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For examples, if A washed the dishes and came to B to tell him that, but B didn't believe it. Should B say:

I don't believe that you washed the dishes !

Or just

I don't believe you !

Is there a difference between them?

Do both sentences have the same degree of indelicacy?

  • I would think that "Thank you" would be more appropriate. – Hot Licks Jul 24 '15 at 12:35
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If A only mentioned washing the dishes, it would seem there would be no difference in meaning.

I don't believe you, however, implies something personal about not believing A, but it really depends on the person. A liar might take it personally.

There are always other ways to phrase the sentence, if you think A would take it personally.

  1. You really washed the dishes?

  2. I don't think so.

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  • I don't believe you.

Accuses a person of lying. This is definitely "indelicate".

  • I don't believe you washed the dishes [already].
    This can mean "I'm {shocked/amazed} that you did the dishes [so quickly or so soon.] but it might also be construed as the first—that the hearer was lying.

To make sure it will be construed in a positive sense, use "can't":

  • I can't believe you did the dishes [already]!
    (stress the italicized words, and note that this is an exclamation) This indicates pleased amazement, and as such is not at all indelicate.

but notice that it WOULD be indelicate to say:

  • I can't believe you did the dishes!

because the stress on "you" implies that the speaker really thought the hearer was incapable of (or more likely, chronically averse to) doing the dishes.

  • Or another way for the positive (jocular) sense: I don't believe it – Avon Jul 24 '15 at 9:47
  • It's concise; but like the others, it would have to be said in the right tone of voice, and it seems the speaker and hearer would have to have already established a relationship conducive to jocularity. – Brian Hitchcock Jul 24 '15 at 10:24
  • I think replacing "you" with "it" makes it a lot less personal even if there isn't an established relationship: you're disbelieving the event more than the person. It could still be received as "calling me a liar" but with far less justification. – Avon Jul 24 '15 at 10:40
  • You're right about that. I would include it in my answer, but another amswer has already been chosen. – Brian Hitchcock Jul 26 '15 at 12:19

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