This week, we’re looking at words and phrases that we use to describe knowing a subject.
Starting with a very useful adjective, someone who is knowledgeable knows a lot, either about one particular subject or subjects more generally: Annie is very knowledgeable about wildlife. A slightly informal expression to describe someone with a detailed knowledge of one particular subject is the phrase clued up: Young people tend to be more clued up on environmental issues.
If you have knowledge of a subject, you might also say you are familiar with it: I’m afraid I’m not familiar with his poetry. A slightly formal expression which means the same is to be acquainted with something: Are you acquainted with the system? If you are au fait (pronounced ‘ˌəʊ ˈfeɪ’) with something, you know about it or you know the most recent information about it: I’m afraid I’m not au fait with the rules of the game. Meanwhile, if you fill someone in, you give them information that they don’t know about a subject: Those are the bare facts – I’ll fill you in on the details later.
And what about knowing all there is to know about a subject? (Tom’s lived in this village for over fifty years so he knows all there is to know about it.) Someone with a very detailed knowledge of one thing may be said to know it inside out: He’s been teaching this novel for years so he knows it inside out. A very similar expression is to know something back to front or to (UK) know something backwards. (In US English, you can also say that you know something backward and forward): I’ve given this talk so many times – I know it back to front. Someone with a great deal of knowledge of a place, meanwhile, may be said to know it like the back of their hand: I’ve lived and worked in the same place for most of my life so I know it like the back of my hand.
Other expressions relate specifically to recent facts. For example, if you are up to speed with a subject or activity, you have all the latest information about it: Could you bring me up to speed with the latest developments? Meanwhile, if you update someone on a situation or give them an update, you give them the most recent information about it: We’ll update you on this news story throughout the day.
Finally, if you are privy to a conversation, you are told information that not many people are told: Evidently, those conversations were taking place but I was never privy to them.