'I would have thought that you, of all people, would have known that you shouldn't say You-Know-Who's name.' (source)

I suspect that 'would have known' needs to be changed into 'would know' for the same reason as 'shouldn't' doesn't have perfect tense. What tense does the highlighted part belong with?

1 Answer 1


Both versions are perfectly fine. It's really just a matter of stylistic choice (or your choice of narrative reference/relevance time, if you want to get technical).

Arguably repeating would have could be seen as slightly more precise, since it matches the tense of the "primary" verb (I would have thought). That would thus have the possibility of coming across as more "condescending/haughty", which might well be appropriate.

On the other hand, the "present hypothetical/conditional" (you...would know...that) might be seen as even more condescending, since it tends emphasise that you still don't know it.

But these are fine nuances. Native speakers wouldn't normally stop to think which precise meaning they wanted, and choose the verb form accordingly. People use both forms interchangeably.

  • I am not sure if I get it. Is Ron suggesting that Harry has been very haughty to say that? @FumbleFingers
    – Kinzle B
    Commented Apr 28, 2014 at 16:51
  • @Zhanlong: I never looked at OP's "link" when I answered (it's not a good link anyway, since it only leads to a discussion, not the full context. But having just looked at that now, obviously there's no suggestion of haughtiness at all in this specific context (Ron is just *shocked and impressed, as it explicitly says in the text that OP hasn't linked to). BUT... Commented Apr 28, 2014 at 17:06
  • ...in other contexts, "I should have thought you of all people would know/have known [some fact]" would very often be a haughty/condescending thing to say to anyone (you probably shouldn't say it to your boss at work! :). You've obviously misunderstood me if you're thinking this might have anything to do with the possibility of accusing the person being spoken to of being "haughty". Normally, the usage implies that the person speaking thinks the other person is stupid, careless, mistaken, not haughty. (Stupid because they don't know what you think they should know.) Commented Apr 28, 2014 at 17:11

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