Q) Next month, I _______ John for 20 years

(A) know

(B) will have known

(C) am knowing

(D) will have been knowing

Question bank says (D) is correct. Surely, (B) is the correct one, right?


I request answers/comments that reflect common practices of American and British English.

These websites also say that the answer is (D).

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    create accounts correct them and link to here.
    – WendyG
    May 23, 2022 at 16:30
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    If we don't normally say "I am knowing you/him/her" etc. then it stands to reason we avoid the present continuous in all it forms.
    – Mari-Lou A
    May 23, 2022 at 16:42
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    @Mari-LouA I can think of cases where future perfect progressive would be idiomatic (“I will have been dating John for a year,” “I will have been avoiding John,” and some other verbs, particularly those for actions that can be stopped and restarted), it doesn’t work well with “knowing”” in AmE.
    – Davislor
    May 24, 2022 at 3:40
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    I looked at those websites which claim that (d) is correct. I would fervently avoid them, especially any which says Choose to correct option: argh!! Trustworthy websites will say (b) is the correct answer.
    – Mari-Lou A
    May 24, 2022 at 5:24
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    Related question on English Language and Usage stack. Also, this claims that "in South Asia [(D)] may be common. There is a regional preference there for the past continuous tense of the verb (been knowing for known.)"
    – Kirt
    May 24, 2022 at 14:45

4 Answers 4


D is certainly not idiomatic in British English, nor I think American. B is the only natural choice.

It is possible that D is idiomatic in Bangla Deshi English: I don't know.

  • 12
    I think one can avoid saying Bangladeshi English. That is not a variety of English. really.
    – Lambie
    May 23, 2022 at 15:47
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    @Lambie: I know that I don't know enough to make such a statement. Wikipedia has an article on it, though I admint that it is undersourced, and lists only numbers as distinct. I know that Indian English more generally makes greater use of continuous tenses tthan other Englishes.
    – Colin Fine
    May 23, 2022 at 16:04
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    As a native B-Eng, D does sound very much like the English I would expect to hear from someone from the Indian sub-continent.
    – Ken Y-N
    May 24, 2022 at 6:31
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    From personal observation, I would say (D) is idiomatic in Indian and Bangladeshi English. And, yes, these absolutely are dialects of English deserving of as much respect as other variants. May 24, 2022 at 12:25
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    "nor I think American" - Mid-Atlantic AmEnglish speaker here. D sounds alien, not merely unidiomatic. It's so far from idiomatic I'd assume I misheard, and request they repeat themselves. B is the natural phrasing I (and every native AmEnglish speaker I've known) would use. May 24, 2022 at 21:57

Most verbs I can think of where “I will have been” doing something in the future perfect progressive are for actions that could be stopped and started over, resetting the clock, whether or not that has in fact happened.

So, for example, if I lived in Kalamazoo for ten years, then moved away, then moved back eleven months ago, I will have been living in Kalamazoo for one year next month, but I will have lived in Kalamazoo for eleven years. (This is not, however, an ironclad rule: people sometimes say something like, “I will have been living in Kalamazoo for eleven years, with some interruptions.”) If I moved to Kalamazoo for the first time eleven months ago, however, “I will have been living in Kalamazoo for a year,” and “I will have lived in Kalamazoo for a year,” would be synonyms.

So, examples of where the construction in D would be idiomatic (in American English) include “I will have been living with John for twenty years,” “I will have been fighting John for twenty years,” “I will have been avoiding John for twenty years,” “I will have been working with John for twenty years,” “I will have been hiding from John for twenty years,” and “I will have been dating John for twenty years; why do you say he’s afraid of commitment?”

Know doesn’t work that way; once you meet someone, you always “know” that person. (There is an expression, “I don’t even know him anymore,” but it isn’t taken literally, and if you asked that person, “Do you know John?” the answer would still be “Yes.”) An even simpler reason, though, might be that we don’t normally “*be knowing” someone, in any tense. Emotional states (such as hating and loving) are another set of examples that are not normally used as progressive verbs. (Again, in American English.)

  • 2
    This is the right answer and should be accepted as such.
    – RedSonja
    May 24, 2022 at 6:33
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    Regarding your last paragraph, (D) can only be the correct answer if we take "knowing" in the Biblical sense (as in, having sexual relations with)
    – Andy
    May 24, 2022 at 20:41
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    @Andy If I saw “be knowing,” without a direct object, my first thought would be that “knowing” is being used as an adjective for savvy, shrewd, having inside knowledge.
    – Davislor
    May 24, 2022 at 22:14
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    @Andy In the King James translation of the BIble, the form knowing is not actually used in that euphemistic sense (only knew). Knowing is used to introduce gerund phrases, such as “and slew them with the sword, my father David not knowing thereof,” “And Jesus knowing their thoughts said,” or most famously, “and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.”
    – Davislor
    May 24, 2022 at 22:24

The correct phrasing is B. In US English, the verb "know" is not used in a continuous or ongoing (or active) sense in regard to people. We do not speak of "knowing" a person. ("I have been knowing him", or "It has been 20 years of knowing him" are not used.) You know someone or you don't. You have known her for a long time or a short time. You can say you knew him for many years. You can say you would like to know someone.

This is in contrast with the verb "live."

I have been living in Florida for more than 30 years, and I have known some people for that long."

"Know" in the continuous ("knowing") sense is used only in sentences that refer to use of knowledge: "Knowing how to prepare a meal is important for young adults, who otherwise have to spend a lot of money on dining out."


Which meaning of know?

The more common use of 'to know' would mean that John is a person with whom I have been acquainted these past 20 years. In this case, (B), I will have known him, since the action of having come to know him was both begun and completed in the past.

However, there is a more idiomatic use of know, 'to know in the biblical sense', meaning to have had sexual relations with. If John and I are in an ongoing sexual relationship, then that should be expressed in a progressive tense: I first knew John 20 years ago, we have been knowing each other ever since, and next month I will have been knowing him for 20 years, thus (D). It would be the same tense as the more vulgar, 'Next month I will have been f***ing him for 20 years'.

Now, I hardly think this is what the university exam meant to imply - rather, it is a case of their incorrect grammar being coincidentally correct for a different meaning they did not intend.

  • 2
    No, that doesn't work at all. "We have been knowing each other ever since": even in the Biblical sense, "know" is never used in the (present or past or past perfect) continuous.
    – TonyK
    May 24, 2022 at 10:54
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    This sense is also considered archaic, almost never used except in the Bible unless you add the "in the biblical sense" qualifier.
    – Barmar
    May 24, 2022 at 14:15
  • @Barmar It is certainly almost never used, which is why I say it is extremely unlikely to be the meaning the exam intended. I am simply pointing out that it is a grammatically correct idiomatic construction, since the other answers say that it is not.
    – Kirt
    May 24, 2022 at 14:36
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    @TonyK "Never" is a strong claim. Cf., "As of this writing, to quote the Bible, we have been knowing each other for twelve years as a couple, and we continually reach new levels of showing each other what love is." in What's wrong with America
    – Kirt
    May 24, 2022 at 14:50
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    @Kirt - In addition to considering archaic biblical definitions, doth ye also speake in the Olde English of King James? Lest ye encounter another speaker? Olde English is just another dialect. Just as important as any other.
    – EllieK
    May 25, 2022 at 12:44

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