In this second post dedicated to life skills in English, I’d like to focus on the different ways you can say “I don’t know” in English.
As my clients will tell you, saying “I don’t know” to me is not an option in our lessons! I will not allow my clients to rely on me to give them the answers before they have tried themselves to seek the answers.
However, in life we are at some stage going to have to use this expression, so as variety is the spice of life, using different ways to say “I don’t know” would make your conversation far more interesting and natural.
As in the first post of the series, my inspiration comes from Macmillan Dictionary blog‘s own series. I have used their explanations and amended some of the explanations. Thank you, Macmillan.
This word is used informally and in spoken language, especially by teenagers who don’t want to answer their parents!
- ‘When do you have to submit this essay?’ ‘Dunno. I can’t remember.’
2. I have no idea/I haven’t a clue/I haven’t the faintest idea
These expressions are used when you have no information and you cannot guess the answer to a question
- ‘What time does the film start?’ ‘I have no idea. Why don’t you call the cinema?’
- ‘Would you by any chance know where St James’s Street is?’ ‘I haven’t a clue. Sorry.’
- ‘Could somebody please explain how this happened?’ ‘I haven’t the faintest idea.’
3. How should I know?/Don’t ask me/Search me
These expressions are used when you do not know something and you feel annoyed that someone is asking you about it.
- ‘Who left this mess on the table?’ ‘How should I know? I’ve only just come home.’
- ‘What time did she say she was catching her train? ’ ‘Don’t ask me. I’m always the last to know.’
- ‘Why didn’t he ask you for the keys?’ ‘Search me. I’m not a mind reader.’
4. Who knows?/It’s anyone’s guess
These are used for saying that you don’t know something because it is impossible for anyone to know it:
- ‘Will they ever find the missing aircraft?’ ‘Who knows? The search been going on for such a long time now.’
- ‘How the situation will develop from here is anyone’s guess.’
5. Your guess is as good as mine
This is used for saying that you know as little about something as the person who asked you about it
- ‘Do you think we will be able to book the restaurant for Friday?’ ‘Your guess is as good as mine.’
6. Not as far as I know
We use this to say that something may be true, but you do not have enough information to know whether it is or not
- ‘Has Clive left the company? I haven’t seen him for ages.’ ‘Not as far as I know, but I haven’t seen him recently either.’
7. It beats me
This is a rather informal expression to say that you do not know or understand something. “It” is often left out.
- ‘Why did he do such a stupid thing?’ ‘It beats me’
Please let me know if there are other expressions that I haven’t included here. I will then add them to the post.
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Ciao for now.