How to say I don't know and I don't understand in French

Do you know what “Je ne sais pas” means in French? If your answer is “I don’t know”, you’ve come to the right place!

This article covers different ways to say I don’t know in French, because it might just be the most versatile expression to know in another language.

For example, it can be useful to know how to say I don’t know in French in the following situations:

  • When a French speaker asks you for directions in a city you… don’t know.
  • When someone asks you for the time and you have no idea. Really, you don’t have a cell phone?
  • When someone asks you how to say something in French, and you’re not sure. In such a case, it might be time to take a French course!
  • When someone asks you what weird dish you’re eating, and you’re wondering yourself. Escargots ? Cuisses de grenouille ? Tripes ? You might want to have a look at our guide to ordering food in French!
  • When shopping or eating out and unsure of what to choose.
  • When someone asks you if you know the song that’s playing and you don’t. Or it’s “Je sais pas” from Céline Dion!
  • And many, many more.

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    I don't know in French.

    How to say I don’t know in French

    “I don’t know” in French is “Je ne sais pas”.

    However, it’s very rare to hear a native French speaker fully enunciate this. Most of the time, you’ll hear something like Je sais pas, J’sais pas or even a weird French sound — more on this later. Here is the most common way to pronounce it.

    The table below gathers a variety of ways to say “I don’t know” or “I don’t know yet” in French, pour varier les plaisirs !

    English French IPA Context/Note
    I don’t know. Je ne sais pas ʒə nə se pa
    I dunno. Je sais pas/Chai pas/J’sais pas ʒə se pas/ʃe pas/ʒse pa Informal
    I don’t know, yet. Je ne sais pas encore. ʒə nə se paz‿ ɑ̃kɔɾə.
    I don’t know French. Je ne parle pas français. ʒə nə paɾlə pa fɾanse.
    I don’t know what to do. Je ne sais pas quoi faire. ʒə nə se pa kwa fɛɾə.
    No idea. Aucune idée. okyn ideə.
    I’m not sure. Je ne suis pas sûr(e). ʒə nə sɥi pa syɾ(ɛ).
    I don’t know about that. Je ne sais pas. ʒə nə se pa.
    I don’t know, sorry. Je ne sais pas, désolé(e). ʒə nə se pa, dezɔle(ɛ). Learn more ways to say sorry in French.
    I don’t know how to speak French. Je ne parle pas français. ʒə nə paɾlə pa fɾanse.
    I don’t know how to say that in French. Je ne sais pas comment ça se dit en français. ʒə nə se pa kɔmə sa sə dit‿ɑ̃ fɾanse.
    I don’t know the answer. Je ne connais pas la réponse. ʒə nə kɔne pa la ɾepõsə.
    I don’t know what happened. Je ne sais pas ce qui s'est passé. ʒə nə se pa sə ki sɛ pase.
    I don’t know him/her. Je ne le/la connais pas. ʒə nə lɛ/la kɔne pa.
    I don’t know this person. Je ne connais pas cette personne. ʒə nə kɔne pa sɛtə pɛɾsɔnə.
    Don’t ask me. Ne me demandez pas/Ne me demande pas. nə mə dəmɑ̃de pas/nə mə dəmɑ̃də pa.
    I’m no expert. Je ne suis pas un(e) expert(e). ʒə nə sɥi paz‿ yn(ɛ) ɛkspɛɾt(ɛ).
    Sorry for my lack of culture. Désolé(e) pour mon manque de culture. dezɔle(ɛ) puɾ mõ mɑ̃kə də kyltyɾə.
    I’m not a know-it-all. Je ne suis pas un(e) je-sais-tout. ʒə nə sɥi paz‿ yn(ɛ) ʒə-se-tu. Slightly sassy.
    I don’t know this city. Je ne connais pas cette ville. ʒə nə kɔne pa sɛtəvilə.
    I don’t know where that is. Je ne sais pas où c'est. ʒə nə se paz‿ u sɛ.
    I don’t have the slightest idea. Je n'en ai pas la moindre idée. ʒə nɑ̃n‿ e pa la mwɛ̃dɾ ideə.
    I couldn’t tell you. Je ne pourrais pas vous le dire. ʒə nə pure pa vu lə diɾə.
    I can’t help you. Je ne peux pas vous aider. ʒə nə pø pa vuz‿ (e)de.
    You’ve got me there. Tu me poses une colle. ty mə pozəz‿ ynə kɔlə. Informal. Learn more French slang.
    I ask myself the same question. Je me pose la même question. ʒə mə pozə la mɛmə kɛssjõ.
    Good question. Bonne question. bɔnə kɛssjõ.
    I don’t really know. Je ne sais pas vraiment. ʒə nə se pa vɾɛmə.
    I don’t see it. Je ne vois pas. ʒə nə vwa pa.
    I ignore it. Je l'ignore. ʒə liɲɔɾə.
    I don’t know what you’re looking for. Je ne sais pas ce que vous cherchez/tu cherches. ʒə nə se pa sə kə vu ʃɛɾʃɛz/ty ʃɛɾʃə.
    I don’t know about you, but I’m starving. Je ne sais pas pour toi/vous, mais moi, je meurs de faim. ʒə nə se pa puɾ twa/vu, me mwa, ʒə mœɾ də fɛ̃.
    I don’t know which one to choose. Je ne sais pas lequel/laquelle choisir. ʒə nə se pa ləkɛl/lakɛlə ʃwaziɾ.

