Could somebody explain the sentence "I wouldn't know"? What would be a Spanish equivalent word/expression, especially in a context similar to this:

'Do you do this every year? I wouldn't know' - Leonardo DiCaprio pokes fun at Oscars drought as he has award engraved.

Leonardo DiCaprio has proved he has a sense of humour about years of being rejected by the Academy when he was overheard joking about his awards drought.

The Revenant star was waiting for his award to be engraved at the Governors Ball, the Academy's official after-party, when he struck up conversation with the woman etching his long-awaited gong.

"Do you do this every year?," the 41-year-old asks her. "I wouldn't know."


Collins Dictionary defines I wouldn't know as ¿Y yo que sé?:

—Was she annoyed about it? —I wouldn't know.
—¿Se enfadó por eso? —¿Y yo que sé?

Still, Y yo que sé is quite rude in Spanish, so it doesn't fit the context of Dicaprio's situation. Is there any other alternative translation?

  • 'I wouldn't know' here may be paraphrased 'I'm not in the situation where I'm familiar with what usually happens at Oscar ceremonies, as I'm not usually invited.'
    – Edwin Ashworth
    Mar 15, 2016 at 10:32
  • @Rathony It's DiCaprio speaking throughout.
    – Edwin Ashworth
    Mar 15, 2016 at 10:33
  • @EdwinAshworth I thought it was a conversation. It means "Since I have not come here every year and it is the first time that I received the award, I am not sure whether you did it last year or the year before."
    – Rathony
    Mar 15, 2016 at 10:35
  • @Rathony Yes; that's better. Not the engraver replying.
    – Edwin Ashworth
    Mar 15, 2016 at 10:38
  • Could it be paraphrased, in a grammatically better style, as "otherwise, I wouldn't have ever known/guessed"
    Mar 15, 2016 at 13:45

4 Answers 4


To quote what has been already explained in the comments:

'I wouldn't know' here may be paraphrased I'm not in the situation where I'm familiar with what usually happens at Oscar ceremonies, as I'm not usually invited. – Edwin Ashworth

It means "Since I have not come here every year and it is the first time that I received the award, I am not sure whether you did it last year or the year before." – Rathony

The comment is meant to be a joke. "I wouldn't know" is a playful innuendo that hints at the fact he resents he had never won an oscar before despite his many nominations, so he doesn't know what the ceremony is concerning such an event.

Some equivalent expressions in Spanish would be:

  • Y yo qué sé.
  • ¿Cómo quieres que lo sepa?

You're right that would be too rude a comment to fit this case. Considering that and the fact DiCaprio isn't answering any question, a more appropriate translation would be:

  • ¿Hacen/hacéis esto todos los años? Yo no tengo forma de saberlo.

The playful part of it is lost in translation, I'm afraid.

To explain this a little further, The Free Dictionary defines I wouldn't know thusly:

(I) wouldn't know: There is no way that I would know the answer to that question.

In Spanish:

De ninguna manera podría yo saber la respuesta a semejante pregunta.

The conditional ("wouldn't know") is being used to express that if there's a cirumstance under which the speaker would actually know the answer to what they are being asked, such circumstance doesn't exist or it just isn't true. Let's take a look at an example from the same page:

  • Bob: Are there many fish in the Amazon River?
  • Mary: Gee, I wouldn't know.

Mary would arguably know the answer if she, say, had a passion for Amazon's fauna to the extent that she actually knew how many fish there are in the Amazon River. However, such condition is so infeasible that it's legit to say there's no way she would know the answer. In other words, if the most far-fetched condition one can think of were true, she still wouldn't know the answer. This is obviously a hyperbole, since there are some conditions that would allow Mary to know the answer, but saying there's none is a way to make her sound more contundent.

In Spanish, you wouldn't say "(yo) no lo sabría" in this case, but you can indeed say "(yo) no podría saberlo" or even "(yo) no sabría decirte". Even though it doesn't make much sense to translate it literally, the meaning is pretty much there if one does just a little mental acrobatics:

Under no condition would I know the answer, or I wouldn't know the answer under any condition = Bajo ninguna circunstancia podría (yo) saber la respuesta // Bajo ninguna circunstancia sabría (yo) decirte la respuesta.

  • I am afraid I still can't see it. Could you elaborate it a bit more, emphasizing the role the modal verb would plays in it? Also, is the verb to know has several meanings, and it would be helpful to know what exactly it denotes, or if there's some part of the sentence has been left out but is still implied
    – GJC
    Mar 15, 2016 at 16:45
  • I tried to elaborate a little bit. Is it clearer now?
    – Yay
    Mar 15, 2016 at 17:42
  • 1
    I have to say, being a native speaker, it's perfectly right to say no sabría la respuesta. This is probably regional, but it's not excluded to rephrase it in this way.
    – Schwale
    Mar 15, 2016 at 17:46
  • @Ustanak Well, it is right, just not in this case. Would you translate DiCaprio's comment as "¿Hacen esto todos los años? Yo no lo sabría"? That sounds stilted to me, and I'm not sure I would understand what he's saying if I heard that. Or think of Mary's example: you could translate her answer as No sabría la respuesta, but that's not quite it. There's a tone of exasperation in her answer, better translated as Y cómo podría saberlo or even Cómo esperas que lo sepa. No sabría la respuesta/no lo sabría is a possible translation, but not the most appropriate one in this case.
    – Yay
    Mar 15, 2016 at 18:06
  • 1
    @Yay In my country it's often used as no sabría decirte. Now you mention it, saying no sabría sounds empty, but saying no sabría decirte fills this empty.
    – Schwale
    Mar 15, 2016 at 18:32

@Yay did a great job of explaining the answer however I think the right tense in Spanish for this would be the conditional form, which is what "would" kind of is in Spanish.

Therefore, the polite/proper answer would be "No sabría". Now this sounds kind of weird by itself so you would need context based on what the question is. In the Leonardo DiCaprio example the translation would be:

¿Hacen esto todos los años? No sabría decirlo"


The problem is you're trying to translate it literally. You can't do that.

Literal: Yo no sabría la respuesta

What he means in spanish: Ni idea

  • Hi, Nathalie. Welcome to Spanish Language SE! This answer doesn't seem to add anything meaningful to what has already been posted and reads more like a comment. Once you have sufficient reputation points you will be able to comment on any post. Until then, when posting an answer please make sure you include examples and/or references to back up your claims. Also, note ni idea doesn't work in this case because DiCaprio isn't answering any question.
    – Yay
    Mar 16, 2016 at 0:38
  • Actually, ni idea stands for other idiomatic thing in Spanish.
    – Schwale
    Mar 16, 2016 at 1:45
  • 1
    You could argue he is answering his own question.
    – mdewey
    Mar 16, 2016 at 14:00

Se me ocurre una pregunta retórica de uso más frecuente.

¿Cómo saberlo?

Otras alternativas mencionadas por algunos son

"No sabría decirte" o "No podría asegurarlo"

Por ejemplo:

  • ¿Son éstos los ingredientes de la receta de la abuela? ¿Cómo saberlo?

La traducción literal es pobre en este caso. Otras alternativas como "No tengo idea" o "Ni idea" son más comunes y más versátiles al combinarlas (informal/insulto).

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