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sink in: meaning and explanation

If something sinks in, then you gradually understand it or realise that it is true or real.

Sometimes something is too surprising, shocking, amazing or awful to understand or process. It can take a few seconds, minutes, hours (or even longer) to process the information. e.g. It still hasn’t sunk in that I passed the exam.

Another way of using this phrasal verb is when we are telling someone something which we believe they need to process or think about properly to fully understand. e.g. Did you know that the Earth is moving through space at a speed of 67,000 mph? Just let that sink in.

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: Scotland

read the email three it I was .

About the sentence

…before it sank in that I was being fired

The verb to fire sb is very often used in the passive voice (to be/get fired) because it is usually more appropriate to focus on the person receiving the action (losing their job).

If you want to focus on the person doing the action, use the active voice. e.g. I fired someone this morning, but now I’m wondering if I should have given them another chance.

Micro-listening #2

Accent: North America

Micro-listening #3

Accent: North America


Extra practice

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

  • Can you remember a time something happened which was so amazing that you couldn’t process or understand straight away? How long did it take for it to sink in?
  • Tell someone the most amazing fact you know. Finish it with: “Let that sink in.”

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