    I don’t understand in French

    Along with “Where is the bathroom” and “Hello”, “I don’t understand” is probably the most handy expression to learn in another language.

    The simplest way to say “I don’t understand” in French is Je ne comprends pas. But it would be too easy to stick to this, right? We believe your French vocab needs a challenge, so you’ll find several ways to admit you don’t get it below.

    I don't understand in French.

    English French IPA Context/note
    I don’t understand. Je ne comprends pas. ʒə nə kõpɾɑ̃ pa.
    Sorry, I don’t understand. Désolé(e), je ne comprends pas. dezɔle(ɛ), ʒə nə kõpɾɑ̃ pa.
    I didn’t understand. Je n’ai pas compris ʒə ne pa kõpɾi
    I don’t understand the question. Je ne comprends pas la question. ʒə nə kõpɾɑ̃ pa la kɛssjõ.
    I don’t understand French. Je ne comprends pas le français. ʒə nə kõpɾɑ̃ pa lə fɾanse.
    I didn’t get any of it. Je n'ai rien pigé. ʒə ne ɾjɛ̃ piʒe. Informal
    I beg your pardon? Je te/vous demande pardon ? ʒə tɛ/vu dəmɑ̃də paɾdõ ?
    What? Quoi ? kwa ?
    Excuse me? Comment ? kɔmə ?
    What did you say? Qu'est-ce que tu as/vous avez dit ? kɛ-sə kə ty as/vuz‿ ave di ?
    I don’t understand it all Je ne comprends pas tout. ʒə nə kõpɾɑ̃ pa tu.
    I’m not sure I understand. Je ne suis pas sûr(e) de comprendre. ʒə nə sɥi pa syɾ(ɛ) də kõpɾɑ̃dɾə.
    What do you mean? Qu'est-ce que tu veux/vous voulez dire ? kɛ-sə kə ty vœks/vu vule diɾə ?
    What does it mean? Qu'est-ce que ça veut dire ? kɛ-sə kə sa vø diɾə ?
    Could you please speak slower? Peux-tu s’il te plaît/Pouvez-vous s'il vous plaît parler plus lentement ? pø-ty sil tə pl(e)t/puve-vu sil vu ple paɾle ply lɑ̃təmə ?
    Could you please repeat? Peux-tu/Pouvez-vous répéter, s'il te/vous plaît ? pø-ty/puve-vu ɾepete, sil tɛ/vu ple ?
    I don’t understand a thing. Je ne comprends rien. ʒə nə kõpɾɑ̃ ɾjɛ̃.
    I didn’t understand a thing. Je n'ai rien compris. ʒə ne ɾjɛ̃ kõpɾi.
    I’m lost. Je suis perdu(e). ʒə sɥi pɛɾdy(ɛ).

    The easiest way to say “I don’t know” in French

    Having a hard time pronouncing “Je ne sais pas”? Tired of speaking French all day?

    Don’t worry, I’ve been there! Learning a new language in full immersion can be exhausting! Fortunately, French people get lazy too, and we’re happy to introduce a wonderful shortcut to express your ignorance about something: Blow a raspberry.

    Come again? Je n’ai rien compris. If this expression is new to you, you’re not alone. Je ne la connaissais pas before writing this article! Here is a definition.

    Now, you might be wondering what’s the link between a raspberry and the French language. Well, French people — including myself, a fruit lover — make a noise similar to babies blowing their cheeks or to a farting sound when they don’t know something. Elegant. You’ll find a demonstration here. It’s absolutely not rude to do so, and you’ll sound just like a French native.

    I hope by now, you’ll never say you don’t know how to say I don’t know in French! Mmm, that almost sounds as complicated as this unforgettable episode from Friends.

    They don't know that we know they know we know

    But French doesn’t have to be that difficult! Our French blog has all the core vocab you need to be a know-it-all in French. Well, I don’t know about that, but it will surely help!

    Just one more thing: Je ne sais pas (Ré-enregistrement 1972)

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