Home » Business English » to put someone on the spot

to put someone on the spot: meaning and explanation

When you put someone on the spot, you ask them a difficult question or require them to make an important decision without giving them any preparation time or warning. This causes them stress or embarrassment.

This idiom tends to be used when describing a time when this happened to you or someone you know.

It could also be used to describe someone who tends to do this to people, e.g. Just to warn you, she does like to put people on the spot. 

Another useful way to use this idiom is when you are about to put someone on the spot. You can use this idiom as part of the introduction to your question or request, e.g. Sorry to put you on the spot like this, but…

Have a go at these micro-dictation exercises to hear this expression being used in context – how much can you understand?

Listening exercises

Micro-listening #1

Accent: Australia

, , .
Sorry to like this, but exact figure, .
Sorry to you on the like this, but need an exact figure, a ballpark guess.

About the sentence

…not a ballpark guess

You can find an exercise to practise this expression here.

Micro-listening #2

Accent: England (RP)

Micro-listening #3

Accent: North America


Extra practice

Here are some questions/links to help you learn the new vocabulary:

  • How do you think being put on the spot affects decision making? Does it lead to more authentic responses or just increased stress?
  • Do you have any personal experiences or strategies for effectively handling situations where you’ve been put on the spot? How did you respond, and what did you learn from those experiences?

Photo by Richard Ciraulo on Unsplash

Categorized in: