3

Is there a difference between the phrase

I have no clue...

and

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?

5

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! – barbara beeton Jan 26 '13 at 14:17
  • There's also a trivial informal: "No clue" or stronger "Not a clue!" – SF. Jan 27 '13 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. – Jack Aidley Mar 5 '13 at 16:59
2

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.

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