Verbs Like “Know”

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Reader Nancy has noticed the following use of know:

If I’d know this years ago.

This is a non-standard use of the verb, possibly an example of dialect. In standard usage known is the past participle called for in this clause: If I’d known this years ago…

Know belongs to a small group of verbs that have retained their irregular forms:

know-knew-(have) known
blow-blew-(have) blown
grow-grew-(have) grown
throw threw (have) thrown

The third form in each example is the past participle form used with the helping verbs have and has. The past participle can also be used as an adjective. Here are some examples:

Verb use
If I’d known this years ago, I would have changed my behavior.
The wind has blown without cease for three days.
I have grown these tomatoes from seed.
Billy has thrown a perfect curve ball.

Adjective use
Elizabeth George is a well-known author.
The youth has no known arrests.
My car has a blown gasket.

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9 thoughts on “Verbs Like “Know””

  1. Maeve,

    I understand about using examples. But .. Two of these feel a bit awkward.
    The wind has blown without cease for three days.
    Billy has thrown a perfect curve ball.

    I would have used “ceasing” for the wind, an action verb that conveys more of a sense of continuing over time.

    And I just like “Billy threw a perfect curve ball” to describe an event in the past. But that changes the sense of the statement.


    I think time enough, and enough time, are two different concepts.

    With time enough, enough is a euphemism for all the assets and resources imaginable, and time limits that realm of things to time alone. The title of Heinlein’s “Time Enough For Love” likely influenced many people about accepting this poetic usage.

    Enough time is an evaluation about a period of time. Similar, but much more constrained sense of what is being considered.


  2. “Well known” in your example should normally be hyphenated, shouldn’t it?

    Additionally, I’d like to pose a question.

    I overheard a conversation that went as follows:

    A: I’d love to go, if I had time.
    B: You have time enough.

    I know I’ve heard this construction many times, but is it actually correct?

    Normally the word enough comes after adjectives but before nouns. Is “you have time enough” acceptable or should it be “you have enough time” without exception?


  3. Hi Maeve

    Just wondering what the difference is between “non-standard usage” and wrong? I can see that you might want to be careful after the criticism you received for your infamous post on pronunciation, but should we throw the baby out of the bath-water?


  4. Yes, Chad, “well-known” should be hyphenated–either before the noun or after the linking verb (as a predicate adjective), since it is an adjective spelled with a hyphen (at least according to my Merriam-Webster dictionary).

    Clare, I believe the expression is “throw the baby out WITH the bathwater.” (Are you British? I just wonder, because you hyphenated bath-water, and hyphenation is one area where spelling often differs between Britain and the U.S.–although spellcheck is telling me your way is correct. Maybe I need a new[er] dictionary.)

    I would be interested, Maeve, in knowing whether the original example cited by Nancy was in print or overheard. If it was in print, it COULD have been a typo, although I have heard these “nonstandard” forms used in the same way. Perhaps users are understanding the contraction “I’d” to mean “I would” rather than “I had?” Then the verb form would be correct, but it wouldn’t make much sense with the rest of the sentence!

    I have a theory that “nonstandard” usage is perpetuated because people get their information and entertainment more from what they hear than what they read, so they don’t see the correct forms in print, and assume something that is not true. Within the last couple weeks, I have heard or seen, for example, the following expressions: “If worse comes to worse . . .” (should be “to worst”); “still and all” (should be “in”); and “gives you a peace of mind to know . . .” (should be “gives you peace”–unless the speaker meant “give you a piece of my mind”). I am convinced these writers/speakers have not seen the expressions correctly written down, but are using what they assume is correct based on what they have heard.

    Just my theory . . .

  5. “still and all” (should be “in”)

    Really? I can’t make sense of that either way. What’s it supposed to mean?

    I am convinced these writers/speakers have not seen the expressions correctly written down, but are using what they assume is correct based on what they have heard.

    Yes; there are a lot of those. “A long road to hoe” comes to mind (although I don’t think people who say that really say “to hoe”, since the concept of hoeing obviously isn’t what they have in mind).

    (There’s a website devoted to misheard song lyrics, some of which are rather funny)

  6. Peter, “still in all” would carry the meaning of “Despite all the things I have just mentioned, it is still true that . . .” For example, I could tell you that my dog runs off to the neighbor’s farm at least once a week, chases my chickens, swims in the pond and then rolls in the dirt, and chews on things that are not meant as chew toys. Still in all, he is an excellent cow dog so we keep him around.

    I don’t think the expression is used much anymore; it could be considered idiomatic, I suppose, and may be regional.

    Thanks for the link to the song lyrics Web site. I didn’t have time to explore too much, but it definitely makes the point about heard vs. read wording.

  7. Oh, I see; I can see how you get that if you add a comma: “still, [all] in all, he’s an excellent cow dog …”

    (Though google does turn up definitions of “still and all” (Roget, American Heritage, Merriam Webster) — seems to be an Americanism; nothing for “still in all”, though)

  8. Great discussion, guys.

    You’ve seen through me! That barrage of hate mail on the pronunciation post really shook me, but I think I have developed a thicker skin since then. Just this morning I received a comment informing me that I and my entire nation suffer from a low IQ and it didn’t faze me.

    You are right. It’s time I stopped pussy-footing around these things: If I’d know this years ago. is just plain WRONG.

    Yes, it should be well-known and I’ll go back and correct it. And to think that I recently wrote a post on that very point!

    The reader who submitted the comment did not specify, but I’d guess that it was overheard and not read. Your theory is reasonable. Unless something drastic happens to change the trend, literacy in a standard form of English is on its way to becoming the preserve of a specialized class of teachers and scribes.

    Thanks for all your thoughtful comments.

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