15

Sometimes, during a conversation, someone tells me some fact or shares some knowledge and I reply by saying "I know". Would that be a rude thing to say? I feel very awkward when I say this and want to avoid as I fear the other person may just not go in depth into the topic hearing this.

Is there a better word or other way to deal with this awkwardness during a conversation?

  • 6
    It is very easy for "I know" to be taken the wrong way, a lot will depend on how it it said and anything else said with it. – Peter Jan 18 '17 at 16:58
  • It may be rude in some conversations. For example: Leia: "I love you." Han: "I know." – reirab Jan 18 '17 at 23:29
  • You could get away with: "Oh yeah, I've heard/read/studied about that" and then say the name of the book, and/or your faculty. Or just nod, and make appropriate mmm noises until your interlocutor dries up. :) – Mari-Lou A Jan 19 '17 at 0:46
  • It depends on the precise definition of "rude" that you use. Is it a proper acknowledgement of another's statement? No. It is a response, not an acknowledgement. Do improper acknowledgements always get you into trouble/arguments/etc.? No, just most of the time. (Arguments can always be traced to failures to acknowledge.) But as already noted, this goes far beyond the scope of English learning and into the broader field of human communication. – Wildcard Jan 19 '17 at 6:43
  • Opinions on the effect will differ but there is no denying that it is the tone that makes the difference: youtube.com/watch?v=NPtIHwbguO4 – Erno de Weerd Jan 19 '17 at 7:04
18

If you're strictly looking for a different word or phrase maybe try: "Yes, I've read/heard about that.". It implies some knowledge, but isn't quite so final like "I know [everything about this and don't want to discuss it further!]"

But like many things concerning language this is heavily dependent on the context, especially

  1. your tone of voice and
  2. your conversation partner - stranger, good friend, customer? Shy or self confident?

A friendly "Oh yes, I know." combined with inviting body language is quite different from a brusque, annoyed "I know.". This, particularly tone, is the major part and not necessarily easy, as those things are rather subjective.

I feel very awkward when I say this [...]

Personally I think this is only as awkward as you let it and I don't think that simply using a different word will help you with that.

I fear the other person may just not go in depth of the topic hearing this.

This implies you actually want to continue the conversation. If the questioner isn't obviously aiming for a short, confirming answer like "I know", you could also add a question to your reply or throw in a little tidbit about the topic yourself to communicate your interest in the conversation.

Any further advice would probably not be in the scope of English learning and more appropriate in the context of psychology or something similar.

10

I'm not sure there's a single right answer to this question - much depends on the formality of the situation, social graces, tone of voice, even what has been said before this point in the conversation. For example, one "I know" might be acceptable:

The movie starts at 8pm.

I know, thanks.

...but a continuous barrage of "I know" as a response to every sentence can come across as condescending, arrogant or sanctimonious, depending on the situation of course. So your assumption is correct - I know can often kill a conversation, as it can (rightly or wrongly) lead the other party in the conversation to believe that you either don't want to engage further in the conversation, or what they have to say isn't interesting to you.

There are various different ways of dealing with such a situation. Often one might feign ignorance, or at least downplay one's knowledge of the situation:

I heard that Jane might be looking for a new job.

Oh really? that's interesting.

Another approach might be to agree with the other person - acknowledging that you also have the same knowledge, but in a less of a confrontational manner:

I heard that Acme Labs might be closing down.

Yeah, I heard the same thing.

As I said, there's no single correct answer, much depends on the situation, relationship with other parties in the conversation etc, and I'm sure that other people will have alternate suggestions.

3

Sometimes "I know" is indeed rude

"I know" can be rude if you are not using the right tone of voice.

Safe alternatives

You can use these substitutes to avoid the risk:

If you are agreeing

"Agreed." (formal)

"I know, right?" (familiar)

"Totally!" (colloquial)

If you think the current conversation is redundant and wish to move on

"Understood." (formal)

"Yes, I'm with you." (familiar)

"Of course." (academic)

If you wish to respond to an implicit accusation of ignorance

"Yes, I/we considered that." (professional)

"I get it." (casual)

If you are speaking with someone who is going over old ground

"I think we covered that." (direct)

"Didn't we cover that?" (indirect)

2

Another 2¢:

Tone of voice, revisited

I’m going on vacation next week.

I know that.

With the right tone of voice, this says that you know that the person is going on vacation, but simultaneously suggests that you don’t know any details, and invites him to elaborate.

What’s Rude and What Isn’t

Consider this hypothetical conversation (fueled by Wikipedia’s Random article feature):

This bridge was designed by Alfred Brady.
(pause)

(silent, blank stare)

Alfred Barton Brady was an engineer and architect in Queensland, Australia.  He was one of Queensland's most important early engineers and was particularly known for his bridge design.  He was the Queensland Colonial Architect and many of his buildings and structures are now heritage-listed.

On 15 January 1872 at age 15, Brady commenced his training as a pupil of Charles William Green, an architect and civil engineer of Manchester and Liverpool.  As Green was the official architect for the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway, Brady gained experience working with their engineering and architecture department.  From March 1879 to October 1884, Brady worked in London and other parts of England gaining experience with water supply, sewerage and drainage.

Brady immigrated to Brisbane in December 1884 and was employed by the Queensland Public Service in January 1885 and served the state in various departments for 37 years.  From 1885, he worked initially for the Queensland Railway Department from 1885 and then from 1889 with the Public Works Department.  He was appointed Engineer for Bridges in 1889 and then as the Queensland Colonial Architect in 1892.  He was appointed Under-Secretary for the Public Works in 1901.  Although Brady designed many important and handsome public buildings, his forte was bridge design and he designed a number of notable bridges.
                              [Quoted from Wikipedia.]

Yeah, I know who Alfred Brady is.

At this point, the first speaker is probably thinking, “Well, why didn’t you say so earlier?  I could have saved my breath.”  If you sense that the person you’re talking with is about to launch into a long-winded presentation of information that you already know, preempting his speech with a quick “I know” might be the considerate thing to do.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.