The meaning of – Give somebody the benefit of the doubt

If you give somebody the benefit of the doubt it means you trust what they are saying even though you have strong reasons not to.
Using English expressions like this can take your speaking to a whole other level but you need to be careful to use them correctly – See how in my examples.

Perhaps your employee, Bob, is late for work and tells you that it is because his car broke down. But you know that he went out drinking last night! You decide to believe his story about the car even though it is unlikely. So you ‘give him the benefit of the doubt’.
Perhaps your son, Alex, tells you that the fight at school was not his fault. But you know that he is always causing trouble with other children. You decide to believe that another child started the fight this time. So on this occasion, you ‘give him the benefit of the doubt’.
Perhaps your boyfriend, James, was seen out with another girl but he persuades you that she is just a friend and nothing more so you decide to ‘give him the benefit of the doubt’ this time.

You say to your colleague: “I’m pretty sure Bob is late today because he went out last night but I don’t want to get into an argument about it so I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt this time! If it happens again though, I’ll be disciplining him!”
You say to your wife: “Let’s give Alex the benefit of the doubt this time. Perhaps it was that other child’s fault. It can’t always be Alex’s fault surely!”
You say to your friend “I hope he’s not cheating on me. I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt this time but if I hear any more rumours about him, I’ll break up with him!”

The b in doubt is silent /dawt/

Do you think you could make your own examples…..? Have a try and add your ideas to my comments 🙂

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Nicki is a Cambridge qualified, experienced English teacher for foreign learners. She loves helping English learners to learn real English and communicate with confidence!

3 thoughts on “The meaning of – Give somebody the benefit of the doubt

  1. Thank you Nicky, I have heard this phrase first time.
    Sometimes I give people the benefit of doubt but if someone keeps doing bad behavior for example lying and I know that it it not true so I dont give anymore them the benefit of the doubt!

    1. Yes exactly! Fantastic example – I can tell that you have understood the use of the phrase perfectly from your comments and it’s great that you’ve learnt some new vocabulary to use 🙂
      I hope you don’t mind if I just correct one thing in your first sentence because it’s a nice, useful chunk of language….. You can say “That’s the first time I’ve heard that phrase/that word/that song(etc).”
      Thanks as always for your great comments Hatice.

      1. Thank you very much Nicky for your kind words. I really appreciate that you corrected my mistakes!

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