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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 they're 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 they do 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 lampshades how fictional characters stranded on a strange island are often helped by a princess- only for Diana to spin around and demand how he knows she's a princess. He is very apologetic for upsetting her and makes it clear he had no clue.
  • Played for Laughs in Marvel Adventures: The Avengers Issue #2. Spider-Man is trapped by The Leader, whose brain is big, alongside the Incredible Hulk. After hearing a long Motive Rant by the Leader, the Hulk breaks free and Spidey quips that the Leader must only want to Take Over the World so he can make top hats mandatory. The Leader commands his minions to stop him, but whispers "how did he know about the top hats?"
  • Old Lady Harley: Lex Luthor takes the crew (sans Harley) to see Joker's corpse to make sure he's dead. They discover that his body is missing its head. They conclude he must be really dead, then, aside from Red Tool, who suggests that someone took his head, attached it to a robot body and now Joker's circling the earth in a space station, watching them and laughing about the whole thing. Croc calls it ridiculous, but as it turns out, it's exactly what happened.

    Fan Works 
  • Create Your Own Fate: While verbally sparring with an officious Starfleet Intelligence officer at a starship crash site, Captain Kanril Eleya remarks that the fact that he won't show her his orders to remove classified materials from the site means that she has no proof those orders actually exist, and therefore as the ranking officer on site, she can legally order him to pound sand. Commander Lastagee's orders in fact don't exist: Eleya realizes later that he's a shapeshifted Undine, trying to erase evidence of events he thinks might harm his race's interests.
  • Used almost word-for-word in Jonathan Joestar, The First JoJo.
    "I see! While it does make me happy Speedwagon stayed by her side, I am awfully curious about what occurs in the future, especially what happened that didn't allow me to be by your side, but I suppose you cannot tell me, correct?"

    Oh, if only you knew. Joseph thought bitterly, wanting nothing more than to run outside, find Dio, rip his head off and burn it. "Sorry. I can't, grandpa. But you'll know soon enough."

    Jonathan muttered a very small "Oh", before falling into silence, eyes casted downwards as curiosity swirled in his endlessly blue eyes.
  • Learning How to Be a Princess has Edric and Emira bring up the possibility of Luz being the daughter of Emperor Belos... but only as a joke in the middle of teasing their baby sister about her obvious crush, after seeing that Amity labeled Luz as "Princess" in her contacts. They do learn the truth a few chapters later, though.
    Emira: Odds are, that she's actually the Princess, or you and her are totally dating and she's your girlfriend!
    Edric: (laughing) And I like our odds because honestly, I'm pretty sure the Emperor is a sack of bones under that cloak!

    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 Spider-Man: Far From Home, Quentin Beck claims to come from an entirely different universe. He's lying, but based on trailers for Spider-Man: No Way Home, the multiverse does exist, much to Peter's shock.

  • Ascendance of a Bookworm:
    • Such a case is retroactively revealed. Little after meeting Sylvester, an annoying Manchild with whom she's about to spend some time traveling, the protagonist tells her temporary bodyguard Damuel that she wants to stay away from Sylvester as much as possible. Damuel answers she has no idea how much he agrees with her. It later turns out that Sylvester is the most powerful noble of the duchy incognito and Damuel recognized him from seeing him in the past. The setting is also one in which people can get in trouble for displeasing people of significantly higher status than themselves and Damuel is as low in status as one can get while still being both and adult an a noble.
    • The protagonist gets adopted into nobility in circumstances that make her commoner birth a well-kept secret (a Sent Into Hiding story is told to anyone else who asks), causing such moments on occasion:
      • She transfers two pairs of orphaned siblings to an orphanage she runs, saving them from being separated by their previous caretaker, who was about to sell only one half of each pair, in the process. One of the boys is furious when he finds out that the dormitories in their new home are sex-segregated, resulting in him spending less time with his sister. In the midst of his rant, he assumes the protagonist doesn't know what it's like to be separated from one's family, which was one of the conditions for her adoption, but a fair assumption going by her publicly-known situation. This gets the boy slapped by someone who is the protagonist's Secret-Keeper on a high enough level to know that in fact, she does and she has to deal with it to a degree much bigger than the boy has to.
      • One of the protagonist's attendants discusses with her how much she'd qualify for her adoptive father's seat if she wanted it and points out that the protagonist has the right bloodline via the nobleman pretending to be her biological father. The protagonist can't resist an internal quip regarding her actual bloodline.
  • 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: Hey, have you heard the latest urban legend? A woman goes to take a sip of her coffee and an eyeball falls right in the cup,
    Mac: [smiles] That's 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, only 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.
  • Resident Alien: When reviewing the evidence regarding a deadly altercation, Sheriff Mike suggests that the assailant had an extra pair of arms (an idea his deputy understandably dismisses). This is true, because the murderer was a four-armed alien.
  • The Barrier: After someone close to his employer dies, Hugo gives him a few words of sympathy and talks about how hard it is to lose important to one's life. The employer, who is old enough to have once dated Hugo's mother-in-law without there being a significant age gap, tells Hugo he's still to young to truly understand. Among other things, Hugo is hiding from his employer that his wife died very recently and that his sister-in-law is standing in for her while both of them are at work.

    Video Games 
  • In Divinity: Dragon Commander, if so desired, the player may secretly allow the demon Corvus to devour any or all of the four possible queens. From everyone else's perspective, it appears the queen vanished overnight. If you do this to Queen Camilla, councilwoman Prospera will ask if you threw her off the airship, then take it back while admitting, "that sounds about as likely as you feeding her to a demon."
  • 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.
  • Doki Doki Literature Girls: After being asked by Monika what H. P. Lovecraft's novels are about, Yuri explains that he pioneered a genre of horror called "cosmicism" which that deals with the fear that our existence is meaningless in the grand scheme of things and that we're just a creation of a greater, unfeeling God who doesn't care about us. She then asks Monika whether she would become a nihilistic psychopath if she realized that everything she ever felt was insignificant and that our world held little value. Unbeknownst to Yuri, her description of cosmicism is actually a perfect reflection of Monika's situation as someone who's aware of her own status as a fictional character, unhappy about it, and gets driven to commit cruel acts against the other characters because of it.

    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".
  • Central Park: In Season 2 "Sir Bricks-A-Lot", Paige's story has her become such a famous author that she gets a stalker, which she's actually glad to have. When Owen questions this, she say he could have a park stalker, cut to Birdie sitting on a tree branch outside watching them, giving a Defensive "What?" to the camera.


Video Example(s):


Don't You Want a Park Stalker

Paige's story has her become such a famous author that she gets a stalker, which she's actually glad to have. When Owen questions this, she say he could have a park stalker, cut to Birdie sitting on a tree branch outside, giving a defensive "What?" to the camera.

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Main / IfOnlyYouKnew

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