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If Only You Knew

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A character says something that connects to a fact or event of which he's unaware, usually to someone who is in the know. A common variation of this is You Look Like You've Seen a Ghost. Often shows up in supernatural settings with a Masquerade, but mundane versions can occur, such as the Arrogant Kung-Fu Guy telling Sweet Polly Oliver she "fights like a girl".

Sometimes subverted in that the seemingly Genre Blind character turns out to be hinting that he does know the truth. If neither the characters nor the audience know about the secret, but find out later, it's Foreshadowing.


This is sometimes expressed as "You have no idea" or something along those lines.

Contrast Literal Metaphor, in which Character A means what he says literally, but Character B takes it as a figure of speech; and the twin tropes It Will Never Catch On and This Is Going to Be Huge, where a character in a show set in the past makes often wildly inaccurate predictions about the future for comedic effect. Compare Accidental Truth, where someone makes up a lie for whatever reason that ends up becoming a reality, and Joke and Receive, where the character's joke matches reality. Subtrope of Dramatic Irony.



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    Anime & Manga 

    Comic Books 
  • Batman Black and White: In "Bent Twigs", an abusive father attempts to justify his actions to Batman by claiming that his son is disruptive and he doesn't know what to do. Batman calmly points out that family counselling is a thing. The father scoffs, "And who's going to pay for it — you? What are you, Bruce Wayne or something?" Batman is, in fact, famous millionaire Bruce Wayne (though he doesn't reveal that fact to this man).
  • The Legend of Wonder Woman (2016): Steve Trevor talks about being stranded on a strange island and being aided by a princess as an out loud imaginary fictitious telling of the situation he's in only for Diana to spin on him and demand how he knows she's a princess. He is very apologetic for upsetting her and makes it clear he had no clue.

    Films — Animation 
  • The song "I'll Make a Man Out of You" in Mulan has the line, "Did they send me daughters when I asked for sons?" The commander thinks he's turning boys into men, but of course, with Mulan the starting point is a bit different! Though ironically, she becomes much a more capable soldier than her comrades in arms.
  • Hans's speech to a dying Anna in Frozen (2013) about how nobody ever loved her has them both assume that Elsa never really loved her sister at all which given what she did to her sister before, certainly has a bit of credibility even if we know that isn't the case for her. Of course even ignoring that, there is still Kristoff and Olaf, both whom definitely shown to care for her particularly when the latter saved her and helped relift Anna's spirits up after realizing that her sister and former lover may not love her but there are still others who do such as the snowman and Kristoff himself.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Daredevil has a scene where Elektra sarcastically asks Matt, "Are you blind?" She apologises profusely when he tells her that, yes, he is.
  • Strange Days: When Lenny asks Mace whether she knows what it's like to love someone who doesn't love you back, she responds this way.
  • In Bruges: Ken is a few drinks down when Ray meets him in a bar and lightly asks if he's drowning his sorrows. Ken had just been asked by his gangland boss to kill Ray.
  • The Incredible Mr. Limpet: George Stickel is trying to explain to Bessie that her husband, Henry, is still alive, but can't tell her the truth: that Henry has turned into a fish.
    George: You can't see him. You wouldn't want to.
    Bessie: I do want to. How can you say a thing like that? Why can't I see him?
    George: It's impossible. His work for the Navy is top-secret. Just be happy with his paycheck. Don't even mention his name to anyone.
    Bessie: There's something fishy about this.
    George: You said it!
  • In Solo, both Q'ira and Beckett hint to Han that the former's past is more bloody than what Han might expect after abandoning her on Corellia three years prior. When Beckett confronts Han about his relationship with Q'ira, the following conversation ensues (paraphrased):
    Han: You don't know her like I do.
    Beckett: I'm thinkin' you don't know her well enough.

