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)

The boss on the meeting when financial .
The boss put me on the in the meeting when asked about financial contingency .

About the sentence

…when she asked about our financial contingency plans

A contingency plan is a back up plan – a secondary plan for what you will do if things go wrong or don’t go as planned. e.g. Although I’m confident that this will work well, I’d still like to have a contingency plan in place.

Micro-listening #3

Accent: North America

. .
I’d you didn’t like that again. bit of .
I’d it if you didn’t me on the like that again. me a bit warning next .

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