9

I can't remember where I got this from, but it feels deeply correct to me. However it caused a misunderstanding in a chat, and after googling the usage and not finding anything I'm suspecting I might be using it wrong.

So in my mind, given the right context "guess what" can be equivalent to "Oh, interesting, who'd have thought that". Like in

Them: Did you hear about it, Adam and Eve got married today.

Me: Guess what!

So I'm saying "guess what" to express my feeling of surprise, not because I actually want them to guess something. Is this usage valid?

  • 20
    No, it would normally be used to introduce a piece of news, implying "I bet you can't guess what has happened!" – Kate Bunting Nov 29 '19 at 12:53
  • 10
    I wonder if that crossed in your mind with "go figure". – GSerg Nov 29 '19 at 21:32
  • 8
    @lambie The statement is imperative, not interrogative. Why should it have a question mark? – Darren Ringer Nov 29 '19 at 22:35
  • 7
    You might be thinking of a similar phrase, "say what?". – chepner Nov 30 '19 at 0:01
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    @Lambie Darran Ringer makes a good point. You wouldn't say "Listen to what my news is?", so you shouldn't say "Guess what my news is?" Both are imperatives. I order you to guess! – CJ Dennis Nov 30 '19 at 1:25
21

It is the other way around. "Guess what! Adam and Eve got married today."

To show your surprise, you can use "No kidding!"

Guess what! Adam and Eve got married today.

No kidding!

See Merriam Webster:

—used to show surprise or interest in what has been said
"My brother got engaged last month." "No kidding! That's great news!"

Edit: Lambie raises an interesting point about punctuation marks. In writing a question mark following "guess what" is indeed common, but I wouldn't call the exclamation mark a mistake. In speech it is rarely if ever uttered in a rising tone. The fact that the exclamation mark is also not uncommon in writing reflects this.

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    In speech it is rarely if ever uttered in a rising tone. This is almost certainly regional. It's pronounced that way routinely in Texas. – chrylis -on strike- Nov 30 '19 at 5:08
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    Maybe it's a dialectical thing, but I think I've only heard “no kidding” used sarcastically, like “no shit”. In all the various places I've been in England and Scotland, it seems pretty rare in any case. – James Wood Dec 1 '19 at 11:27
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    @JamesWood That's interesting and good to know. As a US speaker, I've heard it used both ways with equal frequency. – jmbpiano Dec 1 '19 at 21:14
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    If anything, I'd say the phrase "no kidding" is more likely to show up with a rising tone. In such case the meaning changes subtly from "That's surprising!" to the more literal request for confirmation, "You're not telling a joke?" – jmbpiano Dec 1 '19 at 21:19
9

As a Native English speaker, we usually use the phrase "guess what" to introduce a new piece of information, usually to challenge the person we are speaking with to attempt to tell us what we are about to tell them.

Examples include:

"You'll never guess what happened today!" or "Guess what I saw today!"

The way you are using it is not native and most people may not understand what you are trying to convey. If you want to convey surprise, you might try:

"Oh wow!" or "You don't say!"

5

No - "guess what" is not an expression of surprise.

You may be thinking of "I never would have guessed!"

2

No, but you can say:

  • "Huh." (very different intonation to "huh?")
  • "How about that..."
  • "Really!"
  • "You're kidding [me]!"

And since I'm Australian I have to provide the obligatory:

  • "b**ger me"
1

I'm British, and to me it would sound like a mildly sarcastic way of expressing that something set up as a surprise is not actually all that surprising.

  • 1
    This is interesting. Can you give an example? I feel like what you describe is one of the ways I would use it but not distinguishable from the rest. If you follow "guess what" with something that is supposed to be surprising but actually not, there is also a surprise element in that. So to me that is the same as using this phrase to introduce a new/surprising piece of information as several other people have mentioned. – Eddie Kal Dec 2 '19 at 1:59

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