at first glance: meaning and explanation

at first glance = when you look at something for the first time

This is usually used to communicate a first impression, before you have looked more carefully. e.g At first glance, everything looks fine = everything looks fine but I will need to check more carefully to make sure.

This expression might often be used to contrast a first impression with a subsequent change in opinion. e.g. At first glance I thought it was my old teacher, but then I realised it must be someone else – he wasn’t old enough.

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: Northern England

, .
If too good at , make read the small .

About the sentence

…if a deal seems too good to be true…

The expression too good to be true is used to describe something which seems so perfect that you expect something to be wrong. It is probably better than you expected, which makes you suspicious.

We use this expression in the following piece of advice: If you think something is too good to be true, then it probably is.

Micro-listening #2

Accent: Ireland

, .

I'll it later on, but everything looks .

About the sentence

…I’ll go through it in more detail later…

The phrasal verb to go through something means to examine something carefully to check, test or practise it. e.g. Let’s go through the plan step by step to make sure everything is clear.

Micro-listening #3

Accent: England (RP)

, , .

, it looked house, but to notice issues.

About the sentence

…a couple of issues…

Issue is a useful synonym for problem. e.g. Thanks for all your hard work on the book design. There’s just one small issue with the cover we need you to fix.

Extra practice

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

  • Can you think of a time when your first impression (your opinion about something based on the first time you saw it) turned out to be incorrect? Use the expression ‘at first glance’ in your answer.