Can the expression "there it is" be used with the meaning of "Oh, now I understand what you were talking about!" or "Oh, now I see what the problem was"?

Also, what are the alternative meanings of "there it is"? (Beside an exclamation that I have found something I was looking for).

  • 2
    All these meanings amount to "I have just pinpointed it." Jun 8, 2017 at 13:24
  • Can you provide a sample sentence or two that exemplifies the first meaning you're asking about? Jun 8, 2017 at 13:26
  • 1
    "Now I get it" seems more natural.
    – Casey
    Jun 8, 2017 at 18:05
  • In the slang world there are a few other meanings and another when prepended with Whoomp!. It could also be an awkward way to say "there you have it".
    – James
    Jun 8, 2017 at 23:47
  • 1
    "THERE it is!", "There IT is", "There it IS". emphasis.
    – Omegacron
    Jun 9, 2017 at 1:28

7 Answers 7


When saying "there it is," a person usually means that something being sought for has at last been found, as the question notes. Most often, that something is a concrete, tangible object:

Alice: I can't find my cellphone. Have you seen it?

Bob: Have you checked in the refrigerator?

Alice: (opening fridge door) Why would it be in .... Ah, there it is.


Dave: Fred's directions said we need to turn left on Maple Avenue to get to the party. Do you see any Maple Avenue?

Charlene: (pointing to a distant street sign) Yes, there it is.

Dave: Wow, good eyesight.

However, the sought after subject can also be a more abstract or figurative thing, such as comprehension. The question also mentions this.

Louis: I don't get it. What happened to the baker?

Carrol: Well, you see, the Snark was a Boojum after all.

Louis: Oh. There it is.

In this case, the response is often given in a drawn-out, almost sing-song voice: Oooooooh, therrrrre iit iiiiis.

One additional meaning expresses that a speaker or writer has just laid out a detailed explanation, and is providing a summary.

Professor: So there it is, class. The cycle of cellular division involves interphase, prophase, prometaphase, metaphase, anaphase, and telophase.

Students: (half applaud, the other half are startled awake.)

Finally, a meaning given by Collins and Oxford says that "this is the state of affairs, this is the situation." In other words, whether one likes it or not, and there is nothing one can do to change it.

But there it is: you can't wait now till spring; and you can't go till the reports come back. (J.R.R. Tolkien THE LORD OF THE RINGS)

  • 2
    If my "seeking for comprehension" example is too esoteric for anyone, please see: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Hunting_of_the_Snark.
    – cobaltduck
    Jun 8, 2017 at 14:34
  • Thank you for such a great and thorough answer! I wonder, are there any other expressions that someone can use to indicate that he finally got the situation? Not just "Oh, I got it!", but rather something cool, neat and hilarious.
    – ezpresso
    Jun 8, 2017 at 23:25
  • Not hilarious, but there's Eureka. Jun 9, 2017 at 4:29
  • 1
    @ezpresso - That sounds like to roots of a new question to ask here.
    – cobaltduck
    Jun 9, 2017 at 12:36

I think you could use the phrase "there is is" with the meaning you suggest, but it doesn't seem particularly natural and I can't recall cases of the phrase being used that way. Here are a couple of alternative meanings:

The Truth is Revealed!

One meaning, in my experience when the phrase is "and there it is", is something like:

"Events have unfolded to reveal their true nature".

So for example when someone is pretending to be nice but can't keep up the facade, when they break back into their usual character an onlooker might say "and there it is".

This doesn't just apply to people, it could be applied to a whole series of events, the meaning of which mightn't be clear until later. With this meaning, it was a common phrase in the TV Series Scrubs (which I'm currently re-watching).

I've Done It!

In the same way a person might say "there it is" when they find something, you can can also use this phrase when you produce something. So if you're baking a cake, once it's ready one might present it saying "there it is". Used this way, it's almost equivalent to the old "Q.E.D." or "Q.E.F." in mathematics.

  • "I think you could use the phrase 'there is is' with the meaning you suggest, but it doesn't seem particularly natural and I can't recall cases of the phrase being used that way." It's used in "arty" contexts quite a bit, e.g. frequently in The West Wing dialog. Jun 9, 2017 at 11:00

In an argument "there it is" can be an exclamation of disgust at a stock argument the opponent brings up all the time. Used often in sitcoms to highlight a response by a spouse that they bring up in every argument.

  • I agree with this. I think it is closely related to my answer as it involves people "reverting to type" and "revealing their true nature". Jun 8, 2017 at 18:56

I'm a programmer and I say this frequently (usually to myself) when I finally find a solution to a problem I've been working on for some time. "Ah, there it is!"

So yes, I think it can be used in this way.

  • That's not quite the same thing. Jun 9, 2017 at 11:00
  • An utterance of autolalia can be complete gibberish to everyone else, yet make perfect sense to the speaker. It is not governed by rules that generalize to the language as such.
    – Kaz
    Jun 9, 2017 at 14:58

"I get it" or "I get it now"
Sounds much more natural to me because get takes the place of understand
"I get that concept now" vs. "I understand that concept now"


An alternative idiomatic expression with the meaning you intended is: "Now I see the light!"


see the light
Fig. to understand something clearly at last.
After a lot of studying and asking many questions, I finally saw the light.

McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


"There it is" can be used if something missing has been located, or something whose arrival or occurrence has been awaited or anticipated has arrived or occurred.

There has to be a context for understanding what "it" refers to.

So, no, "there it is" cannot, out of the blue, carry the interpretation "now I see what the problem was".

It can only work if the preceding conversation establishes an antecedent for "it" which is sought after and finally found, or expected to happen and finally happens.

A: "I still don't have the whole picture; some key information is missing which is preventing me from seeing what the problem was."

B: [ ... gives explanation ... ]

A: "Ah, and there it is."

Here, it refers to the sought-after key information, which now allows A to see what the problem was. A acknowledges that B has provided it.

  • "So, no, 'there it is' cannot, out of the blue, carry the interpretation "now I see what the problem was"." Sure it can. -1 Jun 9, 2017 at 11:01
  • @BoundaryImposition I'm not convinced by your line of argumentation. Out of the blue, it isn't even grammatical; prior context is needed for the pronoun "it' to have an antecedent.
    – Kaz
    Jun 9, 2017 at 14:54
  • I don't have time to convince you; I'm just here to anecdotally let you know that this form is accepted and used (e.g. The West Wing). You're over-thinking the grammatical prerequisites; real language doesn't always work that way. Your analysis is dubious anyway; in the weather report "it's sunny", the meaning of "it" is implied with no prior context required. Jun 9, 2017 at 15:09
  • @BoundaryImposition "It" has an understood antecedent in "it is raining" and "it is getting late", etc. The prior context for that is the language rule for understood subjects. I don't watch television, but maybe this series is on a torrent somewhere? Can you cite the season and episode number of The West Wing where this usage occurs? If possible, the approximate time or other means of identifying where in the episode it is spoken. Thanks.
    – Kaz
    Jun 9, 2017 at 15:44
  • One particular example that immediately comes to mind is Season 2 Episode 11 "The Leadership Breakfast" at 32:23. Beyond that you'll have to do your own research on this usage, but again I assure you it's perfectly reasonable. Just because you aren't familiar with it doesn't mean it isn't widely understood otherwise. Jun 9, 2017 at 16:02

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