I didn't have an idea.

I did not have any idea.

I am much more familiar with the second one. The first one sounds a bit odd to me, but sounds fine if I say:

I did not have even an idea.

But, the first one is also one of the widely used sentences by natives. What is the difference between the two?

  • 1
    When did is used as a helper verb to form the past tense, it is in combination with the bare infinitive, not with a tensed form of the verb. So, "I didn't have a coin".
    – TimR
    Commented Dec 25, 2016 at 12:42

1 Answer 1


I did not have an idea = I was asked to contribute an idea but I was unable to think of one; an idea did not come into my head in some situation where an idea was expected from me.

I had no idea = I was unable to explain something; it was a mystery to me or it was something about which I had no knowledge whatsoever.

I did not have any idea = I had no idea.


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