Learn English – Does “little did he know” mean he “knew nothing at all”


Does the phrase “little does/did (s)he know” mean the person knew nothing at all?

Or does it literally mean that there was some (little) knowledge?

I started pondering the specific meaning when I read the opening titles of Star Wars Episode VI:

Little does Luke know that the GALACTIC EMPIRE has secretly begun construction …

In this instance, I believe he did know nothing at all about those sinister schemes.

So, is it just a figure of speech to express that some poor soul should have known?

Best Answer

Little when used as an adverb can mean:

not at all (used before a verb): He little knows what awaits him.

This is the same usage as in "little did he know", which hence means "he knew nothing about it".

As per Dan's comment on the question:

'Little did he/she know...' is often used to highlight how someone who thinks they are in control/well informed, actually, is not.