Divulging and disclosing (The language of giving information)


by Kate Woodford

We tell each other things all the time, whether it’s our news, some important information or just interesting facts. This week we’re focusing on the language that we use to describe giving information.

Starting with a really useful phrasal verb, if you pass on a message or a piece of news that someone has told you, you tell it to someone else:

Remember to pass on my message to Ted.

No one passed the news on to me.

The verb relay means the same: He heard the announcement and immediately relayed the news to his colleagues.

Sometimes we pass on information to lots of people. The verb spread is often used for this. It frequently comes before the nouns gossip and rumour:

I hope you’re not spreading gossip, Alice!

He’d apparently been spreading rumours about her around the school.

Spread’ is also used intransitively to describe the way that information quickly becomes known by lots of people: So why does fake news spread so quickly?

The verb circulate is also used in this way: News of her retirement quickly circulated around the office.

Another verb meaning ‘to tell information to a lot of people’ is broadcast. People use it especially about information that they would prefer to be private: I’d rather my news wasn’t broadcast to the entire office!

The more formal verb disseminate is also used, but without the negative meaning: One of the organization’s aims is to disseminate information about the disease.

Other words mean ‘to give secret information’, for example reveal, divulge and (formal) disclose:

He wouldn’t reveal what was written in the letter.

When asked, she refused to divulge her salary.

They made an agreement not to disclose any details.

An informal phrasal verb with this meaning is let on. If you let on, you tell others about something secret: Please don’t let on that I told you she’s leaving!

Another phrasal verb is blurt out. If you blurt out a secret fact, you say it suddenly and without thinking, usually because you’re nervous or excited: I was supposed to be keeping it secret and then I just blurted it out!

There are two nice idioms for giving secret information. If you let the cat out of the bag or spill the beans, you tell people something that should have been secret:

I wasn’t going to tell anyone about my plans but Anita let the cat out of the bag.

So who spilled the beans about Daniel’s promotion?

Be careful what you divulge this week!

20 thoughts on “Divulging and disclosing (The language of giving information)

  1. Thank you for the article.
    I wrote a few papers before and felt ‘show’ and ‘reveal’ were used frequently. I am wondering if the sentences below are awkward in a scientific paper:
    The results divulge monkeys are as smart as toddlers.
    The results disclose monkeys are as smart as toddlers.

    Are they acceptable?

    1. Pat

      “Show” and “reveal” are definetely more adequate because the results are a consecuence of studies carried out, and publicizing them (the studies) is making the results generally known.

    2. Helen Vayntrub

      No, you should not use the words “divulge” or “disclose” for an idea or a concept. These verbs are for showing something that was purposefully hidden before — something that only a person would do. The results of a study do not purposefully hide themselves.

      My recommendations for a couple of verbs for results:
      The results indicate monkeys ….
      The results imply monkeys …..
      My recommendations for a couple of verbs for discussions and conclusions:
      Based on the result, we can conclude that monkeys …
      Based on the results, we can extrapolate that monkeys ….

    3. Kate Woodford

      Hi! Thanks for getting in touch. Yes, I agree with the comments below that these verbs don’t sound quite right here. Both have the sense of giving secret information, which is not the case here. Perhaps, for variety, you could use verbs such as ‘prove’, ‘suggest’ and ‘indicate’? Best wishes!

    4. Aatif Ahmed

      Disclose ideally fits the sense here. Divulge alludes undesired behaviour of someone made a secret known to people or somebody else.

  2. nad ali belhadj

    Thank you for this article. It is very interesting and clear. I am wondering why you don’t talk about “release”. Is it too specifically linked to journalism?

    1. Kate Woodford

      Hi! An interesting question! It’s certainly relevant and if I’d had more space, I might have included it. (It’s always tricky deciding what to cover.) Best wishes!

  3. Ravi

    Hi Kate,
    Thanks for the lesson and you have allowed us to learn by disseminating the formal and informal words about spreading/divulging the information.
    If u have a chance, could you do a lesson on how to use “would rather”.

  4. Weituy Babouth

    Kate Woodford.

    You will be always remember for your tremendous contribution in perfecting our English language standard.

  5. First and foremost, let me begin with a vote of thanks. Iam so thankful for the great work done by this writer.

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    Dear Kate,
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    I think the best way to work on that and gain the skills I want especially in speaking is through listening as you speak in a video. I want to be a good English speaker. I want to be fluent and natural. I want to be like you. Will you do that for me, please? Thank you.

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