on the sidelines


1. not actively participating in something






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be kept on the sidelines

Check Icon Analysis

To be 'on the sidelines' is an expression that comes from people involved in sports. Players who are watching the game but not participating at that time are 'on the sidelines'. To be 'on the sidelines' therefore means to be a spectator in something but not have any power to effect change or influence the situation. "She remained on the sidelines while her friends received their results." "Their mother watched from the sidelines as her children were taken away."

Check Icon Professional Examples (Basic)

  1. John was annoyed that he was kept on the sidelines while his boss negotiated the deal. He felt that he could have brought a lot to the table. 
  2. New employees are often left to watch from the sidelines until they are brought up to speed.
  3. Mary was sidelined from the discussions because her plain-speaking had a tendency to upset the apple cart.

Check Icon Social Examples (Basic)

  1. I always wanted to be on stage when I was younger. I was shy so I used to watch from the sidelines.
  2. Having to watch from the sidelines as my father was arrested was a traumatic experience.

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