In the context below:

Let's say that your mom is asking if you have a boyfriend and you really don't want to talk about that, you start to complain about the food in dinner in order to shift the subject/topic. Unfortunately, she ___ your attempt and says: "Don't try to change the subject, you got to answer my question first."

Edit: The context above is only a suggestion and you don't need to fit the sentence structure.

What's a good word to describe that behavior?

  • 2
    She 'sees through' your attempt? Jul 8, 2017 at 12:16
  • @Kate Bunting thanks. that's a good words to describe the action, do you have a good word for that behavior as well?
    – user239460
    Jul 8, 2017 at 14:09
  • 1
    It is unclear which aspect of that behaviour you're trying to describe. You could use recognizes (meaning that she, as @KateBunting noted, sees through your attempt) or disregards (as in ignores) or foils (meaning prevents the success of) for various ideas related to your attempt to change the subject. Jul 8, 2017 at 16:36
  • 1
    The most obvious verb to insert there is thwart, which means to prevent someone or something from achieving their goal or purose. I wouldn't say the mother displayed any particular powers of observation by keeping to the topic.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jul 12, 2017 at 4:04
  • 2
    She's nobody's fool, she's one smart cookie, she's always been astute, sharp-eyed, clear thinking....
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jul 12, 2017 at 4:23

4 Answers 4


I think the set phrase to be onto something expresses the acute sense of noticing something, as only the word awareness can suggest:

in or into a state of awareness about


Another good word for it, perhaps even better, is the phrasal verb to sniff something out:

to discover someone or something, usually only after a special effort



According to Wikitionary

(figuratively) Of acute discernment; having keen insight; mentally perceptive.

Your mother has a perspicacious nature. You can modify your sentence to use this word.

In simpler words:

notice changes quickly

  • This cannot be correct since the OP needs a verb, as the context of the question shows. Jul 8, 2017 at 12:53
  • @ΥΣΕΡ26328 I have asked him to modify his sentence to incorporate the word, if he wishes. I assumed he might be a little flexible if he wants an apt word. Moreover my answer perfectly answers his question in the title.
    – BlackSwan
    Jul 8, 2017 at 12:56
  • @ΥΣΕΡ26328 i modify my question, i think a verb might not be enough to cover that up.
    – user239460
    Jul 8, 2017 at 12:57
  • @user239460 You can say that she "perspicaciously spoilt my attempt..."
    – BlackSwan
    Jul 8, 2017 at 12:59
  • @Himabindu Boddupalli thanks. my question is flexible enough for a good word as you suggested.
    – user239460
    Jul 8, 2017 at 13:02

The word that comes to mind for me is spot:

... unfortunately she spots your attempt and says ...

In this context, spot means to notice something:




  1. See, notice, or recognize (someone or something) that is difficult to detect or that one is searching for.
    ‘Andrew spotted the advert in the paper’
    ‘the men were spotted by police’

(Oxford Dictionaries)

Although, if she's anything like my daughter, her attempts to change the subject will be obvious... 8^)


I would use either very observant, or very aware, or possibly hyperaware. Each of these choices could fit in your sentence, with some minor modifications to the sentence appropriate to the usage. Here's a sentence, that also happens to be a true fact:

The children of alcoholics often become hyperaware of body language, noticing subtle cues that most people are unaware of. This awareness can act as an "early warning system" of shifts in mood, or potential behavioral problems.

You will notice observant also fits in that context. In your sentence, aware is better suited, but observant can be used.

Unfortunately, she was aware of your attempt and said: "Don't try to change the subject, you (sic) got to answer my question first."


Unfortunately, she observed your attempt and said: "Don't try to change the subject, you (sic) got to answer my question first.

  • Why do you use "sic" to flag a very common usage?
    – Robusto
    Jul 8, 2021 at 3:44
  • @Robusto; I had corrected the misuse of the original, from you to you've, but then you pointed out my (sic). Probably clearer to leave the error with the sic. TY.
    – Mark G B
    Jul 8, 2021 at 12:08
  • 1
    Yeah, when using sic you always use the original, not an amended version in which the error in question is fixed.
    – Robusto
    Jul 8, 2021 at 20:30

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