12 phrases that subtly indicate someone might be lying to you

Let’s face it: we’ve all been in situations where we felt like someone was bending the truth.

Maybe it was that friend who “swore” they didn’t eat the last slice of pizza, or a colleague who claimed they sent that email you never received.

While some fibs are harmless, others can be problematic.

But how do you spot a lie, especially when it’s wrapped up in a neat little package of words?

Turns out, there are certain phrases that can be dead giveaways. Here’s 12 phrases that might tip you off to someone’s less-than-truthful intentions.

“1. “Honestly,” or “To be honest…”

We all appreciate honesty, right?

It’s the cornerstone of any good relationship. But when these words start cropping up in every other sentence, it might be a red flag.

You see, when people are genuinely being truthful, they usually don’t feel the need to constantly remind you of it. They let their words and actions speak for themselves.

But when someone starts a sentence with “honestly,” or “to be honest…” too often, it can sometimes mean they’re trying a bit too hard to convince you of their honesty.

It’s like they’re trying to distract you with one hand while the other is crossed behind their back.

2. “I swear…”

This is another phrase that, in theory, should signal honesty. It’s supposed to serve as a verbal pinky promise, a guarantee that what they’re saying is the truth.

But in reality? Not always the case.

When someone says “I swear…” a lot, it might be because they’re trying to overcompensate for not being entirely truthful. They’re likely hoping that this strong statement will convince you to believe them without question. It’s almost like they’re trying to build a fortress of trust with their words alone.

But here’s the thing – if someone is truly telling the truth, would they need to reinforce their words so strongly? Probably not.

Truth has a way of standing firm on its own – without the need for constant reassurances.

3. “I don’t remember”

This one hits pretty close to home for me.

A few years back, I had a friend who frequently used this phrase. Every time I’d ask about a specific event or detail – especially if it was something they didn’t want to discuss – the reply was always, “I don’t remember.”

At first, I chalked it up to a bad memory. But then, I began to notice a pattern. The memory lapses conveniently happened around topics they wanted to avoid or when they were put on the spot.

One day, I asked them about a friend’s party that we had both attended. From what I remembered, they had left early without a proper goodbye, which was unusual for them. When I asked why they left so abruptly, his immediate response was, “I don’t remember.”

But here’s the thing: they had detailed memories of earlier events at the party. So how could they suddenly forget why they left early?

That’s when it hit me; “I don’t remember” was their go-to phrase when they didn’t want to be honest about something.

4. “As far as I know…”

This phrase is a clever little tool in the liar’s toolbox. Why? Because it gives them an easy out if they’re ever caught in a lie.

Here’s how it works: if they tell you something that isn’t true, but frame it with “As far as I know…”, they can always claim ignorance later.

It’s like a built-in safety net. They can say, “Well, that’s what I thought at the time,” or “I must have been misinformed,” effectively shifting the blame away from themselves.

Now here’s an interesting fact: according to research, people who are lying are more likely to use distancing language- words or phrases that subtly separate them from the falsehood.

“As far as I know…” is one such phrase that creates a sense of separation between the speaker and the information being shared. It’s like they’re saying, “Hey, don’t look at me, this is just what I’ve heard.”

So, while “As far as I know…” might sound harmless at first glance, take note if someone uses it frequently. It could be a sign that they’re not being entirely upfront with you.

5. Overly detailed stories

Have you ever had someone tell you a story where every minor detail was described, every conversation replayed word for word, and the sequence of events were just a bit too perfect?

These overly detailed stories can sometimes be a sign of deception.

The thing is, when we recall genuine memories, details can be fuzzy. We remember the big moments, the strong emotions, the general sequence of events, sure.

But every tiny detail? Not so much.

But when someone is making up a story, they might feel the need to add in lots of details to make it more believable. They might think that more detail equals more authenticity.

However, in reality, these overly detailed stories can often sound rehearsed or scripted. It’s as if they’re trying to paint a picture so vivid and colorful that you won’t notice the cracks in the canvas.

6. “Why would I lie?”

I remember a time when I had a disagreement with a close friend.

We were arguing about a promise he had made but hadn’t kept. When I confronted him about it, his immediate response was, “Why would I lie about something like that?”

