'He knows not the truth'

I was studying about Clausal Negation and then suddenly this sentence came to my mind. Now I am confused of what category it is. It is a verbal Negation or a Non-verbal Negation?

I have read some previously answered question and I got from there that it is archaic, prevalent in earlier times and mostly used in poetic sense.

  • 1
    This is related. You have the verb "know" and the negation "not", so it's a verbal negation, but an archaic one.
    – fev
    Jun 25, 2021 at 16:10
  • In different grammar resource I read that for verbal negation 'do' form is necessary except in cases like Subjunctive clause. So, it's still grammatically correct?
    – RADS
    Jun 25, 2021 at 16:25
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    It is certainly correct, but it is as you say, poetic and antiquated. You do encounter it still today in discourses for oratoric purposes.
    – fev
    Jun 25, 2021 at 17:45
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    "Not" does not modify "the truth", i.e. "not the truth" is not here a constituent. "Not" can only modify "knows", so this is a case of verbal negation, albeit it a very old-fashioned one. In today's English we would say "He doesn't know the truth"
    – BillJ
    Jun 25, 2021 at 18:31
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1 Answer 1


It is an antiquated form of verbal negation. Saying "he knows not" is basically the same as saying "he does not know". I wouldn't call it 'archaic' because, although not used in modern, informal speech, "know not" is occasionally still used - usually for poetic reasons, when quoting famous texts, or as part of some well-known idioms. For example, two quotations from the King James Bible (originally written in early modern English) have become quite well known idioms - "they know not of what they speak", and "judge not, lest ye be judged".

However there are other structures where it is still used and not entirely uncommon - for example, we say "I have not..." just as much as "I don't have...", and some use the expression "haves and have nots" to refer to the wealthy and the poor.

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    It is obligatory with auxiliaries, but only when they are used as auxiliaries: *I didn't it is not grammatical for most people. But in most varieties of English, be uses this even when it isn't an auxiliary, but a lexical verb. The case with have is more complicated. When I was growing up in England in the 60s, have did not take "do"-support: We said have you (got) and I haven't (got) (the "got" was normal in informal contexts). Do you have? and I don't have were things that Americans said, we didn't. But this has changed: Have you got? is common, but Do you have? commoner.
    – Colin Fine
    Jun 26, 2021 at 13:47

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