I have a question about the meaning of

try to grasp the stakes here

for a difficult situation to take the control?

  • Ok I understand it,now make sense.I saw (with subtitles) this sentence in Walking Dead. Thanks for your help.
    – Sakis
    Commented Nov 21, 2014 at 14:52
  • The TV series is called The Walking Dead. Also, you can not always trust subtitles. If a non-native speaker is making the subtitles, they are apt to be wrong. But even if a native speaker makes the subtitles, they can also be wrong. Worse, if the subtitles (or close captions) are machine-produced, they can be wrong, sometimes hilariously so.
    – user6951
    Commented Nov 21, 2014 at 19:09

2 Answers 2


I assume Jasper is right about grasp, of course, but this is why OPs should provide as much context as possible. Theoretically, at least, "try to grasp the stakes here" could mean something like this:

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(because, when dealing with tent stakes, we grasp them with our hands, not our understanding). My example may be far-fetched, but it's plausible:

When you are setting up your tent, try to grasp the stakes here, in your fingers, not in your palm. A cut on a finger is much easier to treat in the wilderness than a cut across the palm of your hand.

However, it's more likely that grasp in this context means understand.

As for stakes, the word is used in gambling as Jasper mentions, but, in this context, I believe it's more abstract. "The stakes are high" means there is much to lose.

So, I'm guessing the original statement is an emotional plea for someone to consider the importance of a particular issue. For example, suppose a doctoral candidate is on the eve of his oral exams. Passing means he'll be accepted into the program, and not passing means he'll be done at the school. He is full of angst over the prospect of flunking. A friend tries to console him:

Don't fret about it. It's just a test.

to which he replies:

Just a test? This isn't just some pop quiz – my whole future hinges on this! Try to grasp the stakes here!

meaning: "Try to understand how important this is!"


"Grasp the stakes" means "understand the risks and potential consequences".

In this usage, the implied "grasper" is your "mind", not your "hand". You mentally "grasp" something when you understand it.

In this usage, "stakes" are "what is being fought over" or "the prize that is being gambled on". This term is used in horse racing and casino gambling.

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