On any given day, you might catch a myriad of things, both literally if they are thrown at you and figuratively if they are not. The word catch has many different uses, and they are easy to get confused! However, these are several phrases that are commonly used and contain catch so that you can master the word!
Catch a ball
To catch a ball is very straightforward, as this phrase uses the literal meaning of catch. If you are outside at a park and someone throws the ball at you, you can prevent the ball from hitting the ground by catching it.
- Max is so uncoordinated that he can’t catch a ball that is throw towards him even if that ball is very large and coming towards him very slowly!
- Amy is a master at catching balls as she played softball for ten years when she was young.
- Pitchers in baseball are well-known for not being great at catching a ball thrown towards them.
Similar to catching a ball, playing catch is the game of tossing a ball back and forth between two or more people. This is usually done with something like a baseball and can involve animals such as dogs as well.
- Rebecca and Terry are going to play catch with Fredo at the park, do you want to go with them?
- Some of my favorite memories of my dad are playing catch with him in the yard after school.
- You wouldn’t expect it to be if you were just observing, but playing catch can actually be a really good workout! If you miss the ball, you have to run to get it.
Catch a bus, train, taxi, plane, etc.
In this context, catching a bus is not literally catching it as someone else throws it. Catching a type of public transportation means to take it where you need to go. You can catch the train to Marseilles if you are in Paris, or catch the bus from Bangkok to Chiang Mai. However, you cannot catch a bike or your own car to go somewhere. You can only catch public transportation.
- I thought I was going to be late, but thank god that I ended up catching the plane!
- If you arrive to this bus stop at 11am sharp, you will be able to catch the Hogwarts Express to school with Harry Potter!
- Don’t be afraid to catch a taxi to the restaurant if you’re running late since they’re really cheap anyway.
Catch a chill
If you are out in the cold weather too long, you can catch a chill. This means that you have been exposed to the cold (whether that be the weather like snow, or something like air conditioning) for so long that you have started to sniffle and show signs of getting sick. That person may feel like they have a cold, but it is usually not very serious.
- If you keep staying out in the rain, you’re going to catch a chill!
- Candice didn’t believe her mother when she said that turning the air conditioning so low would lead to her catching a chill, but now she’s in bed sick.
- The best thing to do after you have caught a chill is to just drink warm fluids like soup and make sure you sleep enough!
Catch a cold
If you stay out in the cold weather or air conditioning for too long, you may get a bad fever or have other related sick symptoms. Catching the common cold means that you get sick with a cold. You most likely will have a fever, stuffy and runny nose, headache, etc.
- Don’t stay out too late tonight because you are sure to catch a cold.
- If you catch a cold, try to stay home so you will not pass on the cold to your coworkers.
- The reason that your mom always bundles you in huge coats during the winter is because she doesn’t want you to catch a cold.
Catch a thief
If you find that you are missing something from your bag, you might suspect that it has been taken by someone. You need to catch a thief, or find the person who took something from you. Find the thief so you can get your belongings back! You might be able to ask the police to catch the thief for you, but most of the time you will have to do it yourself.
- The art museum was in a panic when they found their key piece of art for their new gallery gone, but thankfully the police were able to catch the thief.
- “Catch that thief!” the woman shouted as a masked man ran past, holding a pink purse.
- In some countries, the laws make it so that police have a hard time catching thieves.
Someone or something that becomes very popular in a short period of time is something that catches fire. This collocation usually refers to a thing, such as a video, an app, or a website rather than a person. However, groups such as music bands can catch fire as well.
While catching fire is most often used in the metaphorical sense to mean increasing in popularity significantly, it can also be used literally. This usage usually has an extra on in the center of the phrase. Something that catches on fire starts to burn.
- The number of boy bands that have caught fire among teenage girls, especially, has been incredible in the past few years.
- It seems that the things that catch fire among young people are always a puzzle to older adults.
- Vanna wasn’t paying attention to where she was stepping; she accidentally put her foot in the fire pit and her pants caught on fire!
Catch sight of someone or something
If you’re walking down the street and see someone that you were not expecting to see, you catch sight of them. You can also see something like a poster and catch sight of the poster. This is often used to describe a casual glance where you see something significant that you were not planning on seeing.
- When Mary was walking out of the shopping mall, she thought that she caught sight of her best friend.
- Quincy thought that he caught sight of Lady Gaga on 5th Avenue in New York City, but it turned out to be just a regular person.
