scratch the surface, to

scratch the surface

 
1. Lit. to scratch something just on the surface, not extending the mark below the finish into the wood, stone, marble, below. There is no serious damage done to the bench. You only scratched the surface.
2. Fig. to just begin to find out about something; to examine only the superficial aspects of something. The investigation of the governor's staff revealed some suspicious dealing. It is thought that the investigators have just scratched the surface. We don't know how bad the problem is. We've only scratched the surface.
See also: scratch, surface

scratch the surface

Investigate or treat something superficially, as in This feed-the-hungry program only scratches the surface of the problem, or Her survey course barely scratches the surface of economic history. This metaphoric term transfers shallow markings made in a stone or other material to a shallow treatment of a subject or issue. [Early 1900s]
See also: scratch, surface

scratch the surface

COMMON If you only scratch the surface of something, you deal with or benefit from a very small part of something much bigger. The council have managed to provide housing for over ten thousand homeless people but they say they have only scratched the surface of the problem. At 13, her potential as a player is enormous and she has only scratched the surface of what she can do.
See also: scratch, surface

scratch the surface

1 deal with a matter only in the most superficial way. 2 initiate the briefest investigation to discover something concealed.
See also: scratch, surface

scratch the ˈsurface (of something)

deal with, understand, or find out about only a small part of a subject or problem: This report only scratches the surface of the problem. OPPOSITE: get to the bottom of something
See also: scratch, surface

scratch the surface

To investigate or treat something in superficial or preliminary fashion.
See also: scratch, surface

scratch the surface, to

To perform a task or investigate something superficially. This term comes from agriculture, where merely scratching the surface of the earth does not adequately prepare the soil for planting. It was transferred to other activities by the early 1900s. “You haven’t seen anything. They didn’t scratch the surface here,” wrote Lillian Hellman (Days to Come, 1936).
See also: scratch