Advanced English Conversation: I Don’t Know

How many ways do you know to say “I don’t know” in English?

Native English speakers typically use many different ways to say this – often to show that they feel annoyed by a situation which seems illogical.

If you learn even one of these phrases, you’ll sound more natural! Check out the video below to learn five typical phrases (and a bonus expression). If you need more help, the transcript is underneath.

Video Transcript

Hi there – I’m Clare from english-at-home.com

Lots of people ask me for different ways of saying something. So today, I want to look at more advanced ways of saying “I don’t know”.

In fact, I’ve got five phrases to tell you today, and these are really really common with native English speakers – so I think you should know them!

But before we get started, i’ve got a quick favour to ask you. If you like my videos, please subscribe to my youtube channel, because you get a new video lesson every week.
You can subscribe by clicking the button here.

OK – five phrases to say “I don’t know”.

1. Who knows?

We say who knows when we don’t know the answer to a question, but we think the situation is a little bit stupid and we feel a little bit annoyed.

“Why did the boss ask you to re-organise the whole filing cabinet?”

And you can reply:
“Who knows?”

2. Search me!

This is another example when we don’t know something, and we feel a little bit annoyed. So It’s like saying “ you can search all through my brain – but you won’t find the answer.”

“Why has the boss called a special meeting this evening?”
“Search me!”

3. Don’t ask me!

We say “Don’t ask me” when again, we don’t know the answer, and we feel a little bit annoyed.

So, imagine I’m the secretary to a boss, and the boss is going to a conference. And the boss keeps changing the details. So he keeps changing the flights, he keeps changing the hotels, and because I’m the secretary, I have to make all those changes.

So somebody says to me:

“Why does he keep changing his mind?” and I can say

“Don’t ask me – I’m only hte secretary!”

But don’t confuse “don’t ask me” with “don’t ask”. We say “don’t ask” when someone asks a question and we don’t want to give a reply. Maybe because the experience was bad or because we just don’t want to talk about it. So for example:

“How was your weekend?”
“Don’t ask!”

4. How should I know?

This is another example when we feel a little bit annoyed. So you ask me a question, and I don’t know the answer, or maybe I’m just the wrong person to ask. So for example:

“Why’s the train late again?”
“How should I know?”

5. Not as far as I know…

So with “not as far as I know” you don’t have enough information to give the right answer.

“Has Steve got a new job?”
“Not as far as I know. I think he’s still working at his old place.”

And one bonus expression for you:
“Your guess is as good as mine”

And we say this when we think the other person knows as much as we do.So imagine we’re at an airport and there are problems and you say:

“Do you think our flight will be delayed?”

And I can say:
“Your guess is as good as mine!” It means you know as much as I do.