- My brother swears that he caught sight of Lin Manuel Miranda last time he was in Buenos Aires but that doesn’t make any sense.
Catch a glimpse
To catch a glimpse of someone or something is very similar to catching sight of them. However, the difference is that catching sight of someone is usually something that lasts longer and makes you surer about what you saw. Catching a glimpse means that you were only able to get a tiny look at the thing, so often you cannot be sure if you actually saw what you think you saw or not.
- Every time I catch a glimpse of a clear glass bottle, I think of the party that I threw my first week of college.
- Taylor thought that she caught a glimpse of her ex-boyfriend, but she couldn’t be sure it was him.
- “Are you sure you saw your boss colluding with the CEO of your rival company?” “Well, I only caught a glimpse of the name on the document before he yelled at me to stand back, but I think so!”
Catch a whiff
If you use your sense of smell, you can catch a whiff of something. This means to smell a smell that is faint in the air, the way that you might smell freshly baked cookies if you are walking down the street next to a bakery.
- The dog started jumping frantically up and down when it caught a whiff of a squirrel.
- I caught a whiff of the perfume that I used to use in college, and that brought back a lot of good memories from that time.
- Because your sense of smell is most closely linked to your memory in your brain, catching a whiff of something can really make you remember all kinds of things about your past.
Catch someone’s attention
If you see someone that you know and want them to notice you, you can try to catch their attention. If you are at the zoo with your children and you want the animals to react to your children, you can also try to catch the attention of lions and zebras. However, be careful that you do not anger them.
- At the party last night, I was trying to catch the a really pretty girl’s attention; she finally gave me her number!
- The mother was yelling at the giraffe to try to catch its attention but the giraffe was not having it.
- When I was sitting in Starbucks, I saw my mother walk by outside but couldn’t catch her attention as she passed by.
Catch someone’s eye
Something that appeals to you is something that catches your eye. If you really like a necklace in the window of the store, it has caught your eye and you might feel compelled to go buy it. A person that you find quite attractive can also catch your eye.
- I was at a cooking class when I looked up across the room and saw the most beautiful slice of chocolate cake that has ever caught my eye.
- The first time that we met, it was his sense of humor that caught my eye about my husband, not his looks.
- I never thought that she would be the kind of girl that caught my eye but it just so happened that she did!
Catch your breath
If you have been exercising vigorously for a while, you might need to take a moment to catch your breath before being able to continue! You need to catch your breath because you have been using up your energy and need to rest, to recover your breathing rate back to what it should be.
- After running a marathon of 26 miles, the athlete need several minutes to catch her breath before she was breathing normally enough to finish the interview with ESPN.
- If you feel like you are always trying to catch your breath, even if you haven’t been exercising, you need to go see your doctor.
- Instead of trying to push through the pain, taking a break during a workout to catch your breath is actually much better for your muscles and your long-term health.
Catch someone red-handed
If you suspect that someone is doing something bad, you can catch them red-handed if you see them actually committing the bad deed. Most of the time this phrase refers to catching someone doing something evil, like stealing a car or lying on tax forms, but it can also be used to describe catching someone doing something that you simply don’t expect. For example, if your son usually doesn’t buy gifts for you but you suddenly start seeing flowers, you can catch him red-handed if you see him buying more flowers at the flower shop.
- The FBI was chasing down a criminal but couldn’t get enough evidence to arrest him until they could catch him red-handed.
- There really is no defense if someone catches you red-handed.
- Even if you are not doing anything wrong, the police could claim that they caught you red-handed in their testimony to confuse the jury.
Catch someone in the act
This collocation has the same meaning as catching someone red-handed. The difference is subtle and the two can usually be used interchangeably, but the difference comes from the different types of evidence that you find. If someone is holding evidence, such as a drug dealer having a pile of drugs in the trunk of his car, catching him is usually said to be red-handed. If he is actually in the act of selling drugs to someone, in other words actually carrying out a bad action, that is catching him in the act.
- Police often have trouble catching criminals in the act because it’s hard to predict when and where they will try to commit crimes.
- Catching someone in the act of hot-wiring a car has been made exponentially easier by the invention of traffic light cameras.
- The authorities were never able to catch Al Capone in the act, so they arrested him on charges of tax fraud.