  • In Dragon Bones, someone tells Oreg, who looks like seventeen, to "respect his elders" or something to that effect. Oreg, actually an immortal being, who is at that point undercover as cousin of the Hurog family, grins. To be fair, the one he was allegedly impolite towards is older than he looks, too ... but not quite as old as Oreg.
  • In Modern Faerie Tales - Tithe, Kaye's grandmother says during an argument, "You think that it's enough to want things. You think that if you just want and want then you're just going to magically get them." Kaye, who's just found out she's a pixie, doesn't know whether to wince or smirk at the word "magically".
  • A Song of Ice and Fire: A prostitute tries to seduce Gendry by claiming that she is King Robert's bastard daughter and points to her sharing Robert's trademark raven black hair as evidence. Arya makes fun of her claims by pointing that Gendry himself has the same hair, so that does not mean much. What none of them knows is that Gendry is actually King Robert's bastard, and that owing to Robert's compulsive womanizing the prostitute is most likely right. Fortunately, Gendry is not in the mood.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Heroes: Matt Parkman can read minds. His wife, Janice, who doesn't know, tells him, "It's like you're in my head!"
  • Supernatural, a woman is talking to Sam about her baby, Rosie. She says, "It's almost like she can read my mind." Since Rosie is one of the Special Children, she presumably can.
  • Comes up a lot in Slings & Arrows. One scene is in Season 3, when Geoffrey's therapist places an empty chair before him and tells him to envision Oliver sitting there and to talk to him. When Geoffrey opens his eyes, Oliver's ghost IS there (audible and visible only to Geoffrey) and they proceed to have a screaming argument, while the therapist marvels at Geoffrey's ability to engage in the therapeutic exercise.
  • One episode of CSI: NY opens with Mac and Stella talking about someone from a previous case who Mac's worried about when an eyeball falls in Stella's coffee (carried by a vulture which was feeding on the corpse of the Victim of the Week.). At the end of the episode, Mac's speaking to said person:
    Girl: Have you heard the latest rumor? Apparently a woman was drinking a coffee when an eyeball fell in it!
    Mac: [smiles] Impossible.
  • In Arrested Development, this is done several times with Buster and Oscar Bluth, who is secretly Buster's real father.
  • Dexter is very fond of this. Characters often unintentionally say things that seem to be hinting at Dexter's dark nature, of which they are completely ignorant.
  • Played for Drama in Game of Thrones. Queen Cersei swears to her brother Tyrion that one day he'll love someone dearly and she will take her away to spite him, in vengeance for marrying her daughter off to a foreign prince to keep her safe from the impending war. She ignores that that already happened to Tyrion when his fiancée was taken years ago from him, just with their father being the one who did it. Always classy, Tyrion gives her the Death Glare and leaves without saying a word.
  • Kaamelott: Arthur is seeing a woman who doesn't know he's the king. Eventually he falls asleep when his father-in-law turns up.
    Tegeirian: The king needs him, right?
    Léodagan: [surprised] What do you mean, "the king needs him"?
    Tegeirian: Well I don't know, I don't know what he does... But dressed like that, I can tell he's a noble!
    Léodagan: He... He didn't tell you that...
    Tegeirian: That what?
    Léodagan: And you're telling me that you two are...
    Tegeirian: Well, it's... it's starting, in any case.
    Léodagan: Well it seems to me that if I was... what he is, I'd say it. In this kind of situation, it could put quite a few things on the fast track.

    Video Games 
  • At the end of Ghost Trick, Lynne grabs Sissel the cat and says "I bet you're just like me. Your destiny led you here somehow too". In this timeline, she doesn't know the whole lot of things Sissel did for her, and that she only exists like that because of his efforts. She thinks he's just the stray kitten from ten years ago, while he and Jowd remember everything.

    Visual Novels 
  • In Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney, during the credits roll, Trucy says that Apollo staying in the agency feels like meeting a lost brother. He really is her long lost half-brother, on her mother's side.

