Help me please convey the sense correctly. I am not sure that 'unknown city' is correct. I want to describe the city which I am going to visit for the first time. I am not familiar with this city.

unknown city, city unknown to me, unfamiliar city?

  • 4
    An unfamiliar city. Though if you can give us a fuller context, we can perhaps suggest a better phrasing. In many contexts, "... a city I hadn't visited before" or "a city I hadn't been to" might be more common. Mar 15, 2015 at 17:18
  • The context: I am going to attent a meeting in the city which is unknown to me. @Jim Reynolds why are you using the past perfect? Can I use the present perfect or the simple past?
    – user18146
    Mar 15, 2015 at 17:27
  • You can say, <City> is unfamiliar to me. I am unfamiliar with <City>. I have a meeting in <City>- I've never been there before so I'm unfamiliar with it. OR you can say, I've never been there so I don't know my way around.
    – Jim
    Mar 15, 2015 at 17:34
  • I agree with @Jim – certainly the city is not unknown to you; otherwise, you wouldn't be going there :^) You can even use the word new: The city is new to me. Most would understand that to mean that you hadn't visited the city before.
    – J.R.
    Mar 15, 2015 at 19:11
  • Did anyone notice we are Jim Reynolds, Jim, and J.R.? I am all of those. We can give you even more information with more specific context. Speech or writing? Are you informing someone about a future plan? Describing a past event? Formal or informal? Etc. Past perfect could be a description of a past event: I went to London last month. I had not been to London before that. Mar 15, 2015 at 19:30

1 Answer 1


While unknown and unfamiliar both mean the same in this context, I think, the latter one has some flair of being personalized. If you say 'unknown', I'm afraid it may be generalized.

Maybe, because 'unfamiliar' has come from the word 'family', someone's family? Taking a human example makes it clearer --It's possible that I know Sam, but I'm not 'familiar' with him. I don't know how he is. In other words, I know Sam, he's Kelly's brother; but, I'm not familiar with him; so whether you do business with him, it's your take. Don't consider my opinion on that!

Also, if something is 'unknown', it might be unknown to the world; but if something is 'unfamiliar', you immediately make things personal? Unfamiliar to someone?

I'm visiting an unknown city ~ "Oh really, which corner of the world it is in?"


I'm visiting an unfamiliar city ~ I see, better read it on WikiTravel and go.

This makes me think. If you are visiting 'unknown' place, you may not find any information about it, but if you are unfamiliar with some place, you may have some information. I'm not familiar with New York City, but The Big Apple is not unknown to me!

But again, as I see, both the words have been used in this context. My answer is just a try to get subtlety of it.

But yes, if you define that it's unknown to me, it works!

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