AE 339 – Expression: To Pull The Wool Over Someone’s Eyes

Learn Australian English in this episode of Aussie English where I teach you the expression TO PULL THE WOOL OVER SOMEONE’S EYES.

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AE 339 – Expression:
To Pull The Wool Over Someone’s Eyes

What’s going on guys? Welcome to today’s expression episode.

Today’s expression episode is going to be “to pull the wool over someone’s eyes”, and this one was voted by everyone in the Virtual Classroom, The Aussie English Virtual Classroom Facebook group.

And it won. It got the most votes. And it was suggested by Petinka.

Thank you so much Petinka for suggesting this expression that everyone voted on and chose it as this week’s expression.

So, if you want to do that in the future if you want to suggest an expression, and if you want to vote on the expression that will be the expression for the week, then definitely jump over to the Aussie English Virtual Classroom.

Just click join. I’ll add you. We chat in there.

We do all sorts of exercises, video exercises, and once a week we vote on which expression I’ll be discussing on the weekends.

So, I hope you guys are having a good day. I haven’t yet set a time for these live streaming episodes.

I kind of just do them when I have time now on Saturdays.

Last week was the very first one, and it seemed that that was a great idea.

This is the second one, obviously. The basic format’s going to be the same thing.

I open it up, tell you about my week, tell you about the different words and everything in the expression, tell you about the expression, give you examples, and then we’ll go through some listen and repeat exercises.

And I guess the best bit is that at the end you can ask me questions about this expression and about anything else related to Aussie English, English, Australia, anything that you want to chat about.

So, keep those questions for the end. Anyway, let’s dive into today’s content, guys.

Crazy Australia fact number 2. I guess, we started last week, and I’m going to try and do this at the start of each episode.

But, Australia fact… today, the crazy Australia fact is that Australia is the driest continent on earth, except for Antarctica.

So, it’s the driest continent on Earth, except for Antarctica.

And it’s a pretty crazy thing, when you actually go and check out a map of where in Australia it’s populated you’ll see the entire continent, most of which is desert, and then there’s the Great Dividing Range that goes from Cairns, up in the north of Queensland, all the way down to Melbourne.

And then, you’ll have a little bit of green that goes all the way over to Perth, and that’s the area that’s the most densely populated of the entire country.

I think probably 99 percent of people live along the coastline.

The eastern coastline and the southern coastline of Australia.

And it’s because the desert is so dry that it’s just effectively uninhabitable.

Anyway, give me a thumb’s up, give me a love heart, if you guys can hear me okay.

And if you want to share the video now’s the time. Let’s dive into the different words that are used in the expression “to pull the wool over someone’s eyes”.

So, the verb “to pull”. If you pull it’s that you grasp something, you grab something, you hold on to something, and you bring it closer towards yourself or you take it somewhere.

So, if I grabbed onto you and led you in my direction, pulled you towards me, that’s to pull.

A car could tie itself onto another car or something like a tree stump, it could be anything, and if it drives away while it’s connected to that thing, it’s pulling that thing, it’s towing that thing, it’s taking that thing with it.

So, that’s to pull. To grasp something, to be connected to it, and then to bring it towards you, usually, or in a direction with you. To pull.

“Wool”. Wool, which rhymes with “pull”, wool is the hair or the fur that grows on a sheep.

And a female sheep is called a ewe, e-w-e. That’s a ewe. Ewe. Sounds like the pronoun “you”.

A male sheep is a ram. And sheep are one of the most common livestock animals that you’ll find in Australia.

And we specifically grow them for meat that we’ll get from lambs, baby sheep, and also obviously for the wool that we’ll get from the adult sheep.

I actually grew up on a farm…. didn’t grow up on the farm, sorry.

I grew up going to my grandparents’ farm and they had sheep when I was younger, and we used to shear them.

We’d go every year before summer time, after winter.

The sheep will have grown all their wool really really thick, you know, it’d be 10 centimetres or so dense, thick.

And we would hire a guy to come to my grandparents’ farm, to come to the sheds, and he would she every single one of my grandfather’s sheep in about a day.

So, it would… or maybe two days. But yeah, it used to be really good fun.

And then we would bale the wool up.

We would use this big machine that my grandfather had to put the wall into what we call “a bale”.

So, I guess, like a hessian sack, but huge. It was bigger than a man.

