Lindsay McMahon
"The English Adventurer"
Aubrey Carter
"3 Keys IELTS Certified Coach"

Do you ever have the gut feeling that something is not quite right?

Today, learn how to listen to your gut and get four new ways to say something is wrong in English.

Something fishy

Lindsay asks Aubrey if anything has happened to her recently that seemed a little fishy.

Aubrey shares that a few days ago someone cut down a big tree in a park behind her house.

She was confused because the tree looked healthy.

She contacted her Homeowner’s Association (HOA) and asked why this was happening.

The HOA responded that because the roots of the tree were pushing up a wall, they had to cut it down.

Anything fishy doesn’t check out

‘Fishy’ means something doesn’t seem right or doesn’t check out.

Recently, Aubrey and Lindsay did an episode about the phrasal verb ‘check out.’

This was episode AEE 2107: Check Out These Phrasal Verbs!

One of the meanings for ‘check out’ was for something to be true or make sense.

Saying ‘something is fishy’ means it doesn’t check out.

Today we’ll teach you other ways to express this idea.

Another episode we recommend is AEE 2091: Trust Your Brain for Better Language Learning with Steve Kaufmann.

#1: Doesn’t add up

This is quite similar to ‘doesn’t check out.’

Use this if something doesn’t make sense or there is no reasonable explanation for it.

This is often used in a more literal sense for numbers.

‘These numbers don’t add up.’

It is also used idiomatically to say something doesn’t make sense.


What she told me doesn’t add up. I feel like I’m not getting the whole story.
The cops said his story doesn’t add up.

#2: Something is awry

‘Awry’ means out of place or askew.

To say something is awry can mean it doesn’t make sense or is away from the expected course.

It can also refer to something not being in a correct position or its parts being incomplete or missing.


Something is awry with these directions. I feel like steps are missing.
When I texted and no one responded I could tell something was awry.

#3: Something is amiss

This means something is not in its right place or is seems off.

  • something is off: used to mean something doesn’t seem quite right


I can’t figure out what the problem is but something is definitely amiss.
The inspection is today and they’ll let us know if anything is amiss.


Here is a quick roleplay from Lindsay and Aubrey using the vocabulary shared in today’s episode.

This is a good way to show you how to use these words properly in a conversation.

In this scenario, Lindsay is telling Aubrey about a surprise party her friends threw for her.

Aubrey: I love that your friends pulled off a surprise party. That’s hard to do! Did you see it coming?
Lindsay: Not until I got to the restaurant. I had no clue that anything was amiss.
Aubrey: What was your first inkling that something was up?
Lindsay: Well, when I showed up and no one else was there I felt like something was awry.
Aubrey: I bet. Your friends are usually on time so you probably thought ‘Something isn’t adding up.’ Did they make you wait long?
Lindsay: No, just like 3 minutes and then they all popped out and yelled, “Surprise!”


There are many ways in English to say something doesn’t make sense.

Today’s phrases are great for connecting about something that didn’t quite add up.

You wouldn’t want to use the same phrase over and over again so it’s good to learn new words that have the same meaning.

It makes your story more vibrant and makes you sound more like a native English speaker.

What are other phrases or words you know that mean something is not right?

Share one in the comments below.

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