I am reading a book but I don't understand the "would" instead of "do" in these sentences:

A: Hey! what are you doing here? there's a meet going on.

B: Really? How would you know? she cracked. (she his angry)

is "how would you know?" the same as "how do you know?" in this context?

thank you

1 Answer 1


They can both be used in a similar way to challenge somebody, specifically somebody you think is being nosy or interfering. You could say it because they're acting like they know things but you don't believe they know something ("You shouldn't press that button." "How would/do you know? You don't know anything about computers.") You might also say it because they shouldn't know something because it's none of their business. In this context, "How would you know?" is maybe slightly ruder, when it's less likely someone knows, but they are close in meaning.

However, "How do you know?" can be used in other contexts, not to dismiss someone but to get an answer, e.g. "He's on vacation." "How do you know?" "I asked his neighbor." "OK, thanks." It depends on the tone of voice whether an answer is expected, or whether it's used to mean "Go away and leave me alone."

"How do you know that?" is a simple question format. "Would" can be used to indicate doubt or possibility, so "How would you do that?" means "Is there any way you can know know that?" or "How can you possibly know that?"

  • 1
    I agree, but saying this phrase strongly implies that the speaker is saying the listener is in no better position than the speaker and so should not be in a position to know that a meeting was happening, perhaps because of some inadequacy that should be obvious to both. A possible context could be "How would you know, given that you ever pay any attention to the calendar anyway! Commented Feb 8, 2022 at 3:20

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