And it would be full of wool, and he would sell these.

So, it would be used for clothing and everything. So, that’s wool.

The fur or the hair that grows on a sheep.

If you pull something over something else, it is that you have pulled that thing, you’ve held it, grasped it, grabbed it, and taken it to cover something else.

So, you’ve pulled it over something, over the top of something, in order to cover it.

And we’re showing that the thing is being covered by using the phrasal verb + “over”.

So, “pull over”. Sorry, using the preposition “over”.

If we pull something over something else, we’re covering that thing.

So, you might pull the plastic covering over a pool, as in where you go swimming, and you’re pulling it over in order to cover the pool.

So, to pull something over is to cover that thing.

The last one, and I’m sure all of you guys know what this is, “an eye”.

I’ve got two eyes right here. I can see you with my eyes.

If I pull something over my eyes, imagine it’s my jumper or it could be my hair if I had hair.

I could pull my beard up over my eyes if my beard was longer.

So, my eyes are what I see with. And if I pull something over my eyes, I’m covering my eyes so that I can’t see.

So, I might pull my hat down over my eyes.

And a cool thing there you might notice is that we’re actually combining prepositions in phrasal verbs.

They may seem like they’re a little bit more complicated, but we’re combining multiple prepositions to kind of explain the action that’s happening there.

So, if I pull something down, I pull my hat down, that’s the motion of going from here to here.

And if I pull something down and over something else it’s just a very simple way of explaining a more complicated concept by using multiple prepositions.

Pull my hat down over my eyes. So, something to think about next time you hear a phrasal verb with multiple prepositions following it.

Often, it’s just describing two different movements that are happening the same time as the verb action that’s explaining those movements.

So, to define the expression “to pull the wool over someone’s eyes”, this is… it’s a very simple expression in regards to its definition, and it just means to deceive someone, to trick someone.

So, you’re effectively saying something or doing something in order to prevent them from knowing what you’re really doing.

So, if you pull the wool over someone’s eyes, you are deceiving that person, you’re tricking that person.

It could be malicious. It could be a bad thing.

Or it could be benign, where it’s not really that it’s a nasty act or a nasty thing that you’ve done, but you’re deceiving the person nonetheless.

So, it could be “a white lie”, meaning that it’s not really something bad.

You’ve told them something that’s not true, but it’s not a malicious lie. It’s not “a black lie”.

So, there’s those two kinds of lies that we would, I guess, refer to as “white lies” and “black lies” in English.

So, to talk a little bit about the origin of this expression guys.

At first, I was like, I guess, maybe it’s talking about a woollen jumper, a jumper made of wool, and someone’s pulling it over their eyes so that they can’t see.

But then, I looked up the definition of the expression, and underneath it had the origin of where this expression came from.

And I can’t remember it was the US or from the U.K., but apparently it dates back to the 16th and 17th centuries.

So, I guess it’s probably the UK, because I don’t think the Americas were around in the 1500’s.

But, it was when back then in that time men would wear wigs made of wool.

Right? So, I probably need to get a wig. If I wanted to pretend to have hair, I would buy a wig and put it on my head.

And instead of using other people’s hair they would use the hair from wool.

And you’d probably see this kind of wig in courts in the Western world.

So, you’ll see those barristers and judges wearing those weird wigs with, you know, the weird curly kind of hair.

And they would make those out of wool.

And I guess, the expression originates from having that wig pulled down over someone’s eyes so that they couldn’t see what was going on, so that they were being deceived or tricked.

That was the literal idea behind the expression to pull the wool in the wig, to pull the wool over someone’s eyes.

And the figurative meaning was that it was deceiving them, tricking them.

They couldn’t see what was going on. They were missing what was happening. They were being deceived.

So, three examples, as usual guys, for how we would use this expression to pull the wool over someone’s eyes.

If you pull the wool over someone’s eyes or if someone pulls the wool over your eyes, you’re deceiving someone or you’re being deceived.



So, example number one that I have here is that imagine that you tell your boss you’re sick.

So, you’re pulling a sicky, you’re pretending to be sick. You’ve called him up.

You’ve told him, “I’m feeling really bad today. I can’t come to work. Sorry, I’ll come in tomorrow.”

But instead of actually being sick, you’ve gone to the beach to have a surf or you’ve got to hang out with your mates.

