12 Common English Expressions for I don’t know

12 common English expressions for I don't know

Welcome to our Daily English Listening Practice with this week’s series:

12 Common English Expressions
for I don’t know

Today we talk about Common English Expressions to replace the phrase “I don’t know”. We include 12 common words and phrases that you’ll actually hear in normal conversation, plus we let you know about some uncommon or cliche phrases you might find in English textbooks!

Listen to the audio clips for information and pronunciation.


Notes: can be used alone “dunno” or in a sentence: I dunno…

Beats me

Notes: use this if you’ve at least tried to help a little bit, “beats me, I’m sorry I couldn’t do anything to help, I tried.”

I don’t recall

Notes: more formal, but still used commonly; I don’t recall is very similar to I don’t know, however, with I can’t recall, you might be asking for someone to jog your memory

I have no idea/clue

Notes: when you really don’t know or don’t care, and you can’t even guess; you can also say “No clue. No idea.”

How should I know?

Notes: “no offense, but…. *insert offensive statement here*” often said in a rude way because the speaker is frustrated or annoyed with the question, but sometimes it’s fair to use it if you shouldn’t be expected to know the answer; usually continuing with WHY you don’t know the answer is helpful, too

Not as far as I know

Notes: not as far as I know…. I’m pretty sure the answer is no; as far as I know…. I’m pretty sure the answer is yes

I don’t know the first thing about…

Notes: I don’t know the first thing about… *insert topic here*; I have no experience in what you’re asking about

Your guess is as good as mine

Notes: Sometimes people answer their own questions by guessing, if you really don’t know the answer you can tell them that their guess is as good as yours

Couldn’t tell you

Notes: couldn’t tell ya: more common in the US; It’s not that they won’t tell you, they just don’t know; you can also say “Can’t help you with that (piece of information)”

Who knows?

Notes: rhetorical question, can be used for crazy or weird questions

Can’t Help You There

Notes: if you’ve already helped someone with one set of information, or you would like to help but you can’t, you can use this phrase.

I’m not the one to ask

Notes: you can use this when you’re not sure of the answer (or don’t know at all), but you might be able to find the person who can help them; I’m not the one to ask, but I think I can find someone to help you.


Some phrases and expressions you learn at school or in old English textbooks include boring and overused phrases called cliches. You probably won’t sound like a native speaker if you use these phrases instead of “I don’t know”:

Haven’t the foggiest: pretty uncommon but VERY British
Search me: found in books, not often in conversation
You’ve got me there: used sarcastically usually
Haven’t the faintest: Mark’s auntie says this, but we don’t hear it much
I haven’t got a clue: this one’s pretty long try “I have no clue” or “no clue” instead


Kat and Mark

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