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give someone to understand something

to explain something to someone; to imply something to someone. (Possibly misleading someone, accidentally or intentionally. See also given to understand.) Mr. Smith gave Sally to understand that she should be home by midnight. The mayor gave the citizens to understand that there would be no tax increase. He didn't promise, though.
See also: give, understand

given to understand

[of someone] made to believe [something]. (See also give someone to understand.) They were given to understand that there would be no tax increase, but after the election taxes went up. She was given to understand that she had to be home by midnight.
See also: given, understand

I don't understand (it).

 and I can't understand (it).
I am confused and bewildered (by what has happened). Bill: Everyone is leaving the party. Mary: I don't understand. It's still so early. Bob: The very idea, Sue and Tom doing something like that! Alice: It's very strange. I can't understand it.
See also: understand

give to understand

Lead one to think, as in I was given to understand that the President was coming here. [Mid-1500s]
See also: give, understand
References in classic literature ?
I don't know--it is not easy to describe--nothing striking, but you feel it when he speaks to you; you cannot be always sure whether he is in jest or earnest, whether he is pleased or the contrary; you don't thoroughly understand him, in short--at least, I don't: but it is of no consequence, he is a very good master.
She begged him to choose it for himself, but he refused to do that - I could not understand why - so she plucked it for him, and gave it into his hand.
Then the magician brewed a powerful potion out of nine sorts of herbs which he had gathered himself all alone by moonlight, and he gave the youth nine spoonfuls of it daily for three days, which made him able to understand the language of birds.
Then I knew that not by wisdom do poets write poetry, but by a sort of genius and inspiration; they are like diviners or soothsayers who also say many fine things, but do not understand the meaning of them.
Will not the merchant understand and be disposed to cultivate, as far as may be proper, the interests of the mechanic and manufacturing arts, to which his commerce is so nearly allied?
For how can people, when once they understand their system, fail to see in it the best possible plan of the best possible state of society?
But Mademoiselle Cormon was not a woman to understand the connection which the chevalier intimated between his congratulatory wish and the false front.
Song,' it is a term whose sense every one understands.
She understood from all this what a woman understands first of all, if she feels genuine love, that is, that I was myself unhappy.
All the pious ideas that had been so long forgotten, returned; he recollected the prayers his mother had taught him, and discovered a new meaning in every word; for in prosperity prayers seem but a mere medley of words, until misfortune comes and the unhappy sufferer first understands the meaning of the sublime language in which he invokes the pity of heaven
37} Sparta and Lacedaemon are here treated as two different places, though in other parts of the poem it is clear that the writer understands them as one.
Firstly, he learns to know his country, and is better able to undertake its defence; afterwards, by means of the knowledge and observation of that locality, he understands with ease any other which it may be necessary for him to study hereafter; because the hills, valleys, and plains, and rivers and marshes that are, for instance, in Tuscany, have a certain resemblance to those of other countries, so that with a knowledge of the aspect of one country one can easily arrive at a knowledge of others.
The general who thoroughly understands the advantages that accompany variation of tactics knows how to handle his troops.
My lord understands that there can be no supper unless he is allowed to be present.
He estimates him fairly, indeed, and understands him well; but he unriddles his character rather by acuteness than by sympathy.