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What is the Past Tense of Know

Commonly used both in the positive and negative, the English verb “to know” is undoubtedly very useful for learners to understand. It’s a very important word to use should you want to express that you either do or don’t have knowledge on a particular area.

In addition, it also can be used to express that we are familiar with another person or concept, or not.

The past tense of “know” is “knew” and the past participle is “known”.

What is the past tense of “know”?

Know (verb):

(1) To be aware of, have knowledge of, or understand something through observation or information

(2) To have familiarity with and possibly an existing relationship with another person

  • Infinitive                      to know
  • Simple Past                 knew
  • Past Participle             known

Conjugation Table of “know”

 PronounInfinitiveSimple PastPresent PerfectPresent Continuous*
Iknowknewhave knownN/A
You (sing.)knowknewhave knownN/A
He/She/Itknowsknewhas knownN/A
Weknowknewhave knownN/A
You (pl.)knowknewhave knownN/A
Theyknowknewhave knownN/A

*An important note here is that “know” is not used in any continuous tenses, but the word “knowing” can be used as a stand-alone word, meaning the action of knowing something or somebody. we go into this further below.

For example — “Knowing you all these years has been a huge privilege!”

Example Sentences of “know”

(1) To be aware of, have knowledge of, or understand something through observation or information

  • Did you know that New York City is not the capital of New York State?
  • When you know just how dangerous sports can be, you might not want to play!
  • He knows very well that he shouldn’t do this kind of thing, but he continues to do so

(2) To have familiarity with and possibly an existing relationship with another person

  • I know Mr. Smith, he’s a great teacher
  • We have known each other now for many years
  • He knows her better than anyone, and he is sure that she is telling the truth

Focus: Past Tense of Know

Understanding how to use the verb “know” is very empowering and important in English. To help learners with past tense forms, we have prepared example sentences using the following three styles:

  • Simple past
  • Present perfect
  • Past perfect

Simple Past of “know”

  • When he saw his teacher’s face, he knew that he had not done well in the exam
  • They knew what was going to happen, but couldn’t talk about it
  • I knew about the football match, but I decided not to go and watch because it was too hot

Present Perfect of “know”

  • How long have you known about the two of them and their relationship?
  • We have known our local doctor for more than 20 years. He is a great man
  • Even though he has known about the exam for 2 months, he only started studying last night

Past Perfect of “know”

  • If I had known that you felt this way, I would have done things differently
  • She had known it was his birthday, but she decided to keep quiet and not say anything

Usage of ‘Knew’ and ‘Known’

‘Knew’ is the simple past tense of ‘know’ and is used to indicate knowledge about something in the past. ‘Known’ is the past participle of ‘know’ and is used with helping verbs in perfect tenses.

Further examples of usage:

Simple Past

  • She knew how to play the piano when she was just five years old.
  • I knew you were trouble when you walked in.

Present Perfect

  • I have known him since we were children.
  • She has known the answer to that question for a long time.

Past Perfect

  • If I had known the truth, I would have acted differently.
  • They had known each other for years before they started dating.

Irregularities and Common Mistakes

‘Know’ is an irregular verb, and one common mistake is confusing ‘knew’ and ‘known’. Remember, ‘knew’ is used on its own to express past knowledge or awareness, while ‘known’ is used with auxiliary verbs to form perfect tenses.

Using ‘Know’ in Expressions and Idioms

‘Know’ is used in many common English expressions and idioms, such as:

  • To know something like the back of one’s hand: to have very familiar knowledge about something.
  • To know the ropes: to understand the details of an operation or process.
  • To know better: to be wise or moral enough not to do something.

These phrases still follow the general rules of tense:

  • He knew the city like the back of his hand.
  • I’ve known the ropes around here since I started working.

Understanding the Verb “Know”

Originating from the Old English “cnāwan,” which means “to recognize or perceive,” “know” implies awareness, familiarity, or understanding of something or someone.

Phrasal Verbs with “Know”

“Know” is key to several phrasal verbs:

  • Know about: To be aware of.
    • Do you know about the changes in the law?
    • She knows about his past.
  • Know of: To be aware of; to have knowledge about.
    • I don’t know of any good restaurants in this area.
    • He’s the best actor I know of.
  • Know inside out: To understand thoroughly.
    • She knows this subject inside out.
    • I’ve read that book so many times, I know it inside out.

Common Mistakes

Look out for these pitfalls with “know”:

  • Incorrect: I knows the truth.
  • Correct: I know the truth.
  • Incorrect: They known him since childhood.
  • Correct: They have known him since childhood.

Additional Notes

The verb “know” is not used in continuous tenses because states of knowledge are generally not seen as actions in progress. However, it can be used in gerund form in certain contexts, such as “Knowing the truth set her free.”


Mastering the past tense of “know” and its various forms will significantly enhance your English language skills. Practice these different tenses and try to incorporate them into your daily English usage to ensure you have fully grasped them.

We also have a full list of irregular verbs from A – Z on the site which you can access from the link here.

You can check other past tense words and our past tense resources by clicking on the links in the table below and in the resource list below that.

Table 2: Table of Links for irregular Past Tense Verbs

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We also have articles and worksheets which we will link examples of below, and if you need more you can try the search box.

I have been a teacher of English for over 15 years, in that time i made hundreds and thousands of resources and learnt so much i think its worth sharing. Hopefully to help teachers and parents around the world.

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