I was watching a movie and there was something like advertising the next episode in the bottom of the screen. It was a text which i can't match with the english grammar. Just this :

Truth be told

I have some questions about this sentence.

  1. Why not using "the truth"?
  2. What does it mean exactly? Is this some kind of telling something about the future? If it was my sentence, i would say "The truth will be told".
  3. Is this sentence grammatically right?
  • 4
    It's a shortening of If the truth be told (a subjunctive usage, effectively, If the truth were to be told). Perhaps more common today might be Truth to tell (which is too "idiomatic" for me to easily explain the "grammar"). Jul 15, 2016 at 13:53
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    @FumbleFingers - I was surprised to see that truth to tell is actually pretty common, according to Ngrams. I don't think I've ever heard anyone say that. It's also kind of weird that truth be told suddenly experienced a massive surge in popularity that started in the 1980s and shows no signs of letting up.
    – stangdon
    Jul 15, 2016 at 16:00
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    @stangdon 40: If the truth be told, I expected to see a bigger US/UK usage split than that implied by your NGram link. But if you look at mine, I think you'll agree that if we exclude instances where those first two words are explicitly present, AmE is really leading the way on this one. Jul 15, 2016 at 16:47
  • @FumbleFingers - Very interesting! I also didn't know you could do subtractions like that with Ngrams, so you've educated me on that as well!
    – stangdon
    Jul 15, 2016 at 16:53
  • @stangdon: Some of the guys on ELU (Peter Shor comes to mind) are real pros at that. They do things like filter for two different corpuses on the same chart, and dividing the prevalence of one usage by another, which can be incredibly useful in some contexts. I ain't that good, and doubt I ever could be, but I have the feeling you're the kind of person who could get really slick at making such charts if you put your mind to it. :) Jul 15, 2016 at 17:10

1 Answer 1


It's an idiom, an expression. You can't really use it as a complete sentence; normally, you'd say, for example: "truth be told, I don't really like pokémon." It means about the same thing as 'to be honest' or 'frankly'.

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