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Know, Knew, Known: Which is the Correct the Past Tense?

'Know' is the present tense, 'knew' is the past tense form, and 'had/have known' is the past participle form of the verb.

What is the past tense of “know”?

The word to know (present tense), means “to have information in your mind as a result of experience or because you have learned or been told it”. We know things that we’ve learnt, or from our experiences and education.

  • To know is the verb form of the abstract noun, knowledge in the present tense.

  • The simple past tense is knew (pronounced the same as new).

  • The past participle form is known.

Know: Present, past and future

simpleI knowI knewI will know
continuousI am knowingI was knowingI will be knowing
perfectI have knownI had knownI will have known
perfect continuousI have been knowingI had been knowingI will have been knowing
12 tenses of ‘know’.

The past tense vs. past participle of know

Past tense: I knew I had left my phone at home as soon as I got to work.

Past participle: I wish I had known that the store was closing early today.

The past participle form of ‘know‘ is known. We use the participle form known along with auxiliaries, such as ‘have‘ or ‘had‘ to create “perfect” tenses in grammar.

So, to write in the present perfect tense, use have + known, e.g., “I have known him for a long time”. The present perfect tense indicates an action that began in the past and has a connection to the present: you started knowing him in the past, and you continue to do so up until the present moment.

We form the past perfect slightly differently: use the auxiliary had + known, e.g., “Before I moved to the city, I had known very little about its history“. The past perfect tense is used to describe an action that was completed in the past before another action that also took place in the past. We use the past perfect to emphasize the timing or correct sequence of past events.

The past participle form, known, is also used to describe the current state of being recognized or famous for something. For example, “He is well-known for his contributions to the field of physics” means that he is currently recognized for his work in physics. “Knew” is the past tense form of the verb; ‘known‘ is the past participle form of the verb, and uses auxiliaries to relay tense (had/have, e.g., I wish I had known that.)

Forms of “know”, used in sentence examples

Examples: know, present tense
All I know is that she used to work in a bank.

I need to know your name.

We know from experience that turning a hobby into a business is not easy.

know for a fact that he didn’t go to the party.

As you know, Emma and I are old friends.
Examples: knew and known, used in sentences
He knew he couldn’t lift the heavy box by himself, so he asked for help.

She knew that her best friend was hiding something from her, but she didn’t know what it was. ‍

We knew that the movie was going to be popular, so we bought tickets in advance.

If you had known the truth, would you have still made the same decision?

She has known her best friend since they were in kindergarten.

The author is well-known for her best-selling novel.

Worksheet: verb forms of ‘know’

QuestionsAnswer options:
1. True or false:

“Know” is a regular verb.
a. true
b. false
2. True or false:

“Know” looks the same in the past tense and as a past participle.
a. true
b. false
3. True or false:

“Known” is the simple past tense of ‘know’.
a. true
b. false
4. Which tense is this sentence in:

I know the way to go.
a. past
b. present
c. past perfect
d. present perfect
5. The sentence is in which tense:

I’ve known them for over 10 years.
a. present perfect
b. present continuous
c. past continuous
d. simple past
6. Select the correct tense the sentence is in:

If only we’d known you were having so many problems!
a. present perfect
b. past perfect
c. present continuous
d. simple past


  1. b
  2. b
  3. b
  4. a
  5. a
  6. b

Synonyms of know

All of these words can be used to convey a similar meaning to “know” – that the subject has information or understanding about something. However, there may be subtle differences in connotation or usage, so it’s important to choose the appropriate word for the specific context.

  • understand
  • comprehend
  • grasp
  • realize
  • recognize
  • fathom
  • be aware of
  • be familiar with
  • have knowledge of
  • be cognizant of

Origin of the word know

From etymology online on know (v.):

Old English cnawan “perceive a thing to be identical with another,” also “be able to distinguish” generally  from Proto-Germanic *knew.

Phrases/idioms with know

a little knowledge is a dangerous thingHaving a small amount of information can lead to incorrect or harmful actions or decisions.
you never know Meaning an outcome of a situation is uncertain or unpredictable.
to know the ropesTo be familiar with the procedures or methods of doing something.
you know what they sayA commonly held belief or saying is being referenced to support a point.
to let someone knowMeant literally; to inform someone of something or to keep them updated.
to know by heartTo have something memorized completely, such as a poem or song lyrics.
don’t know whether you’re coming or going To be confused or disoriented.
to know someone inside outThis means to know someone’s personality, character, or habits very well.

Other commonly confused verb tenses

Learn more about verbs


  1. Wikipedia. 2023. “Indo-European ablaut.” Wikimedia Foundation. Last modified January 10, 2023.
  2. Harper, Douglas. “Etymology of know.” Online Etymology Dictionary, Accessed 11 March, 2023.
  3. Definition of know, Oxford Learner’s Dictionary.

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