Podcast: Lateral thinking

By Ana Luiza | Podcast Inglês Online

Nov 08
Inglês - Podcast Lateral thinking

Hey, everbody. How’s it going?

Hoje tem um lateral thinking puzzle or problem. É um probleminha que requer pensamento criativo e original para ser resolvido. Por que a pessoa da historinha tem esse comportamento? Não vale postar a resposta aqui! (semana que vem eu posto).


Hi, everybody! What’s up? Today we have a new episode of the inglesonline podcast. To download or just listen to other episodes and download transcripts, go to inglesonline.com.br and click Podcast Inglesonline.

Today on our podcast I’m gonna talk about lateral thinking. What does that mean? Well, the Wikipedia… you know Wikipedia? Wikipedia.org. The Wikipedia says that lateral thinking is when you solve a problem using an indirect and creative approach. That means that the solution isn’t obvious and that you won’t find the solution through traditional logic. In other words, to use a popular expression, you have to think outside of the box to solve lateral thinking problems. To think outside of the box means to think creatively, to be original or unusual, stuff like that.

So there are many lateral thinking puzzles, or problems available on the Internet and for this episode I’ve selected one that is probably the most well-known lateral thinking problem of all. So, before I present it to you, let me establish a few ground rules: you can easily find the solution to this puzzle by googling it. That means, doing a Google search. You can do that if you want, or maybe you’ve heard of this problem before and you know the solution. Whatever the case, please do not post the answer in the comments.

Deal? OK, here’s the puzzle:

A man lives on the twelfth floor of an apartment building. Every morning he takes the elevator down to the lobby and leaves the building. In the evening, he gets into the elevator, and, if there is someone else in the elevator — or if it was raining that day — he goes back to his floor directly. Otherwise, he goes to the tenth floor and walks up two flights of stairs to his apartment.

So, what do you think? Are you familiar with the puzzle? Let’s break it down: a man lives on the twelfth floor of an apartment building. That’s floor #12, right? Tenth, eleventh, twelfth… So he lives on the twelfth floor. I live on the fifth floor, by the way. Which floor do you live on? So, moving right along… This guy takes the elevator every morning, down to the lobby, and then leaves the building. He probably goes to work every day, or maybe he goes to school, we don’t know.

Anyway, in the evening he gets into the elevator… but here’s the interesting part: if there is someone else in the elevator when he gets in, or if it was raining that day… he goes to his floor directly. Now, if there’s no one in the elevator when he gets in,  or if it didn’t rain that day, then he goes to the tenth floor, floor #10. And he gets out of the elevator on the tenth floor. Not on the twelfth floor, where he lives. If there’s no one in the elevator, or if it didn’t rain, he takes the elevator up to the tenth floor, gets out, and walks up two flights of stairs to his apartment on the twelfth floor.

Now, why does he do that? When he gets back home, in the evening, he’ll go directly to the twelfth floor if there’s someone else in the elevator, or if it rained that day. Otherwise, he gets out on the tenth, and climbs two flights of stairts to the twelfth. Can you imagine why someone would do that?

So leave us your comments, tell us what you think. And I’ll give you guys the answer probably later this week or on the next podcast. Talk to you next time.



deal? = combinado?

whatever the case = qualquer que seja o caso

moving right along = continuando

flights of stairs = lances de escada



About the Author

Ana Luiza criou um blog de dicas de inglês em 2006, e depois de muito pesquisar o que faz alguém ganhar fluência numa segunda língua, criou seu primeiro curso de inglês em 2009.

  • […] o podcast Inglês Online tem a solução do lateral thinking puzzle apresentado na semana passada. Algumas pessoas conseguiram encontrar a solução (a Ira foi a primeira) – congratulations a […]

  • @WandAvril says:

    OMG! I’m thinkin’ about it and i can imagine what it really means! I’m sorry but i cannot solve it! Ana Luiza you are kidding me! Haha Love you my favorite teacher!

  • Neusa says:

    I think he is a dwarf and he reaches only to number ten

  • Luis says:

    by the time that Ira answered the puzzle, I think that he already knew the puzzle.
    If not he has too much capacity abstraction. ( lateral thinking)

  • Felipe says:

    Ira solved the puzzle, and why he goes to the 10th floor? Because the #10 button is the last that he can push.

    Great way to think in english. :D

    So, Ana, do you think is good for me to do the Curso Básico if I can listen the podcast without much difficulty?
    Of course I used the translator to write this post, because I don’t know some expressions…

    • Ana Luiza says:

      Hi Felipe,
      That’s right – the guy can’t push beyond the 10th.
      The Curso Básico is a great course and the first few lessons will be a breeze for you – you should really look at the content, and watch the video to see what the methodology is like. Many non-beginners have taken the course and benefited from it, so.. up to you!

  • Gil says:

    If the man is short like Ira said how can he go to the 10th floor?
    I no have any idea, what is the answer, so I looking forward for the answer.

  • Al says:

    About the Ira’s answer. What if not was raining when the guy left his building?

    • Ana Luiza says:

      So what if it wasn’t raining? Maybe the guy always looks at the weather forecast before leaving in the morning so he knows it’s gonna rain later!

  • Vera Graña says:

    Hi Ana, good keeping touch to you again I’ve been busy lately….

    Well, I think Freaud could explain it, not me…. I couldn’t catch it….there are so many reasons to so many behavours….
    I’ll wait for your explanation later.

  • Sini says:

    By the way, I agree w/ Ira´s ideas.

    Really It makes sense, for me he got it!

  • Sini says:


    when you say about flights of stairs ” lances de escada”, i know that flights of stairs can be “escadaria” in portuguese as well..so could it be both cases?
    actually I didn´t get it on context “lances de escada”….
    could u help us?

    thanks a lot…

    • Ana Luiza says:


      I understand “flights of stairs” as “lances de escada”. Tipo quantos lances vou ter que subir pra chegar no seu ap.?

      Pelo que vi, uma maneira de dizer “uma escadaria” seria “a flight of stairs”.

  • gilson says:

    Ana Luiza, you are terrific, I like so much to listen to your pod cast. Congratulations.

  • Fernando Moraes says:


  • Ana Luiza says:

    So, what do you guys think? Is Ira on to something?

  • Ira says:

    Maybe he’s too short. So when there’s somebody in the elevator, they can help him press the button. Or when it’s raining he has an umbrella with him and he uses it to reach the button for his floor. :D

  • Ira says:

    I just noticed that I got a little confused about the situation. Actually when there is somebody in the elevator, he goes directly to his floor..so forget about what I just said…

  • Ira says:

    The fact that there’s somebody in the elevator could be related to his desire of people not knowing where, which floor he lives. And the text says one condition OR another. So probably there are two reasons. I believe that there’s something to do with the numbers 10 and 12. But I’ll be thinking about it during the day. And if I come up with some new ideas I’ll be back here to post them. I’m just brainstorming. ;)

  • Ana Luiza says:

    But what does the rain have to do with “being fat”? Keep ‘laterally’ thinking, guys!

  • Mário says:

    As julianinha says, maybe he is fat and need some exercises …

  • @julianinhamatos says:

    I think he is fat guy and he does that because he wants to make exercises climbing stairs and he’d be embarrassing if someone sees him during the climbing. But he is lazy too. If he’d lose much weight, he’d climb all the twelve floors. Am I being bad with this thought? =P Oh God, I can’t imagine any reasonable answer.

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