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According to dictionary the meaning of 'you could've fooled me' is- 'used for saying you do not believe something that someone is telling you.'

‘Sam never meant to upset you.’ ‘Well, you could have fooled me!’

I'm not able to figure out the meaning of the phrase. In the example does the person saying 'you could've fooled me' mean that he doesn't believe that Sam never meant to upset him?

Why not just say 'you can't fool me' instead? Is it a sarcastic way of saying it?

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This is an interesting question. As a native speaker it appears "obvious" what it means, yet trying to explain is surprisingly difficult (at least for me!)

Why not just say 'you can't fool me' instead?

You cannot say this instead because it has a different meaning. The "you" in your version is personal, i.e. it refers to the person you are replying to.

By contrast, the "you" in "Well, you could have fooled me!" is an impersonal "you", It would be equivalent to "Well, I could have been fooled!"


Thus this is a retrospective. It is sarcastic, yes, but it also indicates acquiescence.

My interpretation

Sam never meant to upset you.’ ‘Well, you could have fooled me!’

This is equivalent to:

Sam never meant to upset you.’ ‘Well, when this happened I could have been fooled into believing that he did mean to upset me!’

In other words, "I accept what you say as the truth, however it seemed to me at the time that..."

Does this make sense? I don't want to over-explain.

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  • I see. So it's actually a positive statement. But why does the definition say 'used for saying you do not believe something that someone is telling you?' Shouldn't it be 'you believe something?' – Ashraf Sep 20 '20 at 19:28

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