"I was not knowing" - can anyone explain why this is wrong? Is it just awkward English or also wrongly translated tense?
The reason why "knowing" in that expression sounds awkward in English is that English speakers learn this automatically without intentionally applying rules. Here's why "knowing" doesn't work here. There are two major categories of verbs: action verbs and stative verbs. If a verb refers to a process, it is an action verb (it expresses something you do). If it refers to a state, it is a stative verb (it expresses something that "is"). The most important difference between stative and active verbs is that active verbs can be used in continuous tenses and stative verbs cannot be used in continuous tenses. A few verbs can sometimes be "active" and sometimes be "stative" so you have to pay attention to the context to see how they are used. In addition to the obvious stative verb "être" (be), stative Verbs include:
- Verbs showing possession: belong, get, have, own, possess
- Verbs showing emotion/feeling: hate, like, love, need, want
- Verbs showing senses: feel, hear, see, smell, taste
- Verbs showing thought/opinion: believe, know, recognize, think, understand
Here are a few examples:
- I am having a car (incorrect). I have a car (correct)
- I am liking this movie (incorrect). I like this movie (correct)
- I am hearing a dog (incorrect). I hear a dog (correct)
- I am knowing the answer (incorrect). I know the answer (correct) http://esl.about.com/od/grammarstructures/a/g_stative.htm
I agree with you but at the same time i am sceptical about some of your examples. I am giving examples where those stative verbs may actually be used as action verbs
Be: i was <<being>> good to him so that he would be good to me. Get: when i was in hospital, i was getting gifts from a lot of people. Have: i was having a cup of tea when the earthquake happened. Feel: i was feeling good this morning. Smell: i was smelling a variety of tea during the auction. Think: i was thinking of you.
And the examples you have given are illustrative of how some verbs which are usually stative can sometimes be active. All I'm saying is that you have to pay attention to how they are used. "I was not knowing" does not pass this test. Having said that, there is a form of English where using continuous tenses for verbs that are stative is a stereotypical earmark of a non-native speaker. Feel free to investigate the link above to get the information unfiltered by any bias I may have.
Hey n6zs! I was just wondering why my translation, "I wouldn't know." wasn't accepted? Thanks.
"Would" as part of a translation of the French imperfect tense is used to indicate a habitual action in the past. That is not the sense of "I wouldn't know". The tendency for non-native English speakers to use "would" as a plug-and-play translation of the imperfect tense frequently results in awkward English or a completely changed meaning. Your sentence is a perfectly good sentence in English; it's just not the translation of "Je ne savais pas". When someone says "I wouldn't know", it is not referring to anything in the past, but is likely to be considered a flippant rejection of a statement. I.e., more "How am I supposed to know?" rather than "I don't know". This is very subtle and would depend on the context, tone, etc.
All true. Excellent points
I wouldn't know often is offered as an indication of the worth of knowing something. I would'n't know (because I am supremely indifferent to what you are talking about). Intentionally dismissive. Again, tone and such are