Catch someone off guard
To surprise someone means to catch them off guard. This expression comes from the fact that some people are often guarded when they meet new people, or they are defensive about themselves and wary to let new people into their social circle. If someone is off guard, they are not expecting someone new to barge in and bother them. You surprise them and catch them off guard. This is usually something that is not entirely welcome on the part of the person being surprised.
- I nearly had a heart attack when my brother came in and caught me off guard!
- The trick to negotiating is catching the other person off guard, because they are more likely to agree to your demands that way.
- There is no point to always being suspicious of others, which means that sometimes people will catch you off guard. However, that’s not a bad thing.
Catch someone by surprise
A similar phrase to catching someone off guard is catching someone by surprise. The difference is that catching someone by surprise is often a good type of surprise.
- My boyfriend caught me by surprise when he came with flowers and cheesy broccoli soup to my office on my birthday.
- The phone ringing caught me by surprise because I was so immersed in my work.
- The football player caught me by surprise when he starting explaining all the economics principles that he had learned about in school.
Catch someone at a bad time
If you try to catch someone by surprise, the possibility that you may run into is that you catch them at a bad time. This means that you are surprising them at a time that is inconvenient for them. They likely have something to do, such as having a meeting or having to pick up their children from school. Whether you have caught someone at a bad time is a polite question to ask when you call someone, especially if they are known to be very busy.
- “Have I caught you at a bad time?” Kate asked when she heard Paul pick up the phone.
- I’m sorry to say that you have caught me at a bad time, but how about we schedule something for next week to prevent a situation like this again?
- Ursula didn’t actually catch me at a bad time, but I said that she did because I really don’t enjoy having to spend time with her.
Catch the news or a TV show
This collocation is one that is commonly used when asking questions. Your coworkers might ask you if you caught the Super Bowl last night, or whether you caught the news story about those hikers who were found after 2 months of being trapped in the mountains. This expression almost always refers to the news or something that you would see on TV.
- Did you catch that incredible basket during the last minute of the basketball championship game last night?
- Did you catch the news story about the tweet that the president posted yesterday?
- Last night’s new episode of How to Get Away with Murder on television was so intense – did you catch it?
Like many other expressions with catch, good catch has both a literal and figurative meaning. If you are playing in a baseball game and are able to catch a ball that should have been out of reach, someone can compliment your catch by saying, “Good catch!” If your friend uses good catch figuratively, it can mean that you pointed out a detail, mistake, typo, etc. that most people would not have noticed. They are trying to compliment your ability to notice details and discover mistakes.
- If it weren’t for Jason’s great catch on that report yesterday, our company would have been all over the news!
- The detective’s good catch led the police department to the correct convict.
- The baseball player had a great catch yesterday that helped his team win the game.
Someone is a catch
Someone who is a catch is someone who has a lot of great qualities and would be a good partner – usually in the romantic sense.
- Calvin is a catch! He has a stable job and is really kind to anyone he dates.
- Your boyfriends are always great catches; mine are not.
- Don’t put yourself down! You actually have a lot going for you and are a great catch!
Catch you later!
When you are leaving, you can tell someone you will catch them later to indicate that you will see them later. This greeting is rather informal, usually used between friends and close family members only.
- I have to go, but I will catch you later!
- Don’t tell someone that you will catch them later unless you actually plan on seeing them again!
- Bobby said he would “catch the interviewer later” after his interview, and he was not offered the job.
Someone didn’t catch…
Saying that you didn’t catch something is another way to say that you did not quite hear what was said. If you say this to a native speaker, they will usually repeat what you didn’t hear.
- I’m sorry, I didn’t catch what you said. Could you repeat it?
- This is all I heard; I didn’t catch the rest because all the kids started yelling again.
- Did you catch what the professor said about toxic masculinity?
What’s the catch? Or The catch is…
If a salesperson comes up to you and offers you a deal that seems so amazing you can’t refuse, you need to ask them, “What’s the catch?” This question will prod them to explain why they are able to offer such an appealing offer to you. If you hear something that sounds incredible, it’s definitely best to figure out what the catch is before you take that person up on the deal.
- This freelancer sounds like she can offer a ton of amazing work – the only catch is that she’s new to the business and may not know how to manage all the nuances of this industry.
- If the salesperson promises you that there’s no catch to an amazing offer, you might want to think about walking away because it’s likely they are not being up front about it.
- Honestly, this business is so profitable that we can offer deals without there being a catch.