Turns out the correct way of saying this is:

I never knew my grandmother as she died before I was born.

Am I right that the reason past simple is used here is because my grandmother is dead and there is no way for me anymore to know her?

And if I said

I've never known my grandmother.

it would imply the existing opportunity to know her (did I use "know" correctly here or should I have used "get to know"?), i.e. that she is still alive?

Or maybe the better way to explain this is that the time period (before I was born) is already finished? If that is the case, then could I say

I've never known my grandmother

(without specifying a time frame), even though my grandmother is dead?

Maybe you know where I could find more details about the particular rule that applies here?

1 Answer 1


The real discord in your second sentence

I've never known my grandmother […]

is not so much the fact that you no longer have an opportunity to know her, but the fact that you used never.

A more concordant phrasing would be

I never knew my grandmother, since she died before I was born.

Even if your grandmother were still alive (and, for example, you simply never met her), it would be strange to use have known with never. The reason is that have known is typically used to predicate of unbounded (not countable) groups. A context in which we use have known with never is in phrases like

I've never known anyone to turn down an offer of ice cream after dinner.

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