Talking to my UK colleagues daily in English, I have had no idea that such a sentence is possible " Do you often don't know where to put your arms". What is the difference between:

Do you often don't know...


Do you often not know...

2 Answers 2


"Do you often not know" is correct. I'd wager that "do you often don't know where to put your arms" sounds terribly ungrammatical to most native English speakers. A Google search of "do you often don't" brought up several pages of results all referencing the same document, a test of some sort for autism and Asperger's. The test has become popular, and the grammatically dubious question has propagated online, but I'd be very surprised to learn that this construction is actually used in speech or writing.


(This is really a question for John Lawler.) I have not studied linguistics nor the etymology of dialects but I'm pretty sure that the UK colleagues which the OP refers to are indeed native speakers.

When native speakers of any language converse together they will often speak fast, and make grammatical errors they are unaware of. Their thoughts run ahead of their speech, and hence they will hesitate in search of the right word or repeat themselves. Often native speakers will unconsciously reiterate the same concept (as I suspect is the case here) or employ interjections or fillers such as: you know, like, all right, and so, then I said etc.

"Do you often don't know..." means "Are you often aware that...?" or in plain words, "Do you often not know... ?" There is no difference in meaning, only in structure and style. The first is very informal, while the second is considered more formal and grammatically correct. I believe the error stems from "don't know" being such a high frequency expression in everyday life; it becomes an almost subconscious, reflex thing to say. (I'm sure there is technical word for this, but I don't have one.)

If we could record and listen to their speech we would have little difficulty in understanding them and speech comes and goes so, grammatically correct sentences do not matter as much. It is when their dialogue is transcribed that we notice their grammatical mistakes more evidently.

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