Learn English – Why do people say “to be honest”


For quite some time, I've been hearing the phrase "to be honest" almost every day. I've heard friends say it, characters on TV shows, and even an NPR reporter said it in an interview.


"To be honest, I don't like spaghetti."

Why do people have to specify when they are being honest? Or I've thought maybe the phrase is actually supposed to mean "to be blunt" or "let me tell it to you straight."

How did the word "honest" get in the mix?

Best Answer

"To be honest" is an example of an adverbial disjunct, which indicates the speaker's attitude toward the sentence without affecting the meaning of the sentence. It is often used, consciously or otherwise, to preface a statement that the speaker believes is particularly candid in the present context, possibly to an extent that might cause mild offense.

It's a bit of a set phrase these days, and as is usually the case with set phrases, it's best not to parse it too closely in casual use.