We all have secrets. There are simply some things that we don’t like talking about that we would much rather keep to ourselves (not tell anyone). However, it can be very therapeutic to talk about our secrets with a close friend or family member, so it’s important to know how to talk about secrets in English.
Secrets aren’t always meant to be shared (talked about), but it can be a good feeling when they are! Here are some phrases we use to talk about secrets in English.
Divulge a Secret
When you finally tell someone a secret, you can use the word divulge. To divulge something is to tell it to someone, but you usually use the word divulge when you’re telling someone some classified information or a secret. When you divulge information to someone, it’s not information that everybody knows.
- He divulged some classified information when talking about international policy, making the secret information available to the public.
- She accidentally divulged a secret when she told me about the job application she had submitted without her boss knowing.
Has someone ever told you that something is classified? If so, that means that they can’t tell you something. If information is classified, only “certain” people are allowed to know about it. This is usually because the information is not suitable (appropriate, meant) for- or allowed to be- public knowledge.
If someone is talking to you about a secret of theirs, they may tell you that the secret is classified. This is a reference to classified information and doesn’t necessarily mean that their secret is literally (in reality, actually) classified. It’s only that they don’t want other people to know about it.
- The spy leaked classified information to a foreign government. They shared secretive information.
- “So…what did you do on your date on Friday?” “I can’t tell you! That’s classified!”
If you’ve ever been told that something is hush-hush, someone’s definitely told you a secret. If something is being kept hush-hush, you definitely should not share it with anyone else, but it probably will become public knowledge sooner or later. Referring to something as being hush-hush is a great way to talk about secrets.
- We’re merging with another company at the end of the year, but don’t tell anyone else. It’s hush-hush until the deal goes through.
- Sarah thinks she’s pregnant, but she’s keeping it hush-hush until she knows for sure.
That’s Between You and Me
When someone says that something is between you and me, that’s definitely a secret that should not be shared with anyone else. That person has chosen to share something with you because they trust you, and they want only you to know. You can show that you’ve earned their trust (showed that you can be trusted) by keeping the secret between just the two of you!
- I’m thinking about moving away, but that’s between you and me.
- Between you and me, I don’t really like Karen’s boyfriend. But please don’t tell anyone!
To Look Furtive
Have you seen an old spy movie where the spy looks from side to side and sneaks around in the shadows? That spy is looking furtive or looking like they’re trying to hide something. Someone who’s telling a secret or talking about something that’s hush-hush might look furtive. They don’t want others to hear about what they’re talking about, so may look around to make sure no one’s listening.
- He looked furtive while talking about the company’s plan to downsize. No one knew yet, so he didn’t want other people to hear.
- She didn’t want the other people at the party to hear her secret, so she looked around furtively before saying anything.
Keep Something on the Downlow (DL)
Has anyone asked you to keep something on the downlow, or the DL? This is another way to talk about secrets in English. They’re asking you to keep something secret. In this case, they don’t want many people knowing about what they’re about to tell you.
- Can you keep this on the downlow? I don’t want a lot of people knowing.
- She asked me to keep her promotion on the DL until they could tell everyone.
When telling a secret, many people may whisper so that they’re harder to overhear (hear without trying to listen, when someone speaks loudly you can hear what they say without trying to listen). Whispering is talking very quietly so only the person next or close to you can hear you speaking. Whispering can be a good way to keep other people from hearing your secret, but make sure that the people you’re talking to can hear you!
- “Did you hear how she ended up in jail?” he whispered to me.
- I wanted to tell her my secret, but I whispered so no one else could hear me.
How do you talk about a secret in English? Do you whisper and keep things hush-hush? Share your favorite secret words with us in the comments below!
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Erin Duffin lives in Hamburg, is an English teacher, blogger, yoga instructor, and is an excellent secret-keeper! Your secret is always safe with her.