Spend any amount of time with people between the ages of 10 and 30 and you're bound to hear the phrase. "I know, right?" be used in casual conversation.  In fact - the phrase has become so ingrained into current pop culture that I also notice older adults using the statement as well - as if they're trying to sound cool.

The problem with the phrase "I know, right?" is that it isn't proper English and doesn't mean what the speaker thinks it does.

As currently used, the speaker probably thinks that the phrase is a confident statement of fact.  Grammatically, it isn't.  Here's why.

In a blog post on Language Log, they offer the following:

When the phrase “I know” is used in English [...], it signifies assent and acceptance of the point of view of a conversational partner. It’s a fairly confident assertion of acknowledgement, of agreement.

On the other hand, the questioning “right?” stuck onto the end of a sentence is a request of affirmation of an assertion and a simultaneous invitation to disagreement. Right? Don’t you think so? Do you agree with me?

So when a young speaker (and I’ve only heard this phrase used by speakers under the age of 25) combines the two, it seems to be a simultaneous assertion of confidence and an instant pulling back of that confidence so as not to seem too pushy. It seems to ask for a continuation of the conversation. If the interlocutors continue the conversation, it may branch into areas of disagreement, but so far they are of the same mind.

One can only hope that the phrase "I know, right?" someday ends up like other old, tired cliches - in the history books.  "Can you dig"?  "Catch you on the flip-side".  "Right on"!

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