Could you explain me why it is better to say

I did not know you had a brother.

even it is a present situation. Your brother is still alive. It is better to match the tenses and why can you use present perfect in this case

I did not know you have been ill.

and not past simple as in the first example. In both cases it may be a present situation (you still have a brother and you are still ill) but the tenses chosen are different. I thought it was better to match the tenses in both cases.

Will it be better to say

I did not know you were ill.

to use past simple and match the tenses as in the first example even if it is a present situation


I did not know you had a brother.

You would say this after finding out someone had a brother. So you know now, but before now, you didn't know.

A: I have a brother.

B: I do not know you have a brother.

This sounds like B didn't listen to A.

A: Does Jon have a brother?

B: I do not know whether he does or not.

This is accurate because you B is relating his/her current knowledge.


There is a grammatical difference between:

I didn't know you were ill.

(which means the being ill is no longer true, it is in the past and you didn't know about in the past or someone is ill right now and you don't know about it).

I didn't know you have been ill

(which either means you have been ill for a while and are still ill or you have only just recovered and the being ill is recent and somehow still relevant now).

You wouldn't say: I didn't know you have had a brother". You either have a brother or you had a brother (if the brother died).

  • i did not know you loved her can mean you still love her and relates to a present situation and you use past simple so when you write i did not now you were ill it can mean that you are still ill and both examples for me relates to the brother example I did not know you had brother can mean that you still have a brother what is the difference ? – user5577 Oct 24 '19 at 21:10
  • I have modified my answer. – anouk Oct 24 '19 at 22:25
  • So would it be possible to say. I did not know you have loved her to say either your love has recently finished or still continues or is it like my example of the brother you love her or you dont love her there is no other alternative – user5577 Oct 25 '19 at 6:08
  • imagine that i met a girl with her baby in her arms. Obviously she was pregnant and gave recently birth. Shall I say "I did not know that you have recently had a baby" – user5577 Oct 25 '19 at 8:37

You are right that

I didn't know you've been ill.

is anomalous.

The normal forms would be either

I didn't know you were ill.


I didn't know you had been ill.

(The difference between these is that the latter makes explicit that you were ill before the time I came to know it; the former leaves open when exactly you were ill).

I don't believe that I would say

I didn't know you have been ill.

But I would not be surprised to hear it from other people.

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