Edit: By "line" I don't mean the storyline but the literal, written line on the page.

If it ever happened to you that you were reading and some kind of distraction caused you to raise you eyes just for a moment, but enough to make you miss the line you were reading so you have to scan the text to find that line again, you know how annoying that is.

For example, consider the following scenario:

A: That twinkling light over there is really annoying. Everytime I see it from the corner of my eye I tend to look at it and I _____. I've literally _____ three times already!

Note that while this may cause you to lose track of the story and force you to re-read the whole paragraph, that's not necessarily true. For example, after raising my eyes for just a second I still know what's going on, but I need to find the right line. If it takes too long, I may not remember anymore what was happening and I may have to go back a couple of sentences. In my mother tongue there are two distinct expressions, that, though interchangeable to some extent, have slightly different meanings. One is more suited for when you just have to find the line, and the other for when you lose the thread of the story because you either took too long to find that line, or because the story was too complicated, or maybe because you're tired or for any other reason.

Are there two distinct expressions to distinguish between both things in English?

  • I know this is probably not what you want, but in the same situation as given in the example sentence, I might say, I looked up and got distracted, and it happened three times already! -- (Note that depending on my focus (which would depend on the situation), I might sometimes use it's happened and sometimes use it happened.) Mar 25, 2016 at 12:53

3 Answers 3


You lose your place as in

I lose my place rather easily when reading, i'll end up missing some lines which have important info in them.

You can lose your place two different ways: you can lose track of what word you are on at any point, or you can lose track of what line you are on when moving from one line to the next.

About forgetting what you've just read because you lose focus or something cut you away from the story I think you can say lose track of the story like the line as you mentioned in your note. When you lose track of a story, you forget it. As in,

You’re reading an article online. After a few seconds, you can’t remember what you’re reading. You’ve lost track.

  • 1
    That about losing track of what line you are on when moving from one line to the next is just what I meant! If you move to the next line and realise you're reading the same line again you don't necessarily lose track of the story, you just "lose your place" for a moment. If you skip to the next line as soon as you realise that, you don't necessarily have to re-read anything (or almost anything). "Lose your place" looks like what I was looking for.
    – Yay
    Mar 25, 2016 at 14:06
  • 1
    Glad you found it useful 😊. Though 'lose track of the line' is different from 'lose track of the story' I think. The context can help to make your meaning. Anyway, as you said "lose your place" can serve your purpose in a clear way. Good luck.
    – Yuri
    Mar 25, 2016 at 14:23

There could be many options. I'm writing a couple that I may use for this context.

".....I tend to look at it and get lost. I again have to re-read..."

works in a general case.

About those two different things, I'd use the same but with a bit more information.

".....I tend to look at it and lose the line I was reading. I again have to re-read..."

".....I tend to look at it and miss the story. I again have to re-read to get back on the track..."


"lost track", as in: "Oh dear, I've lost track of where I was up to before I heard the telephone ring."

"lost the thread", as in: "He was just about to find out who the killer was when his mother asked him a question. By the time he'd answered her and got back to his book, he had lost the thread and had to scan a couple of pages to pick up from where he'd stopped reading."

  • These are probably appropriate for losing track of the story, but not for simply not being able to find the right line on the page.
    – JavaLatte
    Mar 25, 2016 at 16:48
  • They may be appropriate for that, as well, but I disagree that they are inappropriate for answers to this question. Most of the answers given do not actually answer the question because it asks for an "idiomatic expression" and they are not. :-)
    – mikisdad
    Mar 27, 2016 at 0:06

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