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Vocabulary: avoid saying: I don't know!
For an adult, saying: "I don't know..." isn't an easy thing! Why is it so? Because it's never pleasant to have to admit that you don't know what you should have known or at least what you should have tried to know... especially when you're an "expert" or if you are in the business world... Consequently, adults "pretend" they know, they improvise an answer... and might be mistaken. They might even deceive their audience, or at least mislead a less informed audience.
On the contrary, children are often hiding behind the phrase : "I don't know!"; for them, it is the utmost excuse. They often implicitly, (or even quite explicitly ) declare that adults are responsible for the kids' lack of knowledge... " You've never taught me that, have you?" (What a shock! )
In short, this little sentence is so difficult to pronounce (or to avoid!) that there are many different ways to get around it without admitting "inexcusable" ignorance, lack of professionalism/ unprofessionalism and pure inexperience!
I) The ALL-PURPOSE phrases: you don't know the answer, but you're not going to "pretend" and humbly admit your ignorance!
|I have no idea!/ Really, I have no idea!||= I really don't know!|
|I don't have the faintest/ slightest/ foggiest idea!||Idem|
|I don't have a clue!||idem - (more informal)|
II) "I don't know" when you should know... you may feel guilty not to know, are interested in the information and willing to look into it.
- I'm not sure. I'll find out and let you know.
- I'll look into it and get back to you.
- It's a good question! Let me get back to you.
- I'll find out and will let you know.
- Err... That requires a little more searching!
- I'm going to investigate that point further.
III) When you're not dealing with your area of expertise:
- Here's what I know/ what I don't know..., but Jack will have your information !
- I'm not the best person to answer that question. You should ask/ I recommend talking to Tom!
- I'm not a 100% sure of that!
- Patrick will have a better insight into this!
- Let me check/ double-check on that!
IV) If the question "only sort of makes sense": you wish to clarify the context.
- Can you give me more context, please?
- Well, can you tell me what's driving this question?
- (humour) If we knew that, we could all quit our jobs!
- (with a playful look!) If only I knew that... It's privileged information. I have no access.
- Really, I'm no expert, and I'm not sure I understand, but we'll ask a colleague.
- In fact, you know, I have the same question on my mind. We might try to ask a third person.
- (Less polite ... irritated, sarcastic!) How should I know? / Don't ask me! I'm new here! / (informal) Search me! I really can't tell.
- (Wishful thinking) I'd love to know, but really I haven't looked at that yet .
V) In a very informal context...(between young people, etc.)
- Search me!/ It beats me!/ Who knows?/ Heck if I know!/ I'm stuck/ I'm stumped!
- Your guess is as good as mine.
- (really rude) = I couldn't care less!/ Who cares?
Many different expressions, then! You'll definitely have to make a choice!
Important advice to conclude: if you're not sure of your answer, don't pretend you do. Simply admit your "ignorance", knowing very well that "Nobody's perfect! and knows everything!". Let's not forget that some questions simply cannot be answered!
Good luck for the test... I'm sure that there, "you'll know everything"!
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