which can apply to spoken words?
Vis–à–vis something similar to describing a speaker's attitude as an “undercurrent” of whatever.

BTW, something like ‘to hear that which was not said’ or the like would probably not be a proper idiom.

P.S. I've seen the question 'Between the lines' or 'read between the lines', and this is not a duplicate of that by any interpretation.

  • You lost me at construment. Mar 21, 2017 at 0:17
  • 5
    You can use "reading between the lines" - meaning inferring something that was not expressly stated - irrespective of whether you are referring to something read or spoken. E.g. "He said XYZ, but, reading between the lines, I think he meant ...".
    – TrevorD
    Mar 21, 2017 at 0:27
  • 1
    @Clare I don't know if that has the same impact when used for the ultimate word. :-) Mar 21, 2017 at 1:08
  • 1
    I've heard and used "listen between the lines" on several occasions.
    – Hot Licks
    Mar 21, 2017 at 2:07

2 Answers 2


The idiom 'read between lines' can be applied to spoken words as well.

read between the lines: (idioms.thefreedictionary.com)

to find a hidden meaning in something said or written.

The report doesn't criticize the research directly, but you can read between the lines that the review committee wasn't impressed.

After listening to what she said, if you read between the lines, you can begin to see what she really means.

It seems the following phrasal verb is also fit:

delve into something ( Cambridge Dictionary)

to examine something carefully in order to discover more information about someone or something:

It's not always a good idea to delve too deeply into someone's past.

  • 1
    But, surely there must be a version which references the medium of speech. I'd rather not accept this as an answer, colloquially correct though it may be, simply because this question should be kept open in anticipation of a more appropriable answer. Mar 21, 2017 at 1:12
  • You're not obliged by any construment to ever accept an answer, even a good one. Sometimes when you accept an answer you reduce your chances of getting others. I've on occasion not accepted any answer to a question because two or more answers contributed near equal amounts of quality useful information. Mar 21, 2017 at 3:10

Pick up vibes, get vibes, get the vibes, or pick up on

pick up on something (spoken): 1. to notice something The evidence was there - I just didn't pick up on it. (Cambridge Dictionary of American Idioms)

vibes: emissions that give others a sense of your thoughts or feelings (Urban Dictionary)


I got the vibes Helen doesn't really like having houseguests.

Yeah, I picked up on that too. Like when she would leave the kitchen whenever we showed up. How about you, Jane? Did you pick up any vibes from Helen last weekend?

Jane: I can see why you got that vibe from her, but I happen to know she was having trouble meeting a deadline. Don't take it personally.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge that you have read and understand our privacy policy and code of conduct.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.