If you’re just starting your French language learning journey, the phrase “I don’t know” will be one of your favorite expressions. In this post, we’ll show you several ways of saying “I don’t know” in French as well as other variations to make this expression sound natural.
I Don’t Know in French at a Glance
I don't know.
I have no idea.
I don’t have the slightest idea.
I couldn’t help you.
I couldn’t tell you.
I don't know.
I am not really sure.
You’ve got me there!
I don’t know.
It’s the same question that I ask myself.
All the Ways to Say I Don’t Know in French
Je ne sais pas
The most common way of saying “I don’t know” in French is to say Je ne sais pas . The ne and pas are part of the negation, while the word sais comes from the verb savoir, “to know”.
Slang variations of je ne sais pas include:
- Je sais pas.
- J’sais pas
- Chais pas
Note that these are only used in the spoken form and should be avoided in writing. To make je ne sais pas more interesting you can add an adjective such as du tout “not at all”, trop “very much” or vraiment “really”.
Je n’en ai aucune idée
Je n’en ai aucune idée means “I have no idea”. It’s important to understand that the negation of an object requires the use of aucun/e, which means “no” or “none”. Since we say that we have no idea, “idea” is the word that is negated, and because “idea” or idée is a feminine noun we need to add aucune. Aucun would be used when referring to masculine nouns.
Je n’en ai pas la moindre idée
Je n’en ai pas la moindre idée can be translated to “I don’t have the slightest idea”. If we add en to the equation we say “about it” or “about this”.
Camille: Est-ce que tu sais quelque chose sur l’accident du patron?
Raphaël: Je n’en ai pas la moindre idee
Camille: Do you know anything about the accident of the boss?
Raphaël: I don’t have any idea about it.
Je ne pourrais pas vous aider
Je ne pourrais pas vous aider means “I couldn’t help you”. It is a more formal and polite way to say I don’t know than the previous ones, especially because we address the person as vous, the formal “you”. For an informal version you can swap vous for te, which leaves you with the phrase je ne pourrais pas t’aider.
Je ne pourrais pas te dire
Je ne pourrais pas te dire means “I couldn’t tell you”. Notice how here the informal te is used? You can change it for vous to make a more formal sentence.
Je n’en sais rien moi
Je n’en sais rien moi is a natural way of saying that you don’t know something or you don’t have a clue. It translates literally to “I, particularly, don’t know anything about it”. It can also be shortened to Je en sais rien, moi.
This phrase can be used with or without the word moi. In casual, spoken french moi, which means u are the person who doesn’t know anything about it by using the word moi, which means “I” or “myself”. It adds more informality to the sentence and is used to add emphasis.
Mathilde: Est-ce que quelqu’un dans ce bureau sait utiliser l’imprimante?
Naël: Je n’en sais rien moi.
Mathilde: Does someone in this office know how to use the printer?
Naël: Me? I don’t know anything about it.
Je ne suis pas vraiment sûr(e)
Je ne suis pas vraiment sûr is a colloquial expression that translates to “you’ve got me there!”. It’s more informal than the previously mentioned options, so you wouldn’t use it in a business context.
Je ne vois pas
Je ne vois pas means “I don’t see it”. The word vois comes from the verb voir “to see”. This too is an informal way of saying I don’t know.
Pffft or *Blowing a raspberry*
This one will require a bit of an explanation. This is the sound people make by pursing their lips and blowing air out. It’s close to making a fart sound with your mouth. It may seem a little silly, but it’s one of the most informal ways of saying I don’t know in French and one of the best “sounds” that make you sound like a true French speaker.
Take a look at this video to see how you can use this in the wild!
Bonne question is a straightforward way of saying “I don’t know” in French. It means “good question” and implies that you probably don’t have an answer either.
C’est la même question que je me pose
Similar to bonne question we have C’est la même question que je me pose which means “It’s the same question that I ask myself”. Which also implies that you don’t know and it’s something you’d like to know as well.
JSP is short for je sais pas. Similar to “IDK” in English, it is used primarily in texting.