What is the difference between "You wouldn't want to" and "You don't want to"?

Also similar uses with

  • You wouldn't want to do
  • You wouldn't want to see
  • No significant difference. "You don't want to know" is probably the more common form of idiom in the US. Often used as a reply to a query -- "Who was that on the phone?" "You don't want to know."
    – Hot Licks
    Dec 20, 2014 at 15:56

1 Answer 1


'You wouldn't want to know', obviously given in reply to another person's question, is arguably more accurately formed, as a contraction of

'You wouldn't want to know if you knew how awful the truth really is'


'You wouldn't want to know if you knew how dangerous that knowledge would be'.

But the paradoxical

'You don't want to know',

with precisely the same meaning is equally acceptable. It is a punchier variant, probably preferred in the US for that reason. 'You don't want to know' is being used to represent 'Even though you have a desire to know as evidenced by your asking the question, if I give you the facts, you'll wish you never asked.' Stick with 'You don't want to know.'

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