Whats the difference between these?

  1. I don't even know

  2. I even don't know

  3. Even I dont know

Edit: also this one too 4.i dont know even

2 Answers 2


In short, "even" adds emphasis or significance to the word or phrase that follows it. The type of emphasis is in terms of extent.

1. I don't even know.

In this sentence, "even" is emphasizing the extent of "know". The sentence states that "I" does not currently know something and it implies that knowing is somehow significant. The context I can imagine surrounding such a statement could be:

Person A: Could you please explain Calculus to me?

Person B: I don't even know Calculus (so there's no way I could explain it).

Person B's statement isn't really about him not knowing Calculus, it's about him emphasizing "knowing" as being important for "explaining".

2. I even don't know.

I'm quite torn about this one. It definitely does not come up often in regular conversation and if it did, I believe I would interpret it as identical in meaning and nuance to sentence 1. It might come up if the conversation is focused on not knowing things, perhaps as follows:

Person A: Wow, you really don't know anything about her?

Person B: Yeah. I even don't know her name.

However, as I stated above, I don't think the meaning or nuance would change at all if person B had said, "Yeah. I don't even know her name." So in summary, I think this expression should be avoided in favor of the first. It could easily be grammatically wrong even though a native speaker could figure out its meaning from context.

3. Even I don't know.

In this sentence, "even" is emphasizing "I". It states that "I" does not know something and implies that that particular person not knowing is significant. It would be said in contexts where the listener has reason to expect that the speaker "knows" something better than the listener does. It can also carry the nuance that the speaker not knowing suggests that others shouldn't know either.

Person A: I wonder where your keys are.

Person B: Even I don't know that.

Person B's response emphasizes "I" and consequently carries the nuance that there is a mutual understanding that Person B is better equipped to "know" than Person A. Given that there is mutual understanding involved in using an expression like this, it can come off as arrogant if used incorrectly (that is, in situations where it implies that you have greater knowledge that is not self evident.) For example, if two doctors of equal status were having this conversation:

Doctor A: I totally messed up that diagnosis.

Doctor B: Don't worry. Even I wouldn't have gotten it right.

Doctor B sounds like he is asserting that it is self-evident to the world that Doctor B has greater ability than Doctor A.

As a side note, as far as I can tell, "even" can modify nouns, adjectives, verbs, and adverbs. This is unusual in that it doesn't seem to fit into one of the English parts of speech. I hope someone will consider addressing that aspect of its usage.

  • Im really thankful.it was lucid and I couldn't have understood it better.thanks. May 23, 2017 at 16:49
  • And for your side note.im not entirely sure what wer commenting about but.i came across a feed about "even"-ell.stackexchange.com/questions/31483/… If it helps ur cause in anyway it can. May 23, 2017 at 16:55
  • could you also tell me about this variation-" i dont know even"? Nothing is succeeding after even so how is it explained. May 25, 2017 at 4:08
  • @AswinPrasad "I don't know even" is not a complete sentence because "even" requires a word after it to modify. As it is written, "even" sounds like a noun (which it is not).
    – G-Cam
    May 25, 2017 at 12:25

Disclaimer: I am not sure about this, but it might be a good point to start.

  1. I don't even know

  2. I even don't know

I think the first two versions express the same, but the first one is more common, see yahoo answers. They both seem to indicate that one is oblivious to many things even to the subject in question.

  1. Even I don't know

While the first two options are about one person not knowing a lot of things, the third option sounds to me like there is one particular fact, which many do not know, even the knowledgeable protagonist. Therefore the even is placed in front of the I instead of the don't know.

  • Oh.thanks fr yur answer. So 3. Is more like-even me who knows everything in this world fails when it comes to this matter-.hm.thats what i too think it to be.But are you sure of it.? And one more thing i wud like to ask is why is 2 not same as 3? May 23, 2017 at 16:19
  • @Aswin Prasad I am not 100% sure of it. Regarding why 2 and 3 are not the same: You can pronounce 2 in a way that makes it the same as 1 or 3. But the other way around is impossible. Or at least, I do not see how you could pronounce 3 in a way that makes it the same as 1 or 2.
    – oldmansaur
    May 23, 2017 at 16:25

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