Lindsay McMahon
"The English Adventurer"

Have you heard anyone use the phrase “benefit of the doubt” in English?

Is this one of those phrases that can be a bit confusing?

This is a phrase that comes up in English conversations quite a bit, and it can be quite useful in conveying both negative and positive thoughts.

We’re going to show you what this phrase means, how it can come across, and how it can be helpful to you in conversations and connections in English.

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Breaking This Phrase Down

So what does this mean?

It means to believe the best about someone, even if you aren’t quite sure at the time.

This indicates a bit of doubt, but you are typically trying to look past that.

You want to believe the best in people, and this is a perfect way to say that.

Here are a few examples where you might use the phrase “benefit of the doubt.”

  • Your friend is late for lunch and you haven’t heard from her. Instead of being mad at her immediately, you give her the benefit of the doubt. Maybe she lost her phone. Maybe something happened and it’s not that she intended to flake on you.
  • Your boss didn’t add you to an important email that everyone in the office was on. You found out about it from your friend at work. Instead of being angry, you give your boss the benefit of the doubt. Maybe he or she forgot to add your name innocently–it could have very well been a mistake.
  • You’ve asked your partner repeatedly to take out the trash and they keep forgetting to do it. You give the benefit of the doubt because you know they have been tired all week, and will probably do it tonight.

These are all instances when you might use the phrase “benefit of the doubt” and they would fit perfectly in conversation.

How You Say It Matters Greatly

You can see how you might say it and in what instances, so it starts to make sense.

Now you want to know how you would say it in English conversations.

You would likely say something like “I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt.

The intonation that you use is a big part of this too.

This is a phrase that can have a positive connotation to it, as well as a negative feel.

Therefore the way in which you say it is so important because you want to be sure that your message is received in the right way.

Be mindful of this and be sure that you use it in the right way, and with the proper tone of voice to deliver the message properly.

The Positives and Negatives

Keeping in mind that there is a positive and negative side to this, you want to think this through as well.

It can be a positive or negative thing to give someone the “benefit of the doubt” and so you must consider this if you find yourself in such a situation.

The whole idea of giving someone the benefit of the doubt and the way in which you deliver the message is filled with positives and negatives.

Let’s take a look at these instances to understand it firsthand.


  • You are more relaxed. You don’t take things personally and realize other circumstances can get in the way. Ultimately it may not be worth it to focus on this too much.
  • You have a more positive feeling about those around you in general. This makes you nicer and more understanding which builds connection in the long run. A positive feeling and mindset can translate to a positive way of dealing with things.
  • You keep an open mind overall. This may apply to the person or situation that you are dealing with. It may just be your general demeanor that you tend to have an open mind with everything that you encounter.


  • You might feel as though people think that they can walk all over you. If you let this go and give this benefit of the doubt, then you may fear that it sets a bad precedent. Others may feel that they can get away with whatever they want because you let everything go.
  • You feel disappointed often. This may be because you have too high of expectations, but ultimately you find yourself feeling let down. If you approach this the wrong way or simply let it go, then you may be setting yourself up for more disappointment.
  • You get resentful if you constantly give someone the benefit of the doubt and they continue to disappoint you. This is a very real possibility if you are dealing with somebody who lets you down a lot or who is taking advantage. You may find yourself at a point where you can’t give the benefit of the doubt anymore, particularly if you keep getting hurt.

There are clearly positives and negatives to this situation, and you want to be mindful of these always.

Giving people the benefit of the doubt may be good in moderation.

If it’s for an occasional mistake or misunderstanding, then know that this happens.

If however it continues to happen, then you may want to examine the relationship or situation.

Other Ways To Say This

It’s a fine balance to knowing when to give somebody the benefit of the doubt or not.

You may have to consider the situation before you to make the rigght decision.

Though this phrase is quite common, there are other phrases that can work quite well to describe this situation.

If you face something questionable, then you may consider using one of the following phrases as well.

  • Trust that: This is straightforward and therefore gets your point across. This says that you have put some trust in them, and therefore you are putting the responsibility on them directly. An sample sentence would be, “ I trust that she didn’t mean to ignore you. Maybe she didn’t see you.”
  • Have faith in someone: This takes it a step further and says that you want and need to believe in this person. You want to have faith and believe that they are going to do the right thing. A sample sentence would be, “I know he is late but have faith in him. He is never late.”

Either of these phrases can work quite well when you find yourself in this situation.


You have to decide when to give someone the benefit of the doubt, and when it is going too far that they take advantage.

You will find yourself in this type of situation often, and it’s up to you to decide what’s right.

Use this phrase in these situations when you are excusing someone for their behavior or their choices.

It’s always great to believe the best in somebody, and this phrase can help to demonstrate that.

If you have any questions, please place them below in the comments section.

We’ll get back to you as soon as we can.

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