Little do they know

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Could anyone explain to me this phrase: little do they know.
As far as I know it means that "they know almost nothing", but I may be wrong.

Is this phrase used just in formal speech or also in informal?
Can you give an example.

Thanks in advance.

David L.

VIP Member
Nov 7, 2007
Member Type
In this phrase, 'little' means 'hardly or not at all', so yes, it means 'they had no idea' (that something was going to happen/was happening).

You will see it mainly used in stories, where the author will write something like:
"Later that afternoon, Harold's watch stopped working while he was waiting for the bus. Harold reset his watch to a time given by a bystander. Little did he know, that this simple, seemingly innocuous act, would result in his imminent death."
(adapted from the movie, "Little Did He Know")
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