What Can I Say?: Definition, Meaning, and Origin

Last Updated on
July 3, 2023

The phrase "What can I say" is a rhetorical question often used to indicate that the speaker has no words to express their feelings or thoughts. It communicates that a situation or event is so overwhelming or self-explanatory that it leaves the speaker speechless.

In short:

"What can I say" is used to indicate that the speaker is at a loss for words, typically due to surprise, disbelief, or awe.

What Does "What Can I Say" Mean?

"What can I say" is a popular phrase used when a person finds it hard to verbalize their emotions or thoughts. It is often used in everyday conversations to express feelings such as surprise, astonishment, or even sarcasm, depending on the context.

For example, "The concert was so amazing, what can I say?" The phrase is used here to express awe and the difficulty of describing the incredible experience with words.

Let's explore its core meanings and usage:

  • The phrase often means that words are insufficient to express the speaker's feelings or thoughts.
  • It is used in both casual and formal situations to convey surprise, disbelief, or a sense of being overwhelmed.
  • "What can I say" is also used to show humility or deference, as in acknowledging a compliment.

Where Does "What Can I Say" Come From?

The origin of "what can I say" is not precisely documented, but it has been a part of English language conversations for quite some time. It is a rhetorical question, typically used when the speaker believes that words are insufficient to describe a situation or express an emotion.

Historical Example

"I can say enough; but what can I say against the king's evidence? "

- A Complete Collection of State Trials, 1816

10 Examples of "What Can I Say" in Sentences

Here are some examples of the phrase in various sentences.

  • Your performance was amazing. What can I say?
  • What can I say? Misery loves company, and we've all been there at some point.
  • What can I say? Just give it a shot and see what happens.
  • I was taken aback by the surprise party. What can I say?
  • Well, what can I say? What you see is what you get with me.
  • What can I say? It's going to be a blast, so be there or be square.
  • The sun setting over the ocean was a sight to behold. What can I say?
  • Whether or not you agree, what can I say? It's my opinion.
  • You did such a fantastic job on the project. What can I say?
  • He was incredibly kind and supportive. What can I say? I'm grateful.

Examples of "What Can I Say" in Pop Culture

The phrase "What can I say" is often seen in pop culture, showcasing its broad application in different contexts.

Let's explore some instances:

  • What Can I Say?: How to Write Greetings and Verse for Every Occasion” is a 2001 book by Sadie Harris. This book is a helpful guide that teaches how to craft your own messages for cards, letters, emails, and social media posts.
  • What Can I Say” is a song by American singer-songwriter Boy Scaggs.
  • In the comedy movie Mrs. Doubtfire (1993), Stu talks to Ron about Daniel, "What can I say, Ron? The guy's a loser."

Other/Different Ways to Say "What Can I Say"

The phrase "What can I say" has a few synonymous expressions you can use interchangeably, depending on the context.

Here are some of them:

  • I'm at a loss for words
  • I'm speechless
  • Words fail me
  • It's indescribable
  • I have no words
  • I don't know what to say
  • It leaves me speechless
  • Words cannot express it
  • I'm stunned
  • It's beyond words

10 Frequently Asked Questions About "What Can I Say":

  • What does "what can I say" mean?

"What can I say" is a rhetorical question used when a person finds it hard to express their emotions or thoughts, typically due to surprise, awe, or disbelief.

  • How can I use "what can I say" in a sentence?

You can use "what can I say" to show that you are at a loss for words. For example, "The scenery was so beautiful, what can I say?"

  • Where does the phrase "what can I say" come from?

The exact origin of "what can I say" is not well-documented, but it's a common phrase in English used when words seem insufficient to express one's emotions or describe a situation.

  • Does it have a sarcastic tone?

Yes, depending on the context and tone, "what can I say" can be used sarcastically. For example, "What can I say, you've done a remarkable job of creating chaos."

  • Can "What can I say" express positive feelings?

Yes, "what can I say" can be used to express positive feelings like admiration or awe, when words seem inadequate to express these feelings.

  • Is "what can I say" a formal expression?

While "what can I say" is more commonly used in informal speech, it can be used in formal situations depending on the context.

  • Can you use it to express disappointment?

Yes, "what can I say" can also be used to express disappointment or resignation. For example, "What can I say, I had expected better from them."

  • Can you use it to deflect praise?

Yes, "what can I say" can sometimes be used to humbly deflect praise or compliments, indicating that the speaker is at a loss for words to express gratitude or modesty.

  • Can "what can I say" indicate a lack of commitment?

Not typically. "What can I say" is more often used to express being at a loss for words rather than to express indecision or lack of commitment.

  • Is it okay to use it when agreeing?

Yes, it can be used to emphasize agreement with a statement that has been made. For example, "The cake is delicious, what can I say?" Here it underscores the speaker's agreement with the statement.

Final Thoughts About "What Can I Say"

The phrase "What can I say" is an expressive idiom for times when words seem insufficient to convey one's feelings or thoughts. It shows the speaker's surprise, wonder, disbelief, or even humility.

To sum it up:

  • You say it when you are at a loss for words due to overwhelming feelings.
  • It is applicable in both positive and negative contexts, depending on the situation.
  • It's a common phrase in both informal chats and in more formal contexts, making it versatile in usage.

By using "what can I say" in your conversation or writing, you can express strong feelings when words seem inadequate, making your emotions or thoughts more relatable to your audience.

We encourage you to share this article on Twitter and Facebook. Just click those two links - you'll see why.

It's important to share the news to spread the truth. Most people won't.

Copyright © 2024 - U.S. Dictionary
Privacy Policy