They might not be knowing it.

Is 'knowing' a verb here? If yes, why is it considered a stative verb if it has a progressive meaning?

This is why I said knowing the meaning of it is hard.

Also here is another example using 'knowing'.

  • Stative verbs describe a state rather than an action. They aren't usually used in the present continuous form. So it's I don't know the answer, NOT I'm not knowing the answer. She really likes you, NOT She's really liking you. He seems happy at the moment, NOT He's seeming happy at the moment. What exactly don't you understand about this? May 25, 2021 at 15:10
  • Ok so are both examples grammatically wrong? But the second one is very similar to a phrasing in CGEL.
    – Tangent
    May 25, 2021 at 15:13
  • 1
    There's a huge difference between constructions that aren't usually used and constructions that are actually ungrammatical! Your first example (They might not be knowing it) would be extremely unidiomatic in any context I can think of (but someone else might be able to come up with a context where it's perfectly okay). The second example (This is why I said knowing the meaning of it is hard) is an "unusual" thing to say (I'd prefer ...why I said it is hard to know the meaning), but it's a very different construction where "continuous stative verb" simply isn't an issue. May 25, 2021 at 16:13
  • "They might not be knowing it" sounds very Inglish for "They might not know it". May 25, 2021 at 17:56
  • "knowing the meaning of it" is not a verb, as it were. It is a noun phrase. "Knowing about a situation doesn't mean doing something about it."
    – Lambie
    May 28, 2021 at 15:28

3 Answers 3


?They might not be knowing it.

Because to know is stative, the sentence above is at least questionable, if not simply unacceptable.

This is why I said that knowing the meaning of it is hard.

This sentence is acceptable.

There is a difference.

In the first example, "might not be knowing" is a predicating phrase. This "knowing" is traditionally called the main verb. When stative verbs are used as main verbs, that's when the progressive form doesn't make sense.

In the second, "knowing the meaning of it" is the subject of its clause. Traditionally, this is called a gerund phrase. The -ing verb forms do make sense in gerund phrases and participial phrases -- pretty much whenever it is not the main verb.

That's how a native speaker might learn to recognize a stative verb. It's when the -ing form doesn't intuitively make sense as a main verb.


The first sentence is grammatically wrong

In the second sentence, ''knowing'' is a gerund. A gerund is a noun made from verb + -ing and it can function as subject, object... grammarly

Know is generally a stative verb but some stative verbs can occasionally be used with its dynamic form as well BBC Learning English

  • 2
    But there is such a form as "might not be" + v-ing: "She might not be sleeping". The problem is that "know" is a stative verb, so cannot have a continuous form. "Be knowing" is a continuous form. "Know" is not an exception to those rules
    – gotube
    Feb 24, 2022 at 20:21

KNOW is a Stative verb but sometimes (very rarely, giving rise to acceptability issue) it does combine with prograssive under certain circumstances. It happens with other Stative verbs as well, so thinking that a Stative verb never occurs in progressive is not always right. (So I always read the Stative meaning and Dynamic meaning, and a verb can shift between these two categories)

1. Because I am not a crime negotiator. I don't have any expertise in this. There are people who will talk to both the hostages and the person holding them hostage, and they will be knowing what to deal with and how to resolve the situation, hopefully, peacefully. [SPOKEN Source - CNN Period: 2014]

2. There are a lot of great things that come with being a Masters champion, " he said. " But the best of them all may be knowing you get to come back to Augusta and play every year for as long as you can walk the golf course. " [NEWS Source - Washington Post Period - 2006]

3. He was Little John at home, Gator John on wheels, John Jude on his birth certificate, Goofy-Foot John, or simply the Kine to those in the know. He would also be knowing John, or that's what he promised his mother. [FICTION Source - American Taliban by Abraham, Pearl Period - 2010]

4. So what's wrong with him? - I will be knowing in one moment. [TV Source - Lilo & Stitch: The Series Period - 2003]

5. She must be knowing Amar Damji's whereabouts. [MOVIE Source - The 1995 NCLR Bravo Awards Period - 1995]

Generally when Stative verbs combine with progressive it shows a difference in meaning making them dynamic, and still there are some verbs like KNOW that don't necessarily change the meaning to be dynamic and be in progressive. In Understanding English Grammar by Thomas E Payne on page no 148 it states KNOW is somewhat agentive. And so it can be progressive.

In your sentence, KNOW is a verb.

They might not be knowing it.

Another similar example:

Most of the eNotes debaters might be knowing that I am a Muslim, though not from US, but I am sure that the Muslim community of US will be more than pleased to cooperate in this endeavour.

Yes this sentence is fine. [MY NOTE: this type of might be knowing is common in Indian English]

Your other sentence:

This is why I said knowing the meaning of it is hard.

is also correct but it has different construction. It is part of a non-finite clause, but yes it is also a verb in there. Here whether the verb is stative or dynamic in nature doesn't pose any problem. That non finite clause is called Gerund-Participle clause.

  • 2
    Knowing in the second sentence is a gerund noun; "Knowing the meaning of something can be tricky.". See it now? :) It is neither a verb nor is it dynamic.
    – Lambie
    May 28, 2021 at 15:28
  • @Lambie a noun doesn't take another Noun Phrase as complement as far as I can remember. Moreover the other answer also says it's a verb. May 28, 2021 at 16:12
  • Knowing the answer is important. That is a gerund noun.
    – Lambie
    May 28, 2021 at 20:52
  • @Lambie as far as I remember it is not. It is still a verb. May 28, 2021 at 23:20
  • 1
    Lambie is right here. A gerund is also called a verbal noun. An [adj] x is an x! Sep 17, 2021 at 2:29

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