Je ne sais quoi

French Expression in English

Je ne sais quoi
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Meaning something inexplicable
Literally I don’t know what
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Pronunciation French sound files [zheu n(eu) say kwah]
IPA   [ʒə nə se kwa]

Usage notes: There’s a certain je ne sais quoi about the expression je ne sais quoi, don’t you think? In French, it literally means "I don’t know what."

Par exemple…

Je ne sais quoi Ă©tudier cette annĂ©e.   I don’t know what to study this year.
Elle a promis d’apporter du vin, de l’eau, du cafĂ© et je ne sais quoi encore.   She promised to bring wine, water, coffee, and I don’t know what else.

To describe something in vague terms, you can use je ne sais quoi + de + adjective. The adjective does not change to agree with the subject, but rather remains in the default masculine singular form.

Par exemple…

Cette histoire a je ne sais quoi d’inquiĂ©tant.   There’s something disturbing about this story.
Les bâtiments ont je ne sais quoi de menaçant.   The buildings are kind of creepy, There’s something kind of creepy about the buildings.

Variations

  • je ne sais quoi
  • je-ne-sais-quoi
  • un je ne sais quoi
  • un je-ne-sais-quoi

 In English, we use je ne sais quoi only to mean “a certain something” or “something inexplicable.” It’s usually modified by the (English) adjective “certain”:

Pierrette has a certain "je ne sais quoi" about her today.

It’s a beautiful town, but it lacks a certain “je ne sais quoi.”

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Je ne sais quoi

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