I was reading the News and confused about this sentence : One knows not whether to laugh or cry

Reading Justice Mahesh Chandra Sharma’s recent judgment, one knows not whether to laugh or cry. It is certainly a first in judicial history.

Is this sentence correct or not? If yes, what is the rule applied here?

I mean it should be : No one knows or One does not know.

Please explain.

2 Answers 2


One knows not whether to laugh or cry
One does not know whether to laugh or cry

are both correct, understandable, and can be said

Some may point out that putting the "not" after the verb sounds antiquated, more like Yoda-speak

Do or do not, there is not try.

It is a matter of style.

The usual idiomatic saying is

I don't know whether to laugh or cry

meaning that something is so outlandish or preposterous it can be viewed as either humorous or tragic.

A related saying is

If I wasn't laughing, I'd be crying


"one knows not" seems like a direct translation from German where you would say "man weiss es nicht". I wouldn't use this in English. One doesn't know is better and sounds right.

  • This use is not idiomatic, but it is still proper.
    – Davo
    Commented Apr 6, 2018 at 11:50

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