T-learning # Idiom
Speak Like a Native

on the sly

Click below to listen to the phrase.

Choose the correct definition a, b or c.

a) overtly

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b) hesitantly

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c) secretively

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If you do something on the sly, you do it in a secretive fashion, especially because you know you shouldn’t be doing it. The phrase is also used to mean ‘in a furtive manner’.

French translation

en douce, en catimini, par derrière

How NOT to translate into French : *sur le sournois

Examples in context

‘These People Who Work From Home Have a Secret : They Have Two Jobs

When the pandemic freed employees from having to report to the office, some saw an opportunity to double their salary on the sly. Why be good at one job, they thought, when they could be mediocre at two ?

They were bored. Or worried about layoffs. Or tired of working hard for a meager raise every year. They got another job offer.
Now they have a secret.
A small, dedicated group of white-collar workers, in industries from tech to banking to insurance, say they have found a way to double their pay : Work two full-time remote jobs, don’t tell anyone and, for the most part, don’t do too much work, either.’

The Wall Street Journal, 13 August 2021


‘UK accused of reintroducing virus restrictions on the sly

LONDON (AP) — The British government faced accusations Tuesday that it was reintroducing local lockdowns on the sly after it published new guidelines for eight areas of England that it says are hot spots for the coronavirus variant first identified in India.

Lawmakers and local public health officials expressed shock that they hadn’t been made aware of the changes to the guidelines to travel and social interaction that the Conservative government published online last Friday. They also said the guidelines weren’t mandatory and that the mixed messaging could undermine efforts to keep a lid on the virus by creating unnecessary confusion.’

AP News, 25 May 2021


Everyday usage

They have been drinking on the sly for quite some time now.

I’m supposed to be on a diet, but I still have the odd bar of chocolate on the sly.

EnglishTonic and Claramedia, 20 August 2021

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