I found this in a book that I'm reading. It says the following:

the mist was so thick, however, that visibility was down to a few yards

What does the phrase "down to a few yards" mean, taking visibility into context?

  • 3
    Hi! What have you tried so far to work it out? – Len Aug 23 '19 at 0:49

This means that a person cannot see further than a few yards (distance), because of th thick mist. In English it is common to say that "Visibility is down to X" where X is a measure of distance, to indicate that one cannot see further than X.


Usually, visibility is how far a person can see, and on the clear day it is as far as the horizon, so 3.57 km, which is 3 904 yards. From the definition, a "fog" is when that visibility is only 1 093 yards. So when a mist or a fog appears, the distance of visibility, as a number of yards, goes down, from the average almost 4000 yards, to around 1000 yards.

  • Note that 1093 yards is just the level where a fog is first said to be present. As a fog gets thicker, visibility can decrease to less than 1 yard (I have see this). Note also that the 3.57 km figure assumes a point-of-view i meter above sea level, looking over the ocean. It can be farther in some cases. Indeed from an airplane visibility can be hundreds of km in exceptional cases. All this is in the linked Wikipedia article. – David Siegel Aug 23 '19 at 16:49
  • @DavidSiegel Yes, but the question refers to the English language and usage of a phrase, not to scientific facts about visibility, I only used this numbers to explain the answer, and linked the article for the more curious people to find out. Adding such information in the answer might confuse people with information not needed to understand "down to a few yards" – TK-421 Aug 24 '19 at 20:00

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.