see the forest for the trees

see the forest for the trees

  1. (idiomatic) To discern an overall pattern from a mass of detail; to see the big picture, or the broader, more general situation.
  2. (idiomatic, in the negative, by extension) To be overwhelmed by detail to the point where it obscures the overall situation.
    Smith is good at detail, but can't see the forest for the trees.
  • French: l'arbre qui cache la forêt
  • German: den Wald vor lauter Bäumen nicht sehen
  • Portuguese: ver a floresta pelas árvores
  • Russian: не ви́деть ле́са за дере́вьями
  • Spanish: no dejar los árboles ver el bosque

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