'I wouldn't know' without anything following it

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MaximuS.111

Senior Member
russian
Hello, friends! :)
I've just come across this narrative:
Some time later for no particular reason somebody shot that nice young president when he was riding in his car.
And a few years after that somebody shot his little brother too, only he was in a hotel kitchen.
Must be hard being brothers. I wouldn't know.

I don't understand the meaning of the last phrase. Could somebody please elaborate on in?
Thanks in advance! :)
 
  • wandle

    Senior Member
    English - British
    'It must be hard' (not 'it is hard') is an assumption.
    'I wouldn't know' means 'I cannot state that as a fact, because it (being brothers) is outside my experience'.
     

    MaximuS.111

    Senior Member
    russian
    pob14, wandle,thank you mates :).
    Say somebody's telling me how hard it is to work in consulting industry. And if I've never had the experience in that field I may say "You must be right! I wouldn't know." Yes?
    Though it's unclear for me why use wouldn't istead of don't. Can you guys enlighten me? :)
     

    pob14

    Senior Member
    American English
    There's a little nuance here. The phrase is often used in a way that suggests that I wouldn't know because I'm too good for that sort of thing.

    "Is K-Mart [a discount retailer] having a sale this week?'
    "My goodness, I wouldn't know." (I only shop at high-end places, and certainly wouldn't lower myself to read K-Mart ads.)

    For that reason I wouldn't use it in your last example.

    Your original quote is interesting (could you tell us the source, as required by the rules here?), because the speaker is clearly talking about President John Kennedy and his brother Bobby (who was a presidential candidate when he was killed). And her (for some reason I'm assuming the speaker was an older lady) reaction to this news is that . . . it's hard being brothers? It seems that her obliviousness is being played for comedic effect.
     

    MaximuS.111

    Senior Member
    russian
    Yes, sure. It's from the movie "Forrest Gump". He was talking to an old lady as you assumed. But the speaker was Forrest Gump, the lady didn't say anything. Forrest Gump didn't have brothers or sisters, maybe that's why he used wouldn't istead of don't?
     

    pob14

    Senior Member
    American English
    Ah, okay. Forrest is mentally handicapped, that's why he doesn't understand. Anyway, yes, as he's using it it just means "I'm not in a position where I could know." It's not just "I don't know," it's "there's no way I could know, given my circumstances."
     

    MaximuS.111

    Senior Member
    russian
    Ok, pob14. Thanks! I think I got it.
    Max, what's the price of rice in India?
    Mate, I wouldn't know. (meaning there's no way I could no. I've never been to India, I don't have any interest in this country)
    Correct?
    "there's no way I could know, given my circumstances."
    Can it be not because he's mentally handicapped, but because he doesn't have a brother?
     

    pob14

    Senior Member
    American English
    I think you've got it, too, Max!

    Absolutely he says "I wouldn't know" because he has no brother. He says "Must be hard being brothers" because he's mentally handicapped. :D
     
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