My teacher prepared a (large) batch of sentences to study. One sentence is:


Here I see two interpretations of this sentence:

I also don't know how to offend him.

I would naturally interpret this sentence as: "我" ("I") is deliberately trying to 冒犯 ("offend") 他 ("him"), and the 也 ("also") implies that there is another person participating in this attempt to offend him.

I also don't know how I offended him.

I'm guessing this is the intended meaning, but I'm not sure how to reach this without utilizing some kind of "meta" knowledge.

Question: Does this sentence mean "I also don't know how to offend him" and/or "I also don't know how I offended him"?

  • The presence of 了 means that it has already happened. So it cannot be the first interpretation. Jan 17, 2022 at 13:45

9 Answers 9



Should interpret to

I DO NOT know how I offended him.

  • 冒犯 usually used in an unintentional case.
  • The last word usually means the things have been done.
  • is widely used in daily communication, its basic meaning is also, but usually used to emphasize the opinion following it.

    In this case, I think the sentence is appeared in a conversation that someone ask you:
    你怎么着他了 (What did you do to him?).
    Then you will reply:
    我也不知道 (I DO NOT known!).
    Or if you want to offer more informations, then you can reply:
    我也不知道怎么冒犯他了 (I DO NOT know how I offended him.)

  • If you want to express I also don't know how to offend him. or something like that, you can say 我不知道该怎么冒犯他, the word here means how to do sth.
    And if you want to emphasize it in a conversation, you can say 我也不知道该怎么冒犯他.


First, according to context, 也 doesn't necessarily mean also in this case. It might denote this sense:


E.g. 哪怕全家反对,她要跟他结婚。

For interpretation, we can probably use in any case or maybe just ignore it. It goes something like In any case, I don't know how I offended him.

In Chinese, if we want to express "I don't know how to offend him", we can say 我不知道怎么样去冒犯他。

We need more context to determine the use of 也. The sentence standing alone, I wouldn't interpret 也 as also.


我也不知道怎么冒犯他了。( I also don't know how to offend him.) doesn't sound right.

Normally, 冒犯 (offend) is presumed 'unintentional' unless stated otherwise.


  • 恕我冒犯 (Forgive me for offending you) imply although I offended you, it is not the intention.

  • 这些人有意冒犯 (these people intend to offend) specifically stating this offense is not the presumed unintentional type

Therefore, "I also don't know how I offended him." is the logical interpretation for "我也不知道怎么冒犯他了"

Let's change the verb from 冒犯 to 說服

我也不知道怎么說服他了 = I don't know how to convince him anymore.

It is illogical to not know how you have 說服 convinced someone, because 說服 is always proactive and intentional, therefore, "I also don't know how I convinced him" would be wrong

Let's try 忘記

我也不知道怎么忘記他了 could mean "Even I don't how I've forgotten him" or "I really don't know how to forget him"

忘記 can be intentionally or unintentionally; actively or passively

These examples showed grammatically you are correct that the sentence in question is somewhat ambiguous, You need to look into the context to find the actual meaning


我(也)不知道怎么冒犯他了。Let's get rid of "也" to simplify the translation.

我不知道 (I don't know) 怎么 (how) 冒犯他了 (offended him). Again, the translation needs to be modified to be a better sentence in English:

  • I don't know how do I have offended him.

Note, in general, 也 means "also", but sometimes it can be meaningless.

  • 也 means "also" - When refers to something that is similar, such as a shared experience, between two or more peoples - 就像你(不知道), 我不知道. 你不相信, 他不相信, 我不相信.

  • 也 is meaningless in this example conservation: Q: "你要怎麼告訴她?", A: "我不知道該怎麼告訴她!". In here, 也 can be eliminated without changing the meaning of the sentence. I think the sentence in this question belongs to this category.

However, when in the case that 也 is meaningless, it does add the tune of suspense (猜測) with a slight flavor of hopelessness (無奈) over the entire matter. For example, the sentence "我(也)不知道怎么冒犯他了" can be expanded as "我猜不出來是什麼時候/事情冒犯他了. 真糾結/無奈啊!

  • Native English speaker here, "I don't know how do I have offended him" does not seem like a good sentence to me. Jan 17, 2022 at 10:29

I don't know in which way I offended him.

Usually this phrase is used when A complaints things about B to C, where A is the one who says this phrase. The "也" is used here because C agrees (or A thinks C will agree) that what B had done is wrong.


Does seem weird to English ears without another 我。But I am assured the sentence is fine!


Maybe you know this old song from Bob Dylan. Somehow the sentence reminded me of the song, must be the 不知道如何伤害你 bit.

A woman is in a bar with some dangerous men, one man is kind:

A woman like you should be at home,
that's where you belong,
taking care of somebody nice,
who don't know how to do you wrong.


This depends on the context. If the speaker is intended to offend him, which is rare because "冒犯" itself is unintentional, then it means "I also don't know how to offend him". If the speaker didn't think he offend him but he thought the speaker offended him, then it means "I don't know how I could ever offended him".

Usually if you put your stress on "怎么" you mean the latter context, stress on "也" usually means the first one.


The word "也" here does not mean "also." It is used to add tone to the sentence. It adds a feeling of exasperation, as if saying, "I don't know how the heck I offended him, but I did." This "也" is usually used when describing something unexpected/unintended in a sequence of events.

The "我也不知道" can be thought of as an expression, conferring a sense of bewilderment/confusion/exasperation/etc. It also provides a sense of humor, that the speaker is resigned to the facts out of his or her control.


You are right. This sentence yields two meanings depending on whether ‘了’ is the perfective marker for '冒犯' or ‘不知道’. And the intended meaning is probably the first one.

Interpretation 1:


Ialso don't know how I offended him.

Interpretation 2:


Ialso don't know how to offend him.

(p.s. Note that a more accurate translation of Interpretation 2 should be "I have also come to the state of not knowing how to offend him" as "不知道...了" has a subtle emphasis on the change of state of whether I know.)

It is just because the meaning of 2 is so malicious and strange that people would not normally parse the sentence in that way, but it is completely grammatical for the sentence to yield such a meaning "I also don't know how to offend him."

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