Life skills tip of the week: saying you are unsure about something

Posted by on July 29, 2014

Express-Yourself-MEDO-Web-232x300pxAs part of this year’s pragmatics series, we bring more useful content and tips from the Macmillan Dictionary on expressing yourself.

The previous language tip looked at ways of expressing personal opinions in writing.

This week’s tip gives some ways of saying you are unsure about something:

In our recent post on ways of saying you are sure about something we looked at some phrases that are used to express certainty. Here are some ways of saying you are unsure about something. 

I think is used when you are not completely certain about something:
I think that’s what he said, but I can’t be certain. It was very noisy.

Maybe and perhaps are both used for saying that you are not certain about something. Maybe is used mainly in speech and informal writing, while perhaps is more formal:
‘Do you think it will rain?’Maybe We usually get lots of rain at this time of year.’
I wondered if perhaps he’d forgotten to confirm the booking.
There are, perhaps, three principles which must be followed.

As far as I know/To (the best of) my knowledge are used for saying what you think is true, though you cannot be certain because you do not know all of the facts:
As far as I know, he’s coming. But I haven’t spoken to him for weeks.
To the best of my knowledge, the President has not asked for a full report on this.

There’s no telling/Who’s to say?/You never can tell/You can never tell are used for saying that it is impossible for anyone to be certain about something:
There’s no telling what she will do next. She’s so unpredictable.
Who’s to say he wouldn’t have said yes if he’d known?
You can never tell how long these meetings will last.

Would you like to learn more about pragmatics? Keep a close eye on our pragmatics page where the sixth of our life skills lesson plans was published recently. For more information about Life Skills, visit the Macmillan Life Skills page.

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