Anyway, news travels back to your boss that same day and he finds out you’re not actually sick, that you’re not actually in bed trying to recover and that you’ve gone to the beach to surf or you’ve gone to see your mates.

And so, in this case you could say you’ve tried to pull the wool over your boss’s eyes. You’ve tried to deceive him.

Or you could say that you have failed to pull the wool over your boss’s eyes. You’ve failed to deceive him.

So, you might go in the next day or the next week to work and he’d be like, “Good try mate. You didn’t quite pull the wool over my eyes. You’re fired.”.

Yeah. Or he might just be a little annoyed and say, “You’re not going to get paid for that. There’s no sick leave. You lied to me. You tried to pull the wool over my eyes, but I worked out what was going on. You didn’t successfully deceive me.”

So that’s example number one.


Imagine, in example number two, that you are cheating on your partner.

So, you’ve gone away on a business trip and you’ve told your partner that it’s only going to be two nights.

You know, maybe you’re flying out to Sydney.

And instead of going to the airport to fly to Sydney, you’ve actually gone to a woman’s house or a man’s house.

Someone with whom you’re cheating on your wife, your partner, your husband, whoever it is.

So, you’re having an affair. You’re cheating on the person there.

But you’ve pulled the wool over their eyes by telling them, “I’m going to Sydney” or “I’m going on a business trip. I’m going to do this other thing that’s related to work.” when in reality, when in actual fact, you have gone to see someone else that you’re having an affair with.

So, you’re cheating on that person, you’ve lied to that person.

In this case, I would say it’s a black lie. It’s not a white lie. It’s not harmless. It’s a malicious lie.

And you’re trying to pull the wool over your partner’s eyes or you have successfully pulled the wool over their eyes, you’re deceiving them.


So, for example number three. Example number three.

This could be an example where we talk about white lies, guys.

So, a lie nonetheless but not a bad lie, not a black lie, not a malicious and nasty lie.

This is relatively benign and you’re doing it for the right reasons.

So, I imagine that it’s my dad’s 60th birthday, which actually is in about…

I think the 26th of September this year. So, two, three weeks away.

So, it’s his birthday and I’m trying to organise a surprise party for him.

So, I might tell him, “Dad, on the way home from work it’s really important that you go to the shops and grab some beer, ’cause I want to hang out with you tonight, dad. Just you and me.”.

When in reality, I’ve got 50 people coming over. We’re all going to hide in a room.

We’re going to be waiting with balloons, with cakes, with a candle.

I probably wouldn’t put 50 candles in it.

Maybe one of those candles that is 50, the number 50, with you know two flames on it.

And so, I’ve told him this lie. I’ve pulled the wool over his eyes.

I’ve told him to go get some beer, go grab some stubbies, maybe he’ll grab some tinnies, stubby bottles, tinnies the can, of beer.

Bring them home. When he gets home, he opens the door, and we all yell, “Surprise!”, and start singing happy birthday.

And he might say, “Oh, you really pulled the wool over my eyes. You really tricked me. You really deceived me. You got me.”

So, it was a white lie. It wasn’t a nasty lie. It was for a good reason.

It was a benign sort of trick. But, that’s pulling the wool over my dad’s eyes.

So those are the three examples, guys.

Now let’s get into the listen and repeat exercise.

So, this is your chance to practice your pronunciation and listen to what I say and then repeat what I say.

So, if you aren’t currently somewhere private, on your own, at home or out in the public, try and find somewhere where you can talk, whether it’s quietly or out loud, wherever you are, and listen and repeat after me, and let’s practice your pronunciation, guys.

And then, after they listen and repeat exercise I’ll go through a pronunciation tip regarding this phrase that we’re going to go through.

And then, after that we’ll go through some questions.

So, I have in mind anything that you want to ask me about this expression episode, any of the vocab that I’ve used, anything in English, anything about Australia.

If you have your questions I’ll be waiting around for 5 or 10 minutes after we finish this episode.

But let’s get into the lesson and repeat exercises, guys.

So, listen and repeat after me:

Listen & Repeat:

To pull.
To pull.
To pull.
The wool.
The wool.
The wool.
To pull the wool.
To pull the wool.
To pull the wool.
To pull the wool over someone’s eyes.
To pull the wool over someone’s eyes.
To pull the wool over someone’s eyes.

