I lived in an Asian country and I recently moved to Europe. English was very popular in my country.

I have seen african -american people and British people on youtube ( Mostly african -american) saying " you know what I mean " and " you know what I am saying " in interviews to journalists a lot. This sentence didn't add anything to the talk but just sounds like the speaker is trying to act smart( in my opinion).

This phrase is used many many times.

I accidentaly used it once with one of my professor in an official dinner ( I study at a german university) and he seemed annoyed but didn't said anything. Most people were not pleased and I said sorry to professor after saying this phrase.

Should this phrase be used in informal setting only? I have taken English even at bachelors level and this phrase was never discussed!

  • 3
    Tone is everything. These phrases are quite acceptable and mean different things depending on tone. Slurred, they are fillers = Get it? but also a check on whether the meaning was clear = Do you see? As an admonishment, they say you better watch my warning. If your tone was "Yo, hows-it-goin?" a German prof will sneer. Commented Nov 12, 2022 at 23:25
  • All answers are giving good explanations. It is the better side of the English language. It teaches you to be conscious as to how your phrase deliveries (phrasing, phonation, emphasis and intonation) is coming out and how it may be perceived by the listener. On the flipside, you learn to be snobbish in a sophisticated way.
    – Wolfim
    Commented Nov 19, 2022 at 8:28

4 Answers 4


I have seen African-American people and British people on youtube ( Mostly African -American) saying "you know what I mean" and "you know what I am saying"

In this context, this is a verbal filler/tic* and is usual in certain sociolects (usually, poorly educated). It is not confined to Afro-Caribbean youth, but is common among them.

It is currently rhetorical - meaningless. The answer is always "Yes" or a grunt of acknowledgement. It is used (i) to keep the listener's attention on what is being said and (ii) seeking confirmatory agreement.

It's not rude or offensive, but it should be avoided as it gives a poor impression of the speaker's capabilities.

In other contexts, it does have other meanings as has been shown in other answers:

Jasen: It's a phrase often used to flag innuendo. So generally it means that one should take a darker interpretation on the proceeding statement.

RosieF A challenge or retort: "You do know what I mean!"

Jim “I hope you know what I mean” - almost apologetic.

  • OED:

tic (n) 3. A whim: = tick

1896 Daily News 30 Sept. 6/3 It is mere ‘tic’ or habit.

1960 20th Cent. Apr. 361 This is an irritating tic of the British Left, this substitution of moral gestures for practical policies.

1978 C. P. Snow Realists vi. 176 He had the tic, common to many writers, of insisting that the table be kept pernicketily tidy.


It's a phrase often used to flag innuendo. So generally it means that one should take a darker interpretation on the proceeding statement.

"I made him an offer he couldn't refuse."

The offer was sufficient and he sold it to me.

"If you know what I mean."

Actually I threatened to kill him if he didn't sign, there was no way to refuse.

  • 3
    I don't think this is the idiom being referred to here. Some speakers who are not very articulate use "Know what I mean?" as a filler, often after some perfectly clear statement. It's not 'rude', just a sign of uneducated speech. Commented Nov 13, 2022 at 8:51
  • thats likely to make it harder to understand them,
    – Jasen
    Commented Nov 13, 2022 at 19:31

To add to the interpretations given by tinlyx and Jasen, there's also this. A says something B didn't fully understand. B asks A to clarify. A might retort "You know what I mean", to mean "You're only pretending not to understand. You do know what I mean".


I don't think these two phrases are rude by themselves, or that "the speaker is trying to act smart". They are just filler phrases.

Being fillers, they don't add much to the sentence or are useless. Maybe that's what's annoying to certain people, such as your professor. Or maybe it's the sentence before the filler that displeased the professor.

  • 2
    I tend to use this phrase exactly when I know I’m not being smart. I.e. if I were smarter I’d be able to say what I meant clearly. But since I realize that my explanation/statement isn’t coming out as clearly as I’d like I’ll add a “I hope you know what I mean”
    – Jim
    Commented Nov 12, 2022 at 21:10
  • "I hope" preceding other parts of the sentences would make it all right all the time except when you use the tone that you use when you are talking with imbeciles.
    – banuyayi
    Commented Nov 14, 2022 at 6:42

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