put into perspective: meaning and explanation

We use the expression to put into perspective to say that we are able to see the true value, size or importance of something by comparing it to something else.

For example, you know that a trillion is a big number, but it is difficult to appreciate how big it is. However, if you compare it to something else (e.g. a trillion seconds = 30,000 years), then that can help to put it into perspective.

We often use this expression when talking about problems. For example, imagine you are worried because you have an exam coming up. This might seem like a big problem to you.

However, imagine you turn on the news and see a terrible story about a war or a financial crisis. Or imagine you speak to a friend or relative who has a serious health problem. Compared to these problems, your problem suddenly seems small – you realise that it isn’t as important as you had thought. In these situations, we say that something (watching the news, speaking to your friend about their health problems) has put your problem into perspective.

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

Dictation #1

Accent: North America

devastated exam results, a chat teacher helped to .
I devastated by my exam results, I had a chat my teacher and helped to things into .

…I was devastated…

The speaker in this example says she was devastated. This adjective means extremely shocked and upset.

Discussion questions

Write your answers to these questions in the comments section, and I’ll get back to you with some feedback:

  • The photo at the top of this page is a view of Earth from the International Space Station. Why do you think I chose this photo for this page?
  • Have you ever had an experience which put things into perspective for you? This could be a conversation you had, someone you met, or something you saw. What happened?

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