Have you ever been told to “let that sink in”? These days, there’s a funny picture of a bathroom sink standing in a doorway, and text underneath that says “let that sink in”. However, the phrase isn’t telling you to allow a kitchen sink into your property.
“Let that sink in” means take a minute to reflect on what I’ve just said. “It” is the information you’ve just been told, and “sink” is a verb. Think of it like dropping bread into water. At first, it floats, but as it absorbs more water, it gets heavier and ends up sinking.
In this article, I want to talk about how you can use it and its impact.
Introduction to the sentence: “Let that sink in”
“Let that sink in” can best be described as an “Instructional” or “Imperative” sentence. It’s giving the reader/listener instruction and telling them to do something.
The verb “sink” is an imperative verb- a verb that gives an instruction.
By telling the reader what to do, you’ll be having a stronger impact on them, as you’ll come across as an authority figure. They will think of you as someone who knows what they’re talking about.
The impact it has is that it gives people a moment to think about what you’ve just told them, making the emotional impact greater.
#1 After an amazing fact
When you’re telling someone an amazing fact, you can use “let that sink in” to give them a chance to consider just how significant the fact you’ve just told them is. They can dwell on how this new information has changed their perception of a particular topic.
For example, if I were to say “There are more stars in the sky than there are grains of sand on the Earth. Let that sink in.”
After I’ve said “Let that sink in”, the listener will have a chance to think about how many grains of sand there must be and think about how big the sky must be.
#2 After a gruesome fact
It can be just as impactful after telling them not a pleasant fact, but an utterly gruesome one. It will give them time to think about how despicable the fact you’ve just told them is. They will also be able to think about things that your fact alone didn’t such as emotional impact, how much it must have hurt, and impact on loved ones.
For example, “6 million people were killed during the Holocaust. Let that sink in”.
#3 As a simple instruction
There will be other times when “Let that sink in” won’t be used for impact, but simply as an instruction. This will usually happen in a teaching environment.
The speaker will be saying it to allow their students to absorb what they’ve just been taught, so they don’t feel like their learning has been rushed.
“And that is why Henry VIII died. Let that sink in for a moment and we’ll start learning about what happened after his death”.
The teacher is allowing his students to absorb the information before moving onto the next topic.
#4 To increase impact of emotion
The final way you can use “let that sink in” is to convey emotions. This is similar to the point about gore, but it can be applied to all emotions, not just disgust.
“Let that sink in” allows the reader to go deep into their own emotions, and consider several reasons why the fact you’ve just told them is so powerful.
“Since 1900, poverty rates have gone down by 90%. Let that sink in”.
This is a great way to use it to get positive emotions.
“I paid £100 but it broke in the mail. Let that sink in.”
A great way to make the reader feel your anger.
When to use the phrase: “Let that sink in”
Usually when you say “let that sink in”, you’re trying to embiggen the effect of what you’ve just said. When talking, you’re most likely to hear it during casual conversation. This kind of persuasive language is rarely used in formal settings.
It’s unlikely you’ll see it in official documents. However, you may see it in opinion pieces and gossip columns where the writer tries to make the reader see things from their point of view.
So whenever you hear the phrase, chances are what you’re watching is an opinion and has a bias, it’s not the news.
Don’t overuse it!
Although “let that sink in” can have a significant impact, you need to be careful to not use it too often.
If you use it after stating mundane facts, or statements that won’t create much motion, you will be ruining its impact when you have good reason to use it.
Rather than pausing to think about what you’ve just said, people will think you’re being annoying and pay less attention to what you have to say.
Try and avoid using it more than once in each piece of text.
Alternative ways of saying “Let that sink in”
As with most other phrases we have, there are different ways you can say “let that sink in”. Here are just a few of them.
“Think about that”. Uses a less metaphorical approach in telling you what to do.
“How good/scary/sad/bad is that?”. Rather than allowing you to think about the emotions, it tells you what emotions you should be feeling.
“Dwell on that”. This one has a similar meaning to the others, it’s telling the reader to take a minute to think about what they’ve just been told.
Of course, there’s plenty of other ways you can say “let that sink in”, but those were some of the most common.
“Let that sink in” means “take a moment to think about what I’ve just told you”.
It’s usually used to make the reader/listener get a stronger sense of the emotions that the information should send across.
This emotion could be fascination, disgust, sadness, joy, anger, or any other emotion.
The only time it’s not used emotion is when a teacher says it as general instruction.
Allowing your reader time to reflect will give them a higher chance of remembering what you said to them. They’ll think of you as more interesting and be likely to listen to you again.