Is there a difference between the phrase

I have no clue...


I haven't a clue...

as well as

I am clueless...

For instance if someone said:

What is wrong with this?

Which of these could be used to answer?

2 Answers 2


I'm not a fan of Ngrams, so my answer is based on personal opinion and experience.

Although I suppose that the three phrases would be perfectly understood in context, if I were to use one of them I'd go for the first one (I have no clue) or for a modified version of the second (I don't have a clue or I haven't got a clue).

I wouldn't use the second phrase as it is because in negative sentences the verb have is normally used either in conjunction with got, thus being an auxiliary, or preceded by "don't"/"doesn't"/"didn't" as any other verb.

As for clueless, OALD states that it is an informal, disapproving adjective which means "very stupid; not able to understand or do something", which is a deviation from the meaning of the previous sentences.

  • 1
    "I haven't a clue" is idiomatic and colloquial, almost certainly a shortening of "I haven't got a clue". "I have no clue" sounds more formal. But any of these would be understood to mean that you have no idea. Correct about "clueless"; avoid it! Jan 26, 2013 at 14:17
  • There's also a trivial informal: "No clue" or stronger "Not a clue!"
    – SF.
    Jan 27, 2013 at 0:36
  • More than that: clueless is a description of a person's character not a word applied to a specific instance of not having a clue. Mar 5, 2013 at 16:59

As I understand it, all of those three are suitable answers.

I have no clue and I haven't a clue have the same meaning, but I haven't a clue seems to be more used according to this Ngram (blue line = I have no clue, red line = I haven't a clue - which Google changes to I have not a clue).

enter image description here

I am clueless will probably be understood by most people, even though clueless has some negative conotations of stupidity.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .