a fly on the wall

Click below to listen to the phrase.


Choose the correct definition a, b or c.

a) someone who can secretly see and hear what happens

Well done ! That’s the right answer.

If you say you would like to be a fly on the wall in a certain situation, you mean that you would like to be there secretly to see and hear what happens.

The phrase is also often used in relation to ’fly-on-the-wall documentaries’, which are films of real life situations supposedly made without affecting the behaviour of the participants.

French translation

se faire tout petit, être une petite souris, pris sur le vif


Examples in context

‘The US version of award-winning TV comedy The Office is to end its eight-year run next year. However, they decided "the show would be changed to such a degree it wouldn’t be the same show".The final season, which begins on 20 September on NBC in the US, will tie up many of the characters’ storylines and reveal the identities of those shooting the fly-on-the-wall documentary at the Dunder Mifflin Paper Company.’

BBC News, 22 August 2012


‘Kathleen Parker : Lunch with President Obama and Mitt Romney : The fly on the wall sees it all. Much speculation has followed the private luncheon between President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. Reporters received only the homophonically ironic luncheon menu in response to queries about what transpired in the presidential dining room.’

Deseret News, 3 Dec. 2012


Everyday usage

I’d give anything to be a fly on the wall when she tells him.

I would love to be a fly on the wall at that meeting.

b) someone that spoils a good situation

Sorry, wrong answer. Please try again.

c) someone who is very excited or very happy

Sorry, wrong answer. Please try again.

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