What tipped you off?

By Ana | Podcast Inglês Online

Jun 27
Inglês - What tipped you off

Hi, everyone!

O podcast de hoje fala sobre algumas expressões super comuns do inglês que expressam Como você percebeu? ou Como você sabe?


Hey, this is Ana Luiza with a new episode of Inglesonline podcast. To see the transcript and download the audio for this and other episodes, go to ingles online.com.br and click on “Podcasts”.

The word tip, t-i-p, can mean lots of different things. A common meaning is the amount of money that you give someone as a gratuity. So when you go to a restaurant you usually tip the waiter, when you leave your hotel room you may tip the cleaning staff, you may tip the person that filled your tank with gas at the gas station and so on.

And, if you have been reading Inglês Online for a while, that means you’ve been reading lots of English tips. A tip is a useful piece of information, that will help you better understand something or help you figure something out that you weren’t able to figure out before. So Inglês Online is a blog with English tips.

And on that note, since we’re talking about tips as useful pieces of information… Here’s a very cool expression with tip: tip someone off.

Let me give you an example: let’s say there’s someone in your neighborhood who has been stealing cars. And up to this moment, no one has been able to catch this person in the act. And, what’s more, no one has any information on the thief whatsoever, no one knows who he or she is.

So what happens is, a woman calls the local police station and she tells the police she knows who the thief is. She tells them where he is going to be this afternoon around two o’clock. And then, it’s over, and the cops arrest him as a suspect, and then it’s just a matter of time until they’re able to find evidence that this guys is, in fact, responsible for stealing the cars.

So what happened in this story is that the woman tipped off the police. She tipped off the police about where the thief was going to be later that day. In other words, she tipped off the police on the thief’s whereabouts. So, who tipped off the police? A woman. A woman called them and tipped them off. A police officer could say, A woman called the station and tipped us off.

Here’s another example: my friend tipped me off to a great little restaurant in my neighborhood. It has great food, it’s not expensive but not many people know about it. Here, I could have said My friend told me about this restaurant. But I’m using She tipped me off to this restaurant to communicate that this is kind of, you know, a valuable piece of information, something not many people know about, not everyone has access to this information, it’s like, a special tip. So my friend tipped me off about this place or she tipped me off to this place.

Tip someone off can also be used when a thing… not necessarily a person, but a thing, something lets you know that something else is going on. You could ask a pregnant woman What tipped you off that you were
What made you realize that you were pregnant? What tipped you off?

For example, let’s say I run into a friend and see that he has a new haircut, and I tell him, I see you have already started your new job! And he says, Yes, I have. What tipped you off? And I say, Well, your new haircut! You told me you were going to get a haircut right before you started. So my friend hasn’t told me anything about starting his new job, but he did tell me that he was going to get a new haircut right before he started, so… his  new haircut tipped me off.

And for this particular use of tipped me off, or tipped someone off… There’s another expression that can be used with the same meaning: His new haircut gave it away, which is the same as his new haircut tipped me off. His new haircut gave away that he had already started his new job. His new haircut gave it away. The moment I saw his new haircut, I knew he had started his new job. His haircut gave it away. So when I told my friend that he had started his new job, he could have said: Yes, I have. What gave it away? or What tipped you off?

Another example is, you see your brother and you tell him, Hey I told you not to eat my banana bread! And your brother is very surprised, I mean, how can you tell that he ate the banana bread? What tipped you off? What gave it away? Well, the breadcrumbs all over his shirt tipped you off. The breadcrumbs gave it away.

Alright, that’s it for today and keep an eye out for the next installment of this pocast where I’ll talk about a few other expressions with the word TIP. See you next time.

Key expressions

  • tip (someone) off
  • Who tipped you off?
  • What tipped you off?
  • give it away
  • What gave it away?


gratuity = gorjeta ou gratificação

the cleaning staff = pessoas responsáveis pela limpeza (camareiras, faxineiras, etc)

up to this moment = até esse momento

catch this person in the act = pegar essa pessoa no flagra

the thief’s whereabouts = o paradeiro do ladrão, onde ele está

breadcrumbs = migalhas de pão

keep an eye out for = fique de olho para

Fernanda Barros de Souza 29/10/2015

Olá Ana! Me lembrei da música do Red Hot Chili Peppers, chamada Give It Away, que fez sucesso no início dos anos 90! Muito bom! E vc, Ana, é demais! Gostaria de saber como vc pode ser tão boa dando preciosas dicas em inglês! Poxa, eu admiro o seu trabalho, do fundo do meu coração, MUITO OBRIGADA! Vc tem muito talento e uma voz lindaaaaaa! Amo, adoro, venero os seus áudios! THANK YOU SO MUCH!

    Ana 30/10/2015

    Heheheheh :-)) Puxa, Fernanda – muito obrigada por essa mensagem!! Estou sorrindo aqui! Fico muito feliz em saber que você gosta :) You’re welcome, it’s my pleasure..

matheus 16/02/2013

Hi ana, fiquei com uma duvida na sobre qual preposição eu devo usar na sequencia da expressão “tip (someone) off”.
obrigado, seus podscasts sempre me ajudam muito :)

Fernanda 24/07/2010

Hi, Ana! Im listening again some podcasts, sometime not just a word are on the tip of my tongue, but a whole phrase, rs! well, i learn with your young voice and with the commets too. Its amazing how we can improve our english every day. im graduate in “fonoaudiologia” and your voice give me away that you are a young woman not a teenager. The voice give us away about who is the person that speaks, and sometimes the soul of this person is younger than the age of he/she. thats it, thanks!

Ana Luiza 10/07/2010

Hi Ernane – I’m an adult woman, it’s just my voice. Take a look at the “Sobre” section and you’ll have a good idea.

Ernane Trindade 10/07/2010

Dear Ana,
I heard your article on TIPPED ME OFF and found it very much interesting but one thing let me very thinkful.  It is about your VOICE.  Are you a young girl? Pardon me, could I ask you HOW OLD ARE YOU?  BEST REGARDS!

Marco Brainiac 28/06/2010

Hi Ana,

It´s clear to me thanks.

” alguma coisa entregou/transpareceu que o rapaz tinha começado o novo emprego”

Thank you a lot

Ana Luiza 28/06/2010

Hi Marco – great example of a tip-off!

Well, “something” gave it away.

“Alguma coisa” entregou que o rapaz tinha começado o emprego novo. Quando eu o vi, na hora soube que ele já tinha começado (apesar de ele não ter me contado que já tinha começado)

‘Something’ gave it away—> ‘What’ gave it away?

‘Something’ tipped me off—> ‘What’ tipped me off?

The answer is, his new haircut.

Ficou mais claro?

Marco Brainiac 28/06/2010

Hi Ana,

Somebody must have tipped the burglars off that the house would be empty. (alguém deve ter cantado aos assaltantes que a casa estaria vazia)

In portuguese would say ( cantar) like when we are playing domino.

Ana, could you explains to me this interrogative statmentes?( I don´t get easily)
What gave it away?

What tipped you off?


Ana Luiza 28/06/2010

Hey, guys.. you’re welcome

Romar – it’s used in American English, but I can’t confirm whether it’s common in UK English… I would guess that it is, but we would need a UK speaker to confirm that!

Rodrigo Aloi 28/06/2010

Hi Ana…

Thanks a lot for this podcast.

Big hug.

Romar R. Vallory 28/06/2010

Hey Ana Luiz

Thank you for this podcast, it´s very nice et and I learnt a lot with him.
I´ve only a question: Is this expression used in american and british English?

Thanks again


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