A dialogue:

  • Honey, can you make me a cup of tea?
  • Don't bet on it! My favourite film is starting.

Which of the following expressions can be put in as substitutes for "Don't bet on it":

  1. "Not if I know it!"
  2. "Not if I can help it!"
  3. "A fat chance!"
  • 1
    None of those are particularly idiomatic; but then neither his "don't bet on it" which really doesn't fit there. Mar 26 at 14:50
  • @Daniel Roseman Would you be so kind to give examples where it is relevant to use these phrases including "don't bet on it". And can my examples, being not idiomatic, be at least of marginal acceptability? Or won't a native speaker understand me at all? Thank you in advance.
    – Eugene
    Mar 26 at 15:10
  • 1
    A couple of questions, since sarcasm can mean many different things: I assume the response is intended to convey a literal "no"? Or is the intent to throw out a playful remark but make the tea anyway? And is this a real response to a real person? Or are you writing fictional dialog, and want to portray realistic banter?
    – BradC
    Mar 26 at 17:05
  • 1
    Can you tell us the orginal source of the dialogue? Or, even better, link to the source.
    – James K
    Mar 26 at 17:22
  • 1
    @BradC This is a fictional dialogue meant to pick up english equivalents for an idiom expressing a sarcastic playful remark to give a brush-off (to say "no"). Relaying the situation in English, it will be: "Honey, can you make me a cup of tea?" (the honey is doing nothing but sitting reclined in a chair watching TV without the slightest intent to lift a finger). Honey: "Oh, you really think I shall instantly leave off doing what I am busy with and dart off to the kitchen to pounce at making tea for my treasure. D'you want jam on it, ooh! Don't you see my favourite film starting?!"
    – Eugene
    Mar 26 at 21:53

There's a difference between idioms (common sayings) and sarcasm. Sarcasm is when you say the exact opposite of what you mean, with enough verbal queues to show that the statement is not truthful.

Don't bet on it.  My favorite film is starting.

Is fully honest in reply, but uses an idiom to imply that a bet would be lost, even though nobody is intending to place a bet.

Of course I would love to miss the start of my favorite show for the extreme 
pleasure of making you a cup of tea; because, that's just so much better than
something I would enjoy.

Would be an extremely sarcastic remark, and only a total fool would expect the statement to an honest one, or the tea to be served afterwards.

So, if you want similar idioms which indicate an event that is "unlikely to happen"

  • When Hell freezes over (based on the assumption that Hell is constantly on fire.
  • When pigs fly (based on the observation that pigs don't fly).
  • Better chance of getting blood from a stone (rocks don't contain blood)

And some related ones that emphasize after a very long time, possibly forever.

  • When the cows come home (based on the observation that cows, once escaping their confines, rarely walk back into them)
  • Don't hold your breath (based on the likelihood of suffocating before it happens)

Examples that use these

You'll get your tea when hell freezes over (never)
You'll get your tea when pigs fly (never)
You have a better chance of getting blood from a stone, my show's starting.
You'll tea will be ready after the cows come home.  My show's starting.
Don't hold your breath (for that tea).  My show's starting.


  • "A fat chance of that happening" is the closest you've listed. "Not if I can help it" means the person would stop (possibly someone else) from making the tea. "Not if I know" is uncommon in usage, but implies "I won't provide the information if I knew it". Odds are the last one is totally not appropriate for a physical object like tea.
    – Edwin Buck
    Mar 26 at 20:57
  • Thank you for very useful and helpful answer. And "don't bet on it" is also opportune?
    – Eugene
    Mar 26 at 22:18
  • Yes, "Don't bet on it" would work nicely. It is an idiom, which basically is short for "Don't bet on it if you want to keep your money." In other words, any bet on this item is a losing bet. There are other ways of saying "don't bet on it" like "that's a losing bet" (a bet that cannot win). There are also "winning" expressions that indicate a certain to happen event, like "five will get you ten" which means "if you bet five (whatever) on it, you will win ten (whatever)". It is an idiom of an event so certain to happen, you cannot lose.
    – Edwin Buck
    Mar 26 at 22:22

You bet on the likelihood of an outcome, so it doesn't make sense to use "don't bet on it" as a reply to a direct request. You could say for example (very contrived):

Are you likely to make me a cup of tea if I ask?

Don't bet on it!

From the others, "not if I know it" is not idiomatic at all.

"Not if I can help it" is used when you want to prevent something from happening:

Are you going to make me a cup of tea?

Not if I can help it!

The final one is almost OK in fact, but you don't want the article.

Can you make me a cup of tea?

Fat chance!

  • Thank you very much. In fact "not if I know it" is the most mysterious one for me. I stumbled across this phrase with (or should I use a preposition "by" or "at" or some other one?) A.Trollope. "When Mr. and Mrs. Horton went to visit her brother at Hallam Hall at Christmas time, Mr. Horton asked George Wade, his brother-in-law, for the use of his name on a paper. Without asking the nature of the paper, but assuming it was a financial obligation, his host replied hastily, “Not if I know it.” What does "not if I know" mean and how can it be used in present day English?
    – Eugene
    Mar 26 at 15:47
  • That's a different question. You should "ask a new question" instead of writing a comment.
    – James K
    Mar 26 at 17:21
  • 1
    It seems to be the title of a short story by Trollope, and is not a common expression today. The sense seems to be "I shan't sign a document without being fully aware of what I'm doing". Mar 26 at 17:30
  • @Kate Bunting Can it be that George Wade "assuming it was a financial obligation" refused to sign the document because he already knew what it was. And in my pattern the honey knew what it was to make tea and that she would definitely miss something of her film. And she rebutted by saying "Not if I know it", i.e. "I won't make you tea now because I know it (I know that it will take time and I'll miss a part of the film)".
    – Eugene
    Mar 26 at 23:04

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