The idiom “shed some light” is used often in conversational English and as with many other idiomatic phrases, it is one that can be difficult for some audiences to interpret. Here we discuss the phrase “shed some light” and provide an explanation and clarification for when it should be used.
What Does “Shed Some Light” Mean?
The phrase “shed some light” is used when referring to a confusing topic or a situation. It means that someone is going to provide (shed) some additional information (some light) on that topic or situation to make it more easily understood or less confusing.
This expression can be one of the more difficult idiomatic phrases to figure out because if you look up the definitions of each of the words in a dictionary and put them together, they will not really help the phrase to make any more sense.
For example, The Cambridge Dictionary defines “light” as “the brightness that comes from the sun, fire, etc. and from electrical devices, and that allows things to be seen” or ” a piece of equipment that produces light, such as a lamp or a bulb.”
As you can see, neither of these definitions would make literal sense in this expression, since as you will learn in the examples, there is no actual light involved.
Examples Of How To Use “Shed Some Light” In A Sentence
Use “shed some light” in a sentence when you want to ask for clarification on a topic or situation, show that you received clarification about a topic or situation, or discuss how a topic or situation was clarified.
Let’s look at some examples of phrases where this idiom is appropriate.
- No one could understand why Emily was so upset at work all week. I finally decided to talk to her best friend to see if she could shed some light on the situation.
- The results from the tests that the doctor ran finally shed some light on why I’ve been feeling so tired and weary all of the time.
- The book was written by the author in such a realistic and informative way that it shed some light on the problems that many people were facing during that time period.
As you can see from the example sentences, the topic or situation became (or would become) clearer after the light was shone on it. People could understand why Emily was upset, the patient could understand why they were not feeling well, and the readers could understand better the problems of a particular time period.
Do “Shed Some Light” And “Shine Some Light” Mean The Same?
When used idiomatically, the phrases “shed some light” and “shine some light” mean the same thing and can be used interchangeably. However, “shine some light” can have another additional meaning and be used in a literal way as well to mean that an actual light is being shone somewhere.
The phrase “shed some light” cannot be used in the same literal sense as “shine some light” and can only be used in the everyday vernacular way discussed here.
Let’s look at an example of a phrase that uses “shine some light” but where “shed some light” could be used in its place instead.
- I really hope that the neighborhood meeting on Sunday will shine some light on why so many mailboxes have been vandalized lately.
Now, let’s look at an example of where “shine some light” is used literally and cannot be replaced by “shed some light.”
- Can you use the flashlight to shine some light under the couch while I look for the lost remote control?
The more popular phrase of the two is by far “shed some light” as shone by the Google Ngram Viewer below. So it is most certainly the one that you will hear more often. In fact, “shine some light” was practically not used at all throughout history and only recently had some slight usage.
What Does It Mean To “Shed A New Light” On Something?
To “shed a new light” on something, means that some additional piece of information that has been presented on a topic or situation completely changes the way that you were thinking about or approaching that topic or situation before the information was received.
It is slightly different from “shed some light” because it implies not just a clarification of something, but a whole new way of looking at or approaching the topic or situation.
Let’s look at some examples:
- After the firefighters had completed their investigation, it shed a new light on how the house fire started. Previously, everyone had assumed that it was caused by lightning.
- When Maria’s boyfriend unexpectedly proposed to her, it shed a new light on their relationship because none of us thought that they were planning to be together in the long term.
“Shed Some Light” – Synonyms
There are various other ways to express the concept implied by the phrase “shed some light.” Some of the more popular words and phrases that mean the same thing include:
- Provide/Provided insight
- Give/Gave an explanation
- Give/Gave a sense of
- Make/Made clear
- Provide/Provided a clue
- Give/Gave an idea
Martin holds a Master’s degree in Finance and International Business. He has six years of experience in professional communication with clients, executives, and colleagues. Furthermore, he has teaching experience from Aarhus University. Martin has been featured as an expert in communication and teaching on Forbes and Shopify. Read more about Martin here.