Learn English Phrases: What to say if you’re not completely certain

Learn more about the Speaking Courses


Hello, students! It’s Shayna, your teacher from EspressoEnglish.net. In today’s lesson, I want to teach you some phrases that you can use in a specific situation – that is when you want to say something but you’re not completely certain that it’s correct. A lot of English learners, they stay quiet, because they don’t want to say something and then maybe they’re wrong, and other people will react badly to that.

There are a few different phrases that we can actually use to show that we are saying something that we believe to be true, but we recognize that we might be wrong and we are open to correction.

Let’s say you and your friends are talking about the date of an upcoming concert. You think you know when the date is, but you’re not 100% sure. Instead of just saying, “The concert is on March 15th,” you could say, “If I’m not mistaken, the concert is on March 15th.” That little phrase “If I’m not mistaken” is just a way to show that you could be making a mistake. It’s possible that you are not correct, and you are open to somebody else correcting you.

Another phrase you can use for the same situation is “As far as I know.” If you’re talking about an acquaintance who lives in the area but maybe some time ago, she was thinking about moving somewhere else, and the people who you’re talking with, they’re not sure if she’s still here or if she has moved out of the area, you could say, “Well, as far as I know, she still lives here,” because you haven’t heard anything about her definitely moving. You are pretty certain that she is still in the area, but you could be wrong. It’s possible that she moved and she didn’t tell you. So you say, “As far as I know, she’s still in the area.”

Another phrase for it is “To the best of my knowledge.” Again, this is used to show that you think something is true, but you recognize that your knowledge might not be complete. You could be wrong. To the best of my knowledge” is a little more formal. In everyday spoken English, we would probably stick with the previous two phrases, “As far as I know” and “If I’m not mistaken.”

One more phrase for you, and that is in the form of a question. We use this when you are pretty sure you are correct, but again, there’s always that little chance that you are making a mistake. We could say, “Correct me if I’m wrong, but…” and then ask a question. We usually make this a negative question.

Let’s say you’re in a conversation about some actor, a famous actor, and the other people are saying how they love this actor’s Australian accent, but you think the actor is from New Zealand, not Australia, and you’re pretty sure. You could say, “Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t he from New Zealand, not Australia?” You are expressing what you believe to be true, but you are not doing it in an arrogant way. You’re not just coming in and saying, “You’re wrong. He’s from New Zealand, not Australia.” You’re expressing it a little bit more politely. “Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t he from New Zealand?” We use “Correct me if I’m wrong” with a negative question, again, to express something that we are fairly confident is true, but there’s always that chance that we might be the ones who are mistaken.

Then what do you do if you say something like this, “If I’m not mistaken,” “As far as I know,” “To the best of my knowledge,” “Correct me if I’m wrong,” and you actually are wrong? Or if you’ve said something and someone else corrects you and says, “No, that’s not true. The correct date for the concert is March 20th,” or, “No, this actor was born in New Zealand but grew up in Australia, so his accent is Australian”?

You can say, “Oh, I stand corrected.” This is an informal way to say, “Oops. I was wrong, and now you have corrected me.” I stand corrected, meaning that what you said was not correct, was not right, and now you know the correct fact.

I think one of the worst things when you’re learning a language is being in a situation and not knowing what to say. As I mentioned, a lot of English learners just stay quiet in this situation, but that’s not good, because you need to practice. You need to interact to improve your English.

So I’ve created the Everyday English Speaking Courses to help you know exactly what to say in various situations. These courses will teach you the real phrases that native English speakers use in all sorts of situations and in informal conversations. These are phrases and expressions that you might not find in regular English textbooks.

The course comes with text and audio, so you can practice listening, you can practice repeating. You can read the text, and some of the lessons also include speaking tasks where you can actually record your speaking and send it to me for evaluation.

You can click on the link in the video or in the video description for more information about that course as well as some free samples. I would love to see you join the Everyday English Speaking Course. So many of my students have benefited greatly from it, and I hope you’ll become one of them as well.

Learn practical English phrases and expressions for conversation:

Everyday English Speaking Course

Learn more about the Speaking Courses