We can use mean by to ask what somebody is specifically thinking of when they use a word or phrase:
We don’t want to discourage her from studying.
It depends what youmean by‘discourage’.
Well, I mean make her think we can’t afford to pay for her.
Even though it ends in an ‘s’, means is a singular noun. We use a singular verb with it. We use it to talk about a method of doing something:
The most economical means of travelling to Aberdeen is by plane. (the most economical method or way)
Not: … most economical mean … or … most economical means are …
We use I mean very commonly in speaking as a discourse marker. We use it when we want to add to what we have just said, to make a point clearer or to correct what we have just said:
The law is not fair. I mean, it’s just not right that he didn’t go to prison. (adding)
It cost over £200. I mean, that’s more than most of us can afford. (making something clearer)
We need to ask Helen, I mean Harriet. (correcting)
We often use I mean when hesitating, to make something negative less strong or to soften a disagreement:
What do you think of Ben?
Well, I mean, he’s not very confident and not always sure what he’s supposed to be doing.
I think Peter probably has a strong view about that. It’s interesting … I mean I … what I said earlier and I mean Peter might disagree with me.
When we are not sure what to say, we sometimes use I mean. We often pause before or after it:
She’s not coming back, er I mean, erm … she and I have broken up.
We don’t use I mean to introduce opinions. It is not the same as I think:
I think we should stay at the Lakeside Inn.
Not: I mean we should stay at the Lakeside Inn.
You know what I mean
We often use the phrase you know what I mean (or if you know what I mean or do you know what I mean?) in speaking, to check that our listener understands what we are saying or to show that we assume the listener has the same opinion about something:
I just can’t go to Norah’s house.
I just don’t like all the cats. You know what I mean?They’re everywhere even in the beds.
Yeah, I have to say I’m not a fan of cats either. (A is checking that B understands that she doesn’t like all the cats in Norah’s house and she assumes that B is going to understand)
Ken isn’t very helpful, if you know what I mean.
We’ve got white on the walls in the back room now, but I think he feels as though, pink is not the right colour for the front room, do you know what I mean?