    Web Comics 
  • In Slightly Damned:
    Jason: Lately I've been seeing a couple of weird-looking guys in goofy clothes wandering around, although I haven't seen them in a while. There've even been rumors that people spotted demons lurking around the inn a few days ago. Crazy stuff, huh Snake?
    Rhea:note  You don't know the half of it, J.
  • Stand Still, Stay Silent: During a Talking in Your Dreams session with Onni, Reynir is trying very hard to not give him a piece of bad news because he knows Onni's younger sister Tuuri wants to tell him herself over the radio once he awakes from his Deep Sleep. Hiding it becomes a little hard when the first thing Onni asks Reynir is how his family members on the crew are doing, and Hesitation Equals Dishonesty kicks in when Reynir tries to claim that the whole crew is fine. Reynir pulls an Infraction Distraction, for which Onni falls, by pretending to have been covering up the wound incurred by Sigrun, another member of the crew who is not related to Onni. This prompts Onni to hope that that wound is not keeping Sigrun from protecting the weaker crew members. Exactly this happening was a factor in the piece of bad news that Reynir is hiding from Onni.
  • In an early arc of Girl Genius, Agatha's personal locket is stolen by a pair of thieves on the day Baron Wulfenbach comes to visit the university she works at. She doesn't know that it has a device implanted in it that kills one of the two thieves, and the other is caught by Wulfenbach trying to get to their workshop in the chaos that breaks out. Assuming, due to an Entertainingly Wrong analysis of the scene, that Agatha is the thief's lover, Wulfenbach has them both taken up to his dirigible together and put in one room. Strangely enough, neither of them are happy to see the other, but the man is particularly aggressive and treats Agatha with blatant and open mistrust and suspicion.
    Agatha: What is the matter with him? You'd think I killed that stupid brother of his!
  • Housepets!: Given all of King's constant fretting and stressing out of small things, his girlfriend Bailey mutters to Sasha that 'Sometimes I suspect he's a miniature human in a dog suit' - unaware that King is a Baleful Polymorph.
  • Dear Children: In Chapter 3, Josh accidentally hits a major truth when he's hamming it up among the shipping containers in front of Devin's camera: namely, that important things can be learned by studying the movement of crates. Though Josh doesn't know it, Arthur Langworthy appears to be moving supplies and/or creatures for the cult in shipping containers, so this is quite a pertinent comment.

    Web Original 
  • Noob: La Quête Légendaire: The webseries that preceded the movie established Abraham was a Nun Too Holy priest, but the info came from his Manchild son Sparadrap, while the story is set in a country in which priests are supposed to stay celibate. Abraham makes his debut in the movie and reveals to the audience that there is more to him than Sparadrap knows while chatting with his younger but more aware son, and the secret is something that was so far hidden for a very, very good in-universe reason. During this occasion, Abraham spends time with Sparadrap and his friends, and keeps the "just a priest who happens to have children, nothing else to see" act for the sake of keeping the secret. Abraham eventually leaves and one of Sparadrap's female friends, who apparently didn't fully believe Abraham was a priest until meeting him, comments on how she's creeped out by the idea of Abraham being a priest. Sparadrap's brother happens to be present when she makes the remark and can't help letting the words "If only you knew." escape his mouth.
  • Lucahjin:
    • In Episode 21 of her blind Super Paper Mario LP, she mixes up her words and accidentally refers to Tippi as "Timpani", before she actually learns the truth about the two characters.
    • In Case 3 of Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, she makes the following comment upon first seeing the metal fence that has claimed the lives of two men with extreme prejudice, having no clue how correct she is.
      Phoenix: Don't get too close. That fence looks dangerous.
      Lucah: It does. It looks like it could impale someone, jeez.
  • The Angry Video Game Nerd:
    • In the Colecovision episode, he jokes that he wonders if The Addams Family had a Coleco Adam computer. The Addams family were actually the first TV family to own a computer, albeit one of the old fashioned UNIVAC types.
    • In one of his early reviews, he makes reference to a supposedly made up game called Taxman Note . Later on, he learns that was a real game that was a Pac-Man clone.
    • In his review of Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, he points out the famous "I am Error" oddity, and jokes that it's probably just the character's name. In fact, he's right; the character really is named Error.

    Western Animation 
  • In Teen Titans, in the episode "Homecoming, Part 1", the Titans meet the Doom Patrol. The Doom Patrol expresses skepticism about the competency of the Titans to combat the Brotherhood of Evil, saying something along the lines of "We've been fighting this great evil our whole lives. What have you done?" One of the Titans—having just come from defeating a trans-dimensional demon who destroyed the world by showing up — responds, "You have no idea."
  • In Batman Beyond "The Call: Part 2", Superman offers Terry a place in the Justice League, citing that the latter's predecessor "wasn't what you'd call a joiner." When Terry says he may have more in common with Bruce than he thought and leaves, Superman knowingly says out of his hearing range, "More than you think, son," implying that Superman is well aware of Terry's blood relation to Bruce as discovered in Justice League Unlimited episode "Epilogue".


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