Digging up and getting wind of information (Finding information words and phrases)

a trowel used to dig up gold coins from a hole in the ground
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by Kate Woodford

I recently published a post on this blog about the language of looking for information (Probing and digging around). This related post looks at words and phrases that we use to talk about finding and getting information.

A slightly formal verb meaning simply ‘to get information from someone’ is elicit:

We learned interview techniques designed to elicit information from clients.

The formal verbs determine and ascertain are often used in official contexts, meaning ‘to succeed in discovering information’:

The role of the jury is to determine the facts of the case.

An inquiry was ordered to ascertain the facts.

Most ‘finding information’ verbs and phrasal verbs convey the sense that effort is needed, often because information is concealed. For example, if you dig up information, you discover secret or forgotten facts by searching. Someone who digs up dirt manages to find shocking information about a person (often a famous person) that could damage their reputation:

They go to great lengths to dig up information on their rivals.

She’d been ordered to dig up dirt on the former president.

If you ferret out a piece of information, you find it after determined searching:

As a journalist, you have to be able to ferret out information that isn’t generally available.

Someone who unearths or uncovers proof or a secret discovers it after careful searching:

A recent investigation unearthed evidence of fraud.

They uncovered proof that the group had been plotting an attack.

If you worm information out of someone, you persuade them to tell you something that they were trying to keep secret. Meanwhile, to coax secret information out of someone is to persuade them to tell you it by being kind and charming:

She wasn’t going to tell me who her contact was, but I managed to worm it out of her.

He was reluctant to tell me her name, but I coaxed it out of him.

Let’s finish with some nice idioms in this area. If you manage to discover the true facts about a difficult situation, you may say you get to the bottom of it:

At this point we don’t know what caused the problem, but we’re determined to get to the bottom of it.

If someone has found out a lot of information about a subject in preparation for something, it might be said, admiringly, that they have done their homework:

She’s certainly done her homework and this book, accordingly, is fascinating.

Finally, if you get wind of a secret fact relating to someone else, you find out about it:

Please keep this to yourself. If Sophia gets wind of it, she’ll tell everyone.

That concludes my post on finding information. I hope you’ve found it useful.

12 thoughts on “Digging up and getting wind of information (Finding information words and phrases)

      1. Cândido

        I’ve read this in a monthly journal “Forum” in 2000, and I can’t remember the volume number. Thanks for the update!!!🙏🙏

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