What does this sentence mean? "I'll give you one guess why."

I read it in http://jezykangielski.org/toefl950.pdf

  • Read it as "I'll give you one guess to guess why it is so." Dec 13, 2013 at 9:19
  • @DamkerngT. Thanks. According to ETS, it means "He thinks the reason is obvious." Does it make sense? Dec 13, 2013 at 9:25
  • 1
    Whether "the reason is obvious" or not would depend on the context. But usually when someone says "I'll give you one guess why," he or she would expect that if you think about what he or she just said, you could come up with the answer yourself. So, my interpretation is a literal one (word for word), and what your ETS said is an implied one. Dec 13, 2013 at 9:32

1 Answer 1


This sentence alludes to a common device for announcing a surprising event, “I’ll give you three guesses wh— ...”:

I'll give you three guesses who the new manager is.
  Holy cow! no kidding?

Three guesses which children’s author insisted on writing a book about seven naked women before they’d write any more kids’ titles

The three guesses device (which is in origin a storytelling device for building suspense) suggests that the event is so improbable that even with three successively more far-fetched tries you will not succeed in guessing the right answer.

By contrast, “I'll give you one guess” suggests that the answer is so obvious you only need one guess to get it right. A common variant is

I’ll give you three guesses, and the first two don’t count.

For instance:

... when the little man stepped in shortly afterward and asked: "Now, my lady Queen, what's my name?" she asked first: "Is your name Conrad?"
   "Is your name Harry?"
   "Is your name perhaps, Rumpelstiltzkin?"
   "Some demon has told you that! some demon has told you that!" screamed the little man, and in his rage drove his right foot so far into the ground that it sank in up to his waist; then in a passion he seized the left foot with both hands and tore himself in two.

  • A variant on "I'll give you three guesses..." is "You'll never guess in a million years!"
    – J.R.
    Dec 13, 2013 at 11:30

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