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Stop saying “no sé” in Spanish, say this instead

STOP Saying “No Sé” in Spanish, say THIS Instead (9 alternatives)

Mis amigos, if you want to sound more like a native speaker while speaking Spanish, it’s time for you to STOP saying the same old no sé in Spanish when you don’t know something, and use one of these 9 much more conversational alternatives instead!

I’m teacher María Fernanda from Spring Spanish, and THIS is your first alternative:

Informal Replies

1. Ni idea o no tengo idea (No idea or I have no idea) 

This chunk and the following 2 are informal ways to say that you don’t know. Same as in English we have the same concept. No clue, no idea, I don’t have an idea, but make sure to use “Ni” instead of no.  Ni by itself means “no” or “not a.”

¿Sabes cuándo termina la escuela? 
(Do you know when school ends?)

No, ni idea. 
(No, no idea.)

2. Quién sabe (Who knows)

I mean, if I don’t know the answer, please refer to me with the person who will, right? And believe it or not, we use it a lot in Mexico, which is similar to the English answer “who knows”. You might catch this chunk when “echando el chisme con tu amiga” (gossiping with your friend).

Oye manita, ¿y por qué se divorciaron? 
(Hey friend, and why did they get a divorce?)

No pues ¿quién sabe? 
(No, well, who knows?)

3. Y porqué habría de saberlo (And why should I know) – defensive

This reply could actually be considered defensive in the way you say it. Be careful of the intonation, as it could even sound rude or looking for a verbal fight.

It is not the same saying:

¿Y sabes quién produjo las películas de Harry Potter? 
(Do you know who produced the Harry Potter films?)

¿Y por qué habría de saberlo? 
(And why should I know?)

Pues, porque sé que te gustan mucho sus películas. 
(Because I know you like his movies very much.)

As:

¿Y sabes quién produjo las películas de Harry Potter? 
(Do you know who produced the Harry Potter films?)

¿Y por qué habría de saberlo? 
(And why should I know?)

Ay, pero no te enojes, pensé que era tu película favorita, perdón. 
(Ay, but don’t get upset, I thought it was your favorite movie, sorry.)

So, watch out how you reply to this and avoid any conflict 🙂

Formales

4. Voy a pensarlo (I am going to think about it)

This chunk (and the following 5) are polite ways of saying No sé.

For example, No sabes si vas as ir a la cena del trabajo (You don’t know if you’re going to the office dinner) and instead of saying you don’t know you might want to na say:

Hola María, ¿Vas a ir esta noche? 
(Hello María, are you going tonight?)

Mmm… Voy a pensarlo. 
(Hmmm… I am going to think about it)

5. No lo tengo a la mano (I don’t have it handy) 

You may use this chunk when you are trying to give some information, but you don’t not recall having it (but let’s be honest, you will try to find it after, right?). So, instead of replying with a rude no sé, you say:

Hola José, me podrías decir dónde está el archivo de la Sra. González. 
(Hi José, could you tell me where Mrs. Gonzáalez file is.)

No lo tengo a la mano, pero déjame buscarlo
(I don’t have it handy, but let me look for it.)

Chunk Alert

“Déjame buscarlo” (Let me look for it) is a perfect example of a chunk you can add when using an alternative for no sé. So you could also use it like this: No sé, pero déjame buscarlo. (I don’t know but let me look for it.)

6. No recuerdo en estos momentos (I can’t remember right now)

As implied in the statement, you use this chunk when you can’t recall or remember something. Instead of saying No sé de que me hablas (I don’t know what you are talking about) which is considered a bit rude, it is better to say:

¿Cuál era el nombre del chico que vino de Francia? 
(What was the name of the guy that came from France?)

No recuerdo en estos momentos. 
(I can’t remember right now.)

7. No tengo certeza (I don’t have certainty)

Yo uso mucho este chunk (I use this chunk a lot) because believe it or not sometimes we are 90% sure we know something, but what about that 10%? If you say something incorrect there might be consequences. So instead you reply:

Señorita María, ¿En qué año fue la Independencia de México? 
(Ms. Maria, which year was the Independence of Mexico?)

Ay maestra, me parece en 1810, pero no tengo certeza. 
(Ay teacher, it seems to me in 1810, but I don’t have certainty – I’m not sure.)

8. No quiero darte una respuesta incorrecta (I don’t want to give you a wrong answer)

Another good answer, in a formal situation. For example, when you are trying to sell a product and someone asks you a technical question. 

I mean, it is normal not knowing everything, but you don’t want to see yourself as someone that doesn’t know something about a product you are about to sell. In this case one lifesaver is:

¿Cuántos kilos pesa la máquina? 
(How many kilos does the machine weigh?)

No quiero darte una respuesta incorrecta, pero permíteme checarlo
(I don’t want to give you a wrong answer, but allow me to check.)

9. Esa es una buena pregunta (That is a good question)

Similar to the answer before, another solution is appreciating the complicated question that you know deep inside you, but you don’t know the answer for. But let’s praise your colleague and divert the conversation with this alternative solution.

Imagine you are at a job interview, and suddenly they ask:

¿Cuáles son tus debilidades? 
(What are your weaknesses?)

Esa es una buena pregunta, no lo había pensado antes, pero tal vez procrastinar. 
(That is a good question, I haven’t really thought about it before, but maybe procrastinate.) 

BONUS! 

If after hearing all these alternatives you STILL want to say no lo sé, do it at least in any of the following 4 sentences so you can at least give your conversation partner some hope you’ll be able to answer them at some point:

  1. No lo sé, pero déjame averiguarlo (I don’t know, but let me find out)
  2. No lo sé, pero permíteme checarlo  (I don’t know, but allow me to check)
  3. No lo sé, pero voy a verlo (I don’t know, but I will look into it)

No lo sé, pero lo reviso y me pongo en contacto contigo (I don’t know, but I review it and get back to you)

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