A. Have a conversation as natural as possible with a partner about the topic. Use the pictures above and the questions below to help you.
1. When should scientists stay schtum?
2. When would it be important to keep a secret?
3. When might you have to reveal someone's secret? Explain why.
4. When is it important to speak openly rather than keep secrets?
5. When is it better for the public not to know a secret?
6. Have you ever been to a wedding or any other event that was very hush-hush?
7. Has any public figure revealed a guilty secret recently?
8. When is it appropriate to divulge a secret and how should it be done?
9. Little children will usually spill the beans without meaning to. Can you think of any examples?
10. Have you ever wanted something to be a surprise but someone let the cat out of the bag? How did you feel?
11. Do you have to try hard not to let slip something you know but you cannot tell?
12. Do you make any secret of your political allegiances?
1. Why do people keep secrets?
2. If someone tells you something in confidence, are you likely to keep their secret or to tell someone else?
3. Who would you talk to if you wanted to tell someone your innermost thoughts? Who would you definitely not talk to?
1. Tell us about a secret that you have been told in your life and that you are happy to talk about. Give as many details as possible.
2. Is it important to have someone you can confide in? Why?
3. When was the last time you let someone in on a secret?
innermost: /ˈɪnəməʊst/ most private, personal and secret. E.g. I could not express my innermost feelings to anyone. The book reveals his innermost secrets. Who would you talk to if you wanted to tell someone your innermost thoughts?
classified: officially secret and available only to particular people. Confidential. E.g. classified information/ documents/ material.
He tried to keep it secret from his family.
Details of the proposals remain secret.
top secret: that must be kept completely secret, especially from other governments. E.g. This information has been classified top secret. Top-secret documents.
covert: /ˈkʌvət/ /ˈkəʊvɜːt/ secret or hidden, making it difficult to notice. E.g. covert operations/ surveillance. He stole a covert glance at her across the table. Every measure, both overt and covert, is being taken against terrorists.
overt: /əʊˈvɜːt/ done in an open way and not secretly. E.g. There was little overt support for the project.
I have a secret I want to tell you.
I have no secrets from you.
He can guard a secret like no one
Can you keep a secret?
keep/stay shtum (also schtum) /ʃtʊm/ to not speak. Police have appealed for witnesses, but it seems the locals are keeping shtum.
Confide: /kənˈfaɪd/ to tell somebody secrets and personal information that you do not want other people to know. E.g. confide something (to somebody) She confided all her secrets to her best friend. Confide (to somebody) that… He confided to me that he had applied for another job. ‘It was a lie,’ he confided.
confide in somebody: to tell somebody secrets and personal information because you feel you can trust them. E.g. It is important to have someone you can confide in. She used to confide in him whenever she had a problem.
A charming museum that is one of the city's best-kept secrets (= that not many people know about)
The location of the ship is a closely guarded secret.
Shall we let him in on(= tell him) the secret?
She let us into her secret. She'd got engaged.
He made no secret of his ambition (= he didn't try to hide it).
Dark secrets from his past.
So that was a very big secret that I kept, but I did reveal it
That evening she had revealed many of her innermost secrets.
My most intimate secret.
You never know what hidden secrets you'll find.
He revealed his inner secrets.
between you and me (also between you, me and the bedpost/gatepost) something that you say when you are going to tell someone something you do not want them to tell anyone else. E.g. Just between you and me, I don't think his work is quite up to standard. Between you, me and the gatepost, I'm thinking of leaving.
hush-hush: (adj) /hʌʃ hʌʃ/ secret and not known about by many people. E.g. Their wedding was very hush-hush.
in secret: without other people knowing about it. E.g. The meeting was held in secret. She admired him, in secret of course. The film stars were married in secret to avoid publicity.
a guilty secret: a secret that somebody feels ashamed about. He had revealed his guilty secret to me, a stranger.
be an open secret if something is an open secret, many people know about it, although it is supposed to be a secret. E.g. their affair was an open secret in army circles.
When she was photographed smoking in her car, her shameful secret was out.
divulge something (to somebody)| divulge what, whether, etc… (formal) /daɪˈvʌldʒ/ to give somebody information that is supposed to be secret. Reveal. E.g. Police refused to divulge the identity of the suspect. When is it appropriate to divulge a secret and how should it be done?