This phrase threw me off, made me question my judgement and almost made me feel guilty for doubting him. But then I realized something – this was a deflection tactic he was using to shift the focus from his unfulfilled promise to my accusation.

In retrospect, it’s clear that “why would I lie?” was his way of avoiding the topic. Instead of addressing the issue, he put me on the defensive, making me justify my doubts instead of him justifying his actions.

This is why this phrase is a red flag.

7. “That’s about it”

You know, when people are spinning a tale, they’re often in a hurry to wrap it up. To get it out there and move on before anyone has the chance to poke holes in their story.

That’s where phrases like “That’s about it” come into play.

It’s the verbal equivalent of a hasty exit. A quick way to tie up loose ends and make a swift departure from the conversation. It’s as though they’re saying, “Nothing more to see here, folks!”

But life isn’t always neat and tidy. Real stories often have loose ends and unanswered questions. They take unexpected turns, and they don’t always fit into a neat little box.

So if someone gives you a rundown of events and ends with “that’s about it,” take notice.

Ask yourself if they’re rushing to close the conversation or if the story genuinely has no further details.

8. “I would never…”

This phrase is a common go-to for those trying to convince you of their innocence. It’s a strong, emphatic denial that could seem convincing at first glance.

But sometimes, it might be an indication of the opposite.

According to a study, when people are lying, they often use stronger language to make their lies seem more believable. So while “I would never…” seems like a firm denial, it could actually be an exaggeration used to cover up the truth.

This phrase is particularly tricky because it appeals to our faith in the person’s character. We want to believe that they “would never” do whatever they’re being accused of.

However, it’s important to not let this blind us from potentially deceptive behavior.

9. Too many “uh,” “um,” and “you know”

Let me tell you a little story about my cousin, Lucy.

Lucy had a habit of sprinkling her sentences with fillers like “uh”, “um”, and “you know”. At first, I thought it was just a quirky speech pattern. But then I started noticing a trend.

Whenever Lucy was being entirely truthful, her words flowed easily, almost effortlessly. But when she was trying to pull one over on me? That’s when the “uh”s and “um”s came out to play.

It was like these fillers were buying her time, giving her those extra few seconds to craft her story. They were the little hiccups in the otherwise smooth flow of her lies.

Now, don’t get me wrong. We all use filler words sometimes, especially when we’re nervous or trying to gather our thoughts.

But if someone starts stuttering with fillers right when they’re supposed to be giving you a straightforward answer, it might be a sign they’re not being entirely honest.

10. “Trust me”

When someone says, “Trust me,” it’s like they’re trying to hand you a beautifully wrapped gift box. Inside that box? Your trust.

But the truth is that trust isn’t something that can be handed over on demand. It’s earned over time, through consistent truth-telling and reliable actions.

If someone frequently asks you to trust them, it might be because they know they’re not being entirely honest. They’re hoping that by simply asking for your trust, they can bypass the part where they have to earn it.

So, next time someone insists, “Trust me,” don’t let it sway you. Trust your instincts and your judgment instead.

11. Using big, fancy words

When people lie, they sometimes dress up their lies with big, fancy words. It’s like putting lipstick on a pig – underneath all the frills and sophistication, it’s still a lie.

They might think that using complicated language will impress you or confuse you enough that you won’t question what they’re saying.

But don’t be fooled by the smoke and mirrors. If someone is being honest with you, they wouldn’t need to hide behind big words.

12. Constantly changing the subject

This one is a classic trick in the liar’s handbook.

If someone frequently diverts the conversation away from certain topics or steers it towards safer ground, it could mean they’re trying to hide something.

It’s like they’re playing dodgeball with the truth. Every time you throw a question their way, they duck and weave and throw something else back at you.

So, if someone constantly changes the subject when you’re trying to have a serious conversation, don’t let it slide. It might be an indication that they’re not being fully honest with you.

Picture of Brendan Brown

Brendan Brown

Enhance your experience of Ideapod and join Tribe, our community of free thinkers and seekers.

Related articles

Most read articles

Get our articles

Ideapod news, articles, and resources, sent straight to your inbox every month.