What does ‘touch on’ mean?
The idiom "touch on" means to briefly mention or discuss a topic without going into great detail or depth.
The Hidden Significance
The idiom "touch on" is a common phrase used in American English. It indicates a brief or cursory mention or discussion of a topic. The verb "touch" means to make slight contact with, combined with the preposition "on" to denote a connection or reference. This idiom is often used in informal or conversational contexts and can be found in literature, journalism, and everyday conversations.
When "touch on" is used as a verb phrase, it means to briefly mention or allude to a subject without going into great detail. It can introduce a subject, provide a general overview, or give a hint, but it does not delve into the specifics or intricacies. The idiom is versatile and can be combined with various nouns such as "subject," "topic," "issue," or "theme" to specify the area being referenced.
For example, during a lecture, a professor might touch on the subject of climate change, indicating a brief discussion without extensive detail. Similarly, a news article might touch on the issue of economic inequality without fully exploring its nuances.
The figurative use of the phrase "touch on" suggests a fleeting interaction or encounter. It conveys a passing connection or brief engagement with a person or situation. For instance, someone might say that another person only touched on the surface of a problem, implying they didn't delve into the core or underlying issues.
The idiom "make mention of" is closely related to "touch on." It means to briefly refer to or discuss something. When used in the context of "touch on," it emphasizes the act of mentioning or acknowledging a topic without going into extensive detail. For example, a speaker might make mention of the importance of a certain topic during a presentation without fully exploring it.
Another related idiom is "touch off," which means to spark or initiate something. It can be used to describe the beginning of a discussion or the triggering of a series of events. When combined with "touch on," it suggests that a brief mention or allusion to a subject has sparked a larger conversation or set of circumstances. For example, an offhand comment during a meeting might touch off a heated debate among colleagues.
The idiom "put one's finger on" is also related to "touch on." It means to identify or understand something. In the context of "touch on," it implies that a brief mention or discussion has helped someone grasp or recognize a particular idea or issue. For instance, someone might say that a colleague's comment touched on an important aspect of a problem and helped them put their finger on the key issue.
Lastly, "lay a finger on" is another related idiom. It means to harm or touch someone or something. In the context of "touch on," it suggests a more literal interpretation of physical contact. However, it can also be used figuratively to imply having an impact or influence on someone or something. When combined with "touch on," it conveys the idea that a brief mention or discussion has had an effect on a person or situation.
To summarize, the idiom "touch on" is a concise way to briefly mention or allude to a subject without going into extensive detail. It is used in informal or conversational settings and can be combined with various nouns to specify the area being referenced. Related idioms such as "make mention of," "touch off," "put one's finger on," and "lay a finger on" provide additional nuances and connections to the act of mentioning, sparking discussion, understanding, and influencing.
Examples of how the idiom *touch on* can be used in a sentence:
1. In her presentation, the speaker briefly touched on the main points of the research.
2. The novel touches on themes of love and loss, creating a poignant and emotional story.
3. The professor's lecture touched on various theories of economics, providing a broad overview of the subject.