He would have to admit that he had betrayed the secret (If you betray a secret, you tell it to people who do not have the right to know it).
spill the beans: (informal) to tell somebody something that should be kept secret or private. E.g. In addition to telling us the good, the not-so-good and the surprising news about your relationship with food, you also spilled the beans on your deepest, darkest dieting secrets. Little children will usually spill the beans without meaning to.
let the cat out of the bag: to tell a secret carelessly or by mistake. E.g. I wanted it to be a surprise, but my sister let the cat out of the bag.
let slip something: to give somebody information that is supposed to be secret. E.g. I happened to let it slip that he had given me £1000 for the car. She tried not to let slip what she knew.
blurt something (out)| blurt that…| blurt what, how, etc… to say something suddenly and without thinking carefully enough. E.g. She blurted it out before I could stop her. ‘She's pregnant,’ Jack blurted.
give something/somebody away: to make known something that somebody wants to keep secret. E.g. She gave away state secrets to the enemy. It was supposed to be a surprise but the children gave the game away. His voice gave him away (= showed who he really was).
giveaway: something that makes you guess the real truth about something/ somebody. E.g. She pretended she wasn't excited but the expression on her face was a dead (= obvious) giveaway.
I found out the secret of success!
A new scientific study has uncovered the secret of eternal youth.
How did the secret get out?
There was some secret about the source of his wealth.
I make no secret of the fact that I would rather lie on a sofa than sweep beneath it.
He's made no secret of the fact that he'd like to manage the club.
He refuses to make any secret of his political allegiances.
I don't make a secret of my disability.
She revealed the secret behind her extraordinary success.
The secrets of staying healthy.
What's the secret of your success?
I couldn't live with this secret.
hide something to keep something secret, especially your feelings. Conceal. E.g. She struggled to hide her disappointment. I have never tried to hide the truth about my past. They claim that they have nothing to hide (= there was nothing wrong or illegal about what they did). She's behaving as if she has something to hide.
furtive: /ˈfɜːtɪv/ behaving in a way that shows that you want to keep something secret and do not want to be noticed. Stealthy. She cast a furtive glance over her shoulder. He looked sly and furtive.
surreptitious: /ˌsʌrəpˈtɪʃəs/ done secretly or quickly, in the hope that other people will not notice. E.g. She sneaked a surreptitious glance at her watch.
sneak: to do something or take somebody/something somewhere secretly, often without permission. E.g. We sneaked a look at her diary. I managed to sneak a note to him. I managed to sneak him a note.
glance: /ɡlɑːns/ a quick look. E.g. to take/have a glance at the newspaper headlines
stealthy: /ˈstelθi/ doing things quietly or secretly; done quietly or secretly. E.g. a stealthy animal. A stealthy movement. Stealthy footsteps.
sly: /slaɪ/ 1. acting or done in a secret or dishonest way, often intending to trick people. Cunning. E.g. a sly political move. A sly, manipulative woman. 2. suggesting that you know something secret that other people do not know. E.g. a sly smile/ grin/ look/ glance, etc.
Cunning: /ˈkʌnɪŋ/ able to get what you want in a clever way, especially by tricking or cheating somebody. E.g. a cunning liar. He was as cunning as a fox.
Listen to BBC Learning English
mum’s the word!
your secret’s safe with me: I won't tell anyone your secret
under wraps being kept secret until some time in the future. E.g. Next year's collection is still being kept under wraps. Keep it under wraps: keep it secret.
don't tell a soul: don't tell anyone
I won’t breathe a word: I won't tell anyone your secret
my lips are sealed: I won't tell anyone your secret
keep your mouth shut: keep a secret
blab: reveal a secret
blab (to somebody) (about something) | blab (something) (to somebody) (informal) to tell somebody information that should be kept secret. E.g. Someone must have blabbed to the police. Try not to blab the whole story. Someone blabbed to the press. I didn’t think you’d go blabbing the story all over town.
a blabbermouth /ˈblæbəmaʊθ/ someone who reveals secrets. E.g. Why did you tell her about the surprise party, you blabbermouth!" or "Why did you tell dad we were taking sips from his whisky bottle, you stupid blabbermouth!"
give the game away: reveal a secret
a skeleton in the cupboard (British English) (also a skeleton in the closet North American English, British English) (informal) something shocking, embarrassing, etc. that has happened to you or your family in the past that you want to keep secret. E.g. Most people have a few skeletons in the cupboard.