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Days ago I came across this idiom "know better" and I found out that this could be used with "than that / than to do sth", but I recently found this sentence with this expression followed by "with". Do you usually use this supposed idiom with "with" when it is followed by a name? I found this sentence in the book "39 clues - The maze of bones"

If it had been anybody else, Dan would've hit back, but he knew better with the Holts.

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    It means If it had been anybody else, Dan would've hit back, But he knew better [than to fight] with the Holts.
    – Matt
    Commented Apr 9, 2013 at 17:44
  • @Matt, that's very well put - you should make that an answer. Commented Apr 9, 2013 at 18:27

2 Answers 2

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In context, the sentence means

If it had been anybody else, Dan would've hit back, But he knew better [than to fight] with the Holts.

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There are a few different cases that I know where "know better" will pop up:

  • "When you know better, you do better" from Maya Angelou that I've heard Oprah repeat more than a few times would be an inspirational quote.

  • "Bob likes to bluff but he knew better with Dean" - In this case the point is that there is some previous action that may be handled differently given the presence of a person. In the case of the example you give, there is an implication about "hitting back" that one could infer.

  • "You know better than that!" being what someone may say when someone performs some childish action that the remark is intended as a negative comment.

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