"I know how foolish he is"

Do you think "how" express an exclamation or the degree of subjective evaluation? Also, does it depend on a context to make an inference from this kind of text?

  • 3
    For the exclamatory usage, "How" normally starts the sentence. It would be a different matter if it were "I know! How foolish he is!" (And yes, if this were spoken rather than written, you might have to rely on context to tell the difference, especially if the speaker didn't make a big difference in tone.) Commented Jul 6 at 1:24
  • "How" is not exclamative in your example. "How foolish he is" is a subordinate interrogative clause -- the meaning is "I know the answer to the question 'How foolish is he?'"
    – BillJ
    Commented Jul 6 at 7:29

1 Answer 1


If this is a written sentence, it is clear enough to be read as a declarative clause. The adverb how describes the degree of foolishness. This usage is similar to this example:

adverb 2. to what degree or extent I don't know how old she is.


The sentence “I know [how foolish he is].” consists of a matrix clause and the bracketed subordinate interrogative clause. The latter is the complement of know.

The meaning of the subordinate interrogative clause is ‘I know the answer to the question “How foolish is he?”’ and there’s no indication of exclamation in the clause.

The overall sentence is still considered declarative.

  • I learned a exclamatory sentence can be incorporated in a declarative clause like this: "We were having a heated conversation about what bullsh-- charges these are."
    – user189378
    Commented Jul 6 at 3:02
  • @user189378, I've added my explanation to my answer. Commented Jul 6 at 4:12
  • Sorry, my question was very wrong. Does the subordinate clause in this sentence express a degree of evaluation? Or does it express an exclamation? And my teacher insisted that the subordinate clause expresses an exclamation.
    – user189378
    Commented Jul 6 at 5:34
  • @user189378, I have not come across the phrase degree of subjective evaluation. From the sentence alone, I don’t see any indication of exclamation; there’s no exclamation mark and no further context. Let’s hear from the other users. Don’t worry and there’s no need to apologise:) Commented Jul 6 at 6:17
  • 2
    @SeowjoohengSingapore I think it would be better to say that "how foolish he is" is a subordinate interrogative clause, not an exclamative clause. The meaning is "I know the answer to the question 'How foolish is he?'"
    – BillJ
    Commented Jul 6 at 7:36

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