He knew she dare not tell her father.

Kim daren’t tell them so I had to do it myself.

-- The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language, p109n

My mother tongue, Korean, has tense inflectional options: to have tense agreement in a sentence or to put tense inflection only onto the last verb. The example cases remind me the Korean rule. So when I interpret English in my brain two or more past tenses in a sentence, I naturally ignore the other past tenses except one.

What I now want to know is that the pattern of the above cases be only restricted to ‘dare’, or are there more cases that in a sentence one verb is past, and the other present?

(I know in some cases, present perfect is replaced by simple tense for a kind of simplification.)

3 Answers 3


To dare not is a very dated construction - effectively a "set phrase" which is probably best avoided.

Precisely because it's unfamiliar/not current, I think many Anglophones would be ambivalent about whether it should be knew she dare not (7,060 hits in Google Books) or knew she dared not (52,000 hits). Theoretically, I think the verb tense should depend on whether she still dares not, but I doubt many people would see it that way.

The modern "natural" phrasings would be...

He knew she did not dare [to] tell her father.
Kim did not dare [to] tell them so I had to do it myself.

Personally, I don't think the tense forms in OP's examples are particularly relevant to modern usage.


SUPPLEMENTAL to FumbleFingers' answer:
I am at a loss to conceive where CGEL finds warrant for past dare.

It is true that dare was originally a past form—but that was before even Old English.

It is true that OED 1 records a couple of “careless” uses of dare for past tense in the 19th century--probably attributable to the flux in which dare then found itself, for it is also true that the old strong past form durst started to disappear in the 16th century, and that 3sg dare started to decline about the same time.

But what replaced dare 3sg and durst pa were dares and dared.

There used to be a dialectal negative dassent (you'll find it all over Mark Twain). This was pretty heavily stomped upon by the schoolmarms, which may have contributed to the general decline of modal-form dare over the past two hundred years.

In any case, I concur in FumbleFingers' judgment. Use dares in 3sg, dared in past positive, and do/does/did not dare in the negative. All the others are on life-support; let 'em flatline.


There are 2 special verbs in English- dare and need. Both can be used as modal and non-modal verbs.

Modal verb---He dare not say that, He need not say that.

Non-modal verb---He didn't (or doesn't) dare to say that, He didn't (or doesn't) need to say that.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .