What Does Caught Off Guard Mean?

Caught Off Guard Meaning

Definition: To surprise someone by doing or saying something unexpected.

The phrase to catch someone off guard means to surprise someone in a way he or she was not expecting. It can be used in positive, negative, and neutral contexts. It is unclear when this idiom was first used. A similar English idiom, to catch someone by surprise, has the same meaning.

Ways to Use Caught Off Guard

This phrase may be applied to positive, negative, and neutral situations. If a man sends a dozen roses to his wife while she is at work for no apparent reason, this will likely catch her off guard. Equally, the news that someone’s close friend has been involved in a car accident might catch him off guard.

caught off guard synonymA woman’s coworker might catch her off guard by accidentally sending her an email in which he talks badly about another employee. Although the email has been wrongly addressed to her and has nothing to do with her, it will still catch her off guard because she was not expecting it.

The phrase still has the same meaning despite the connotation it carries or the context in which it is used.

Examples of Caught Off Guard

caught me off guardThe following example scenario in which a man has just told his girlfriend that he loves her for the first time illustrates the correct use of this idiom.

Brett: I have something important to tell you. I love you.

Carrie: Wow.

Brett: What, don’t you love me too?

Carrie: Of course I do. It just caught me off guard.

More Examples

  • Should I bring this up during an interview or afterwards? I don’t want to catch someone off guard and surprise them. –Washington Post
  • It may feel a bit out of the blue to the person who receives it. That’s okay. In fact, it’s good. Your goal is to catch someone off guard with a signal that you care, and that you’re thinking about them. –CBS News

Summary

The English phrase to catch someone off guard means to do something that surprises someone, especially at a moment in which he or she was not expecting it. The phrase can be used in positive, negative, and neutral contexts.

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