I always knew through determination, everything is possible.

I've always known through determination, everything is possible.

Are both the sentences grammatically correct? Is the only difference here that British English suggests you use the second sentence, American English, the first?


I always knew

In the past [or in a relevant chunk of it], there was never a time when I did not know.

I have always known

In my entire life [or from a certain relevant time in the past up until now], there has never been a time when I did not know, not in the past and not now.

There is no AmE vs BrE distinction here. Speakers of either could say either.

Let's say two friends who were at school together in their teens have met again many years later:

I always knew you were very fond of my high-school girlfriend.

Now let's say two colleagues who have worked together for some years (who still work together) are speaking:

I have always known that you want my office, with its view of the park.

  • I have another question. This one's more about keeping tenses in harmony. I've always known you're great at tennis. Or I always knew you're great at tennis. Or Should it be I always knew you were great at tennis. Are all these sentences grammatically correct and are most similar meaning wise? Feb 1 '18 at 9:57
  • @SoumyaGhosh The thing is, "you're" can also be a contraction of "you were" ;). But, as I've explained in my other comment, If we are using full forms of the verb, the correct way would be "I always knew you were great at tennis". It is reported speech. Feb 1 '18 at 10:09
  • 1
    You're meaning you are is pronounced rather differently from a contracted form that means you were. You don't see the latter in writing where you're always means you are. Feb 1 '18 at 10:17
  • 1
    @Soumya Ghosh: I don't like the "great at tennis" example because great tennis is manifest, and so you need to concoct an oddball context for the sentence to make decent sense. You couldn't walk up to Rafael Nadal or Roger Federer and say I always knew you were great at tennis. Maybe one of their childhood coaches could say I always knew you would be a great tennis player some day. That concern aside, whether you say always knew or have always known, the tense of the verb in the content-clause should be in the past, for the sake of harmony, to my ear. Feb 1 '18 at 10:24
  • @Tᴚoɯɐuo I do have a vague feeling that I've chanced upon "you're" as "you were" in literature. After all, if a writer is trying to faithfully reproduce casual speech to the point of "ya" and "them bastards", why can't the (differently pronounced by virtue of being "were") "you're" be recorded in written speech? Feb 1 '18 at 10:50

It can be demonstrated that native speakers of both BrE and AmE use both variants in practically identical contexts. I've done some googling for sample phrases that would be similar in meaning to the one OP is struggling with.

I always knew persistence was important – by an Australian guy

I always knew that hard work would pay off – by an Australian guy, published by Penguin UK who would have certainly had their editor bring utterances by a jock into alignment with language that would be palatable to Penguin UK.

I always knew that hard work was the only way you were going to improve – a website that is part of the USA Today network.

I've always known that working hard and being independent makes you feel better – a person from Iowa

I've always known that progress takes time – a person from the UK.

These examples run counter to Ariane Kh Anderson's theory that the meaning of "always" somehow precludes using Past Simple; which is further evidenced by the fact that "always" gets paired with "knew" far more often than with "have known".

There are indications that in certain situations people prefer one tense over the other. For example, when I was googling for phrases "I've always known / I always knew him as [a certain type of person]," I've discovered that people said "I always knew him as" when talking about a dead person. E. g., 1) I’ve always known him as just a really nice guy (NOT dead); 2) I’ve always known him as a good lad and a great player (NOT dead); 3) I always knew him as a kind and considerate friend (dead); 4) I always knew him as a great person (dead).

In this case, I surmise we are dealing with the semantics of "know" as "interact regularly with another person" which would be distinct from the meaning of "have some bit of abstract knowledge in your head". You wouldn't say about a dead person, "I know them". But it isn't because you've suddenly had amnesia the moment that person died and you no longer have the knowledge in your head of what that person was like. It's just that you no longer bump into them on the street and don't exchange text messages or whatnot. So this is a different sense of "knowing".

However, when we are dealing with "knowing" about abstract matters, as shown above, both "knew" and "have known" are used interchangeably.

  • Comparision of book reading is iffy. I always read the bible and I've always read the bible do have slightly different meanings. One implies you did read it constantly in the past, the other that you're continuing to do so.Also, the word always does mean all the time, just within a context. If you say you always eat dessert every night, it clearly does not mean you ate dessert six billion years ago.
    – barbecue
    Jan 29 '18 at 20:38
  • @barbecue It also doesn't mean that I am (or was) eating it every second of every day ("uninterrupted"). Jan 29 '18 at 20:42
  • 1
    uninterrupted does not have to mean maintaining a mathematically continuous line, it can mean without interruption of the pattern. If someone eats dessert every night at 5pm, then one night they skip it, they've interrupted the pattern. It doesn't mean they are constantly continually eating dessert every second. It's English, not math.
    – barbecue
    Jan 29 '18 at 20:44
  • 1
    @SoumyaGhosh It would be grammatically correct to say, "I always knew persistence was important", because this is de facto reported speech. Sometimes even native speakers don't bother with correct reported speech. It's jokingly called "tense laziness". So you might meet sentences like "I always knew X is Y", but it is agrammatical. Feb 1 '18 at 10:06
  • 1
    @SoumyaGhosh It doesn't matter if it's still relevant. Even future tense, when reported, becomes "would". Bottom line, if it's reported past speech, it should set the tenses that follow "back in time". Feb 1 '18 at 10:47

I always knew == [pronoun] + [adverb] + [past]

Always is an adverb that indicates all the time; continuously; uninterruptedly.

However, in english, "knew" is the past simple, indicating action that occurred in the past and which does not extend into the present. This overrides the 'continuous and still happening' nature of the adverb "always".

This sentence therefore implies that you knew something, you knew it continuously and at some point (say last Tuesday) you said "I have always known", however that was last week! And the action is no longer relevant, you are now referring to the event in the past and the even has ceased to occur. For example "Last week I told the project manager that I had always known". Of course this is no longer relevant so now you say "back then I always knew".

I've always known == I have always known == [pronoun] + [auxiliary verb] + [adverb] + [perfect]

This is then the perfect tense where something that started in the past and continues in the present. Believe it or not, english is a bit simpler than spanish in that we rarely use preterite or imperfect and only really differentiate between things that have finished (past simple) and things that are still relevant (perfect).

  • 1
    Simpler or not, anyway they both should have been capitalized Jan 29 '18 at 10:56

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.