What does think on your feet mean?

Think on your feet is a commonly used expression in English. However it doesn’t have anything to do with feet! On this tip you’ll learn what think on your feet means and how to use it in the appropriate context.

Think on your feet means that one has to make a decision right at the moment – they don’t have time to think much about it beforehand. When someone thinks on their feet they are in a situation where they need to make a quick decision, usually because the previous plan did not work out.

I also have to say that think on your feet also relates to a person who has to come up with an answer without having time to think of a response. This may happen in the middle of a difficult situation, in a fight, or when someone is lying.

As you can see, this expression can have a positive connotation when it refers to an intelligent person that does not need a large amount of time to think of an alternative plan, however it can also be negative when it refers to someone who must create a fake story to cover a lie or a weak argument.

Think on Your FeetIn Portuguese, you may say “pensar rápido”, “responder rápido”, “tomar uma decisão de pronto”, and a few other expressions which mean the same.

See some examples below:

  • When our train was canceled, we had to think on our feet to come up with a way to arrive to the airport on time. (Quando nosso trem foi cancelado, tivemos de pensar rápido para encontrar uma maneira de chegar ao aeroporto a tempo.)
  • He had been lying the whole time so when we asked him where he had been the previous morning he had to think on his feet and create a believable excuse. (Ele andou mentindo o tempo todo, então ao perguntarmos a ele onde ele estava na manhã anterior, ele teve de pensar rápido e inventar um desculpa plausível.)
  • They were unable to think on their feet and as a result of this they let lost the client who was looking for a quick, assertive answer. (Ele não foram capazes de tomar uma decisão imediata e, consequentemente, perderam o cliente que procurava uma solução rápida e agressiva.)
  • During the interview, I had to think on my feet in order to be able to respond to the interviewer’s unexpected questions. (Durante a entrevista, tive de pensar rápido e assim responder as perguntas inesperadas do entrevistador.)
  • Reporters bombarded him with difficult questions, but Bill was very good at thinking on his feet. (Os repórteres encheram ele de pergunta, mas o Bill era muito bom em pensar rápido.)

The next time your plan doesn’t go as you had hoped, don’t get upset – use it as an opportunity to use this new expression!

Esta dica foi escrita pela prof. Kimberly Nentwich, que dá aulas na cidade de São Paulo, SP.

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