I learn English as a foreign language, and I recently found in online training videos phrases like

Let me give you some quick intuition ...

In my native languages (Ukrainian and Russian) you can use intuition, you can trust it, but you cannot give it to someone.

Can anyone please give me some information about this specific use of the word?

  • 1
    The phrase makes little sense to me (a native English speaker) – Colin Fine Oct 10 '11 at 17:01
  • Maybe you heard it incorrectly? It would be more likely "quick insight" or "quick introduction". – tenfour Nov 7 '11 at 16:17

To give someone intuition is to give him insight. Oftentimes, it's used with "into" like so:

Joe gave us intuition into the inner workings of the system.

However, I must say this is a pretty rare usage of the word. In most cases, English speakers also only use, trust and have intuition, not give it. "To give intuition (into)" is probably most often used these days in academic settings, in a research paper perhaps.

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  • This meaning of intuition is used in mathematics (and perhaps other technical fields of study). It does not seem to match any of the conventional meanings of the word intuition. – GEdgar Oct 8 '11 at 21:27
  • @GEdgar I completely agree; I thought I made that clear in the last sentence. – narx Oct 8 '11 at 22:10
  • I think in the "academic" context it's just shorthand for "give (help to acquire) an intuitive understanding of some specific logical/mathematical process". In some cases (quantum theory?) no such understanding is possible, even to experts who routinely do the sums and make stuff that works. But most of us can intuitively understand Pythagoras' theorem if someone draws it out on paper the right way (that one does it for me). So a person can "give" you that "intuition". – FumbleFingers Oct 9 '11 at 0:11
  • I think it can mean two different things. I can mean to give someone a piece of information one came upon by intuition or it can mean to help another person obtain an intuitive understanding. For example, if we were discussing a complex subject and I had a simple analogy that you already understood, I might present the analogy to help give you a more intuitive understanding. – David Schwartz Oct 9 '11 at 12:20

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