Podcast: Not see the forest for the trees – Inglês Online

Podcast: Not see the forest for the trees

By Ana Luiza | Podcast Inglês Online

Mar 28
Inglês Online Not see the forest for the trees

Hi, everybody.  Hoje falamos sobre o idiom not see the forest for the trees e o que ele significa em inglês.


Hi, everybody. This is the new episode of the Inglês Online podcast.

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Today we’ll tackle an idiom whose meaning wasn’t obvious to me for a while until I looked for some clarification and then I finally got it. So picture this: you’re in school and somehow you and your friend Ken have been chosen to organise the graduation party.

So Ken thinks the party should be at Grand Party Salon. Yeah, that’s what it’s called: Grand Party Salon, and your friend Ken has his heart set on the Salon. He thinks it’s the perfect place: it’s spacious, centrally located, nicely decorated and affordable.

So the two of you go ahead and try to book the Grand Party Salon for graduation night. Things start to get a bit complicated when the staff person says that there are a few restrictions for graduation parties, such as no one individual can have more than four drinks and also, there has to be an equal number of men and women sitting at every table.

Ken cannot believe it. He and you both know it would be impossible to control everyone’s individual alcohol consumption or guarantee an equal number of men and women at every table. You start saying “Well, guess we’ll just have to look for another place…” but Ken wants to fight for the Salon. He won’t even consider other options; it’s the Salon or nothing.

But the Salon people will just not budge; you feel Ken’s wasting precious time as the graduation date approaches and you still have not locked down a location for the party. So one day you tell Ken it’s time to drop the Salon and move on. You tell him that the Salon would be a great option but they’re making unreasonable demands and there are other very nice options out there.

You tell Ken “You have to let the Grand Party Salon go. You’ve become so attached to the idea of having the party there, that you can’t see the forest for the trees anymore. We’re not gonna have a party if we don’t secure a venue fast! It’s less than two months away and all our planning depends on where the party is going to be!”

And then, somehow, Ken gets it. He says “Thank you, buddy! Thanks for opening my eyes. You’re right – I lost sight of the forest.” Ken got so involved with trying to negotiate the Salon that getting it became his major concern, and he totally lost sight of the fact that location, while important, is just one element of planning a party. There’s a whole lot more involved and it was all being put on hold because he was so dead set on the Grand Salon.

So that’s what “not being able to see the forest for the trees” means: you’re so focused on details that you fail to understand, or lose sight of the larger situation. I can remember doing this in my own life a couple of times – for example, when I was starting out with Inglês Online and spent way too much time thinking about the appearance of my website, when, instead, and all things considered, I should have focused on writing more useful content for my audience. For a while, I couldn’t see the forest for the trees and misplaced my efforts – but thankfully, in the end, everything turned out fine.

So give me your example of not seeing the forest for the trees. Let me know in the comments, and talk to you next time!


Key terms

  • not see the forest for the trees




have your heart set on = querer muito (algo, fazer algo)

lock down a location = arrumar, arranjar um local garantido

will not budge = (neste caso) não se mexe, no sentido de não mudar de posição

he was dead set on = ele estava fixado, decidido em



Ana Luiza

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.

Latest posts by Ana Luiza (see all)

  • Hy Ana,
    During two years I kept my son Davi in a school taht I thought it was the best school in our city, despite all bad things that happened. I couldn’t see that the teachers had any empathy with Davi, that he was being antagonized by his colegues. I couldn’t see the forest for the trees. I was sadly mistaken. After several efforts to try to change my son, I realized that, that school was not the best school for him. Now, in another good school, he is happy and completely integrated.


  • Johnetta says:

    This is way better than a brick & mortar esthilbsament.

  • José Antonio says:

    Seu site é fantástico Ana. Gostei muito.

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