Now I’m going to go through a sentence saying it in the future and will conjugate through all the different pronouns.

They’re pretty much the same… we’ll they are the same for every single pronoun, but we’ll switch in the different pronouns.

So, listen and repeat after me, guys.

Listen & Repeat:

I’ll pull the wool over someone’s eyes.
You’ll pull the wool over someone’s eyes.
She’ll pull the wool over someone’s eyes.
He’ll pull the wool over someone’s eyes.
We’ll pull the wool over someone’s eyes.
They’ll pull the wool over someone’s eyes.
It’ll pull the wool over someone’s eyes.

Good job guys. Good job.

One thing that I know some of you are going to say or probably be thinking, “Geez, he says those L’s in a weird way. They almost sound like a W.”

And, I was actually trying to emphasise that fact.

We call that in Australian English at least, and I think British English too, potentially American English, we call that “the Dark L”.

The Dark L. So, we get lazy, guys.

When there’s an L at the ends of words that is preceded by a vowel sound, and which is followed by not a vowel sound, so a consonant sound, we pronounce it as an “iow” kind of sound.

So we’re not saying “l” where we’re putting the tongue up. We’re not saying “l”. We’re saying “iow”.

So, we make the sound with our lips instead of our tongue, and our tongue actually stays flat.

And so, that’s why we’re saying “pull”, “wool” and “I’ll” or “you’ll”, “we’ll”, etc., because that’s how I speak when I speak really quickly.

We’ll pull the wool over his eyes.

So, I want to talk about the Dark L in this pronunciation tip at the end of this episode, guys.

I guess, firstly, they should introduce the Light L as well.

So, the Light L is the L that we say at the beginnings of words and when the L is followed by a vowel sound.

So, for example “light”, “love”, “laughter”, “letter”.

Those words all have the Light L, “leh”, at the start of the word, and they’re followed by a vowel sound.

The Dark L is where there’s a vowel sound before the L, and the next sound after the L isn’t a vowel sound, it’s a consonant sound, or there’s just no sound at all.

So, some examples are instead of “ball”, I would say “ball”. Instead of “pull”, I would say “pull”.

Instead of “cool”, I would say “cool”. And instead of “whale”, I would say “whale”.

So it’s… the sound’s being made with my lips instead of my tongue.

And I was trying to emphasise that in those sentences.

One interesting thing to point out is that I think I noticed myself stopping at the end of “wool”, the word of “wool”, and not linking it to “over”.

But if I link the word of “wool” to “over”, “It’ll pull the wool over his eyes.”, I actually link it with the Light L.

So, I won’t say the Dark L there, because I’m linking it to a word that starts with a vowel.

So, I’ll still say, “I’ll pull…”, there’s two Dark L’s there. “I’ll pull the wool_over…” The Light L there, “wool_over”, “wool_over his eyes”.

So, just something interesting to chat about here at the end.

I wanted to give you one example of a word that has both the Light and the Dark L in it, “little”.

The Light L at the front there. They’re “L..”, “lit” “lit”.

And then, at the end that Dark L, “-le”. And it’s my lips doing the work. “Little”.

And for those of you who were here last week, you’ll notice that the T’s there are the T-flap.

And instead of saying “little” or “little”, I say “little”.

So, let’s go through the listen and repeat exercise one more time, guys.

I’ll try and do this. It’s hard. I have to think. I’m going to try and say the first two L’s, “I’ll pull…”.

I’m going to try and say those Dark L’s.

And then, I’m going to try and say the L at the end of the word “wool” as a Light L to link to the word “over”. “Wool_over”.

So, I’m going to do my best. See if you can do it as well. And then after this we’ll do questions.

So, keep your questions in your head. But let’s practice your pronunciation quickly.

I’ll pull the wool…

Let me do again. Let me do it again.

Listen & Repeat:

I’ll pull the wool over his eyes.
You’ll pull the wool over his eyes.
She’ll pull the wool over his eyes.
He’ll pull the wool over his eyes.
We’ll pull the wool over his eyes.
They’ll pull the wool over his eyes.
It’ll pull the wool over his eyes.

Great job guys. Great job.

I know that one is actually probably the most difficult sound to get in the Australian English accent.

This is a really difficult one.

I’ve found it hard to teach this, but I want to pay attention to it here so that when you guys hear this you’ll know at least what the natives are doing.

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