This question stemmed from the lyrics of the song Vague Utopia by Tia Gostelow. One of the lines from the chorus is as following:

I just want you to know,
And i know not what the younger dreams,
Some vague utopia, utopia

The structure I know not what the... sounded a bit weird to me. After doing some research, the closest similar grammatically valid structures(from oxford) that I found are:

  1. Treating the symptoms and not the cause. (negative of the cause).
  2. How was it? Not so bad. (Not very close to the actual lyrics).

I also think the lyrics could be using archaic English, when I know not, I run not etc were permissible in English. Please explain if the lyrics is grammatically correct, and if yes, what rule is it using.


  • 1
    Yes, I know not is an archaic construction, presumably used in the song for the sake of the metre. In modern English we would say I do not know. However, expressions like I hope not and I think not are different, presumably implying I hope it is not true. Commented Feb 1, 2020 at 13:12
  • 1
    What @KateBunting said. But note that I hope not remains the "idiomatic standard" for the sense of I hope it [some contextually-established possibility] is not true. On the other hand, although I think not does still occur "naturally" sometimes, it's definitely heading for "archaic" status alongside I know not sometime in the coming decades. Commented Feb 1, 2020 at 13:29

1 Answer 1


"I know not" is a bit old-fashioned, but I wouldn't go so far as to call it archaic. Google Ngram viewer shows something of a decline, but it hasn't vanished.

I'd say it's mostly used in songs and poems

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