This is a phrase that usually goes at the beginning of a sentence. It shows that something surprising or unexpected, but true. We usually use this when we think that the listener doesn't know or will be surprised by what we say. Situation:
There are two sisters. They are different in every way. They look different, they act different, they speak differently, etc. Nobody would expect that they are sisters.
If this is the case, then we can say something like this to somebody who knows the two women but does not know that they are sisters.
- Believe it or not, they are sisters.
When we say this, we think that the listener will be surprised or might not believe it.
This phrase is 100% optional.
- Believe it or not, they are sisters. = They are sisters.
Without this phrase, a sentence still has all the most important information. This phrase only adds feeling to a sentence. There are many phrases like this in English. I call these phrases "sentence starters" because they usually go at the beginning of a sentence. Believe it or not, + surprising/unexpected fact
Bonus Tips and Points
- Believe it or not, I do not exercise.
(Says a man with huge muscles and a good body)
- Believe it or not, I eat a lot of food.
(Says a very skinny woman)
- Believe it or not, he is the CEO of that company.
(Talking about a very young-looking man who is dressed casually)
- Believe it or not, he is a kindergarten teacher.
(Talking about a man who does not look like he works with children)
- Believe it or not, the hotel in the picture was not very expensive.
(Talking about a hotel that looks very nice and expensive)
- Believe it or not, I am Korean, but I don't eat kimchi.
(This is unexpected because most Koreans eat kimchi)
1. We can add this phrase at the end of a sentence. We usually only do this when speaking.
- That tall guy is my brother, believe it or not.
- They look like sisters, but the woman in the red dress is actually the other woman's mother, believe it or not.
- My brother loves ballet, believe it or not.
2. We can also use the word "actually" to show that something is surprising but true. It is more common to use "actually" when responding to what another person said.
A) He looks scary.
B) Actually, he is a school teacher and a very nice man.
(=Believe it or not, he is a school teacher and a very nice man.)
A) How could you afford a new car?
B) Actually, I won the lottery.
(=Believe it or not, I won the lottery.)
3. This is a good phrase to know, but we do not want to overuse it. We should not use it every time we say something that the listener does not know. Real-World English Conversations
A) Believe it or not, I got the job!
B) Congratulations! You said that you weren't going to get the job.
A) I didn't think that I would. I was very surprised when I got the call.
A) How old is your daughter?
B) Believe it or not, she is already 3 years old.
A) Wow! Time flies.
A) Did you get fired for yelling at your boss?
B) Believe it or not, I didn't get fired. I actually got a raise.
A) I don't believe it.
A) Believe it or not, Google just offered to buy my company.
B) That's amazing. Are you going to sell it?
A) I think so, but I should think about it some more before I make a final decision.
A) Is he a high school student?
B) He is 40 years old, believe it or not. He just looks really young. Study these free English lessons to improve your English speaking. If you learn these common sentence patterns well, then your English speaking will improve greatly and you will be able to have fluent conversations in English in the near future! Study the lessons well, practice using them at home and in real life, and make sure to come back to review the material so you do not forget.