I saw this sentence on a book:

Not replying works just as well as "I don't know."

I don't understand what it means. Is there any way to analyze its grammar? I know the phrase "just as well", but I'm not sure if it's still the same meaning in this sentence.

After thinking more about it, a new thought occurred to me.

Maybe I should take "not replying" as a noun, "works" as the verb in the sentence, and this sentence means that "not replying" is just the same thing as "I don't know." Is that right?

  • You asked a question here in ELL. If I do not know the answer, I do not answer. I do not bother to say, "I don't know." For this specific site I'd say, "Not replying works better than "I don't know." In your example it means a non reply suggests the person has no answer or does not know and it is unnecessary to say so. A non reply works the same way/as well as "I don't know."
    – WRX
    Feb 24, 2017 at 15:01

1 Answer 1


Yes, works just as well in your quote means that two things work equally well. The two things are:

  1. Not replying; and
  2. the phrase "I don't know".

So your quote is saying that someone who doesn't reply has the same effect as someone who replies, "I don't know".

  • 1
    Thanks a lot! I've been thinking about this for almost an hour and new thought arrived all of a sudden. Appreciate your confirmation.
    – user32250
    Feb 24, 2017 at 15:18
  • @user32250 You're welcome. :)
    – Lawrence
    Feb 24, 2017 at 23:20

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