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The car I drove needed some work but I was afraid to take it to the mechanic. Because honestly, the mechanic could have shown me an electric can opener and said, "This is part of your car and it's broken -- pay me to fix it," and I wouldn't have known any better.

4 Answers 4

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It means that you do not know enough about a topic or situation to be able to know if what the other person is saying is true.

In your example, it's is implying that the writer knows so little about cars that the mechanic could cheat them using an electric can opener and they lacked the knowledge to understand it was happening to them.

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to know any better = an idiomatic expression

to not know something or not know about something when a situation arises.

Judges enter a courtroom, normally everyone stands up. If everyone does not stand up, those who did not stand up, did not know any better. If they had known better, they would have stood up.

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  • And this is good English in your opinion: "those who did stand up, did not know any better do not"? Jun 19, 2017 at 12:56
  • @User26328 Yes, I fixed it. I had typed too fast.
    – Lambie
    Jun 19, 2017 at 15:39
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The expression reflects that true beliefs are better than false ones.

I would have believed the mechanic who told me that the can opener was part of my car. I would have accepted this false belief; I would have not have known better -- that is, I would not have known the truth, although knowing the truth would have been better.

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To "not know any better" refers to a state of ignorance, the ignorance of better information, ignorance of the truth.

There an implicit comparand:

... I would not have known any better [thing than what I had been told or led to believe]

which is defined by the context.

In the context you have provided:

I would have lacked the knowledge to judge for myself whether what I was being told by the mechanic was accurate or truthful.

When a person came down with an illness, they would draw blood from him. They did not know any better.

They were ignorant. They lacked the knowledge of a better way to treat the illness. They were ignorant about the cause of the illness and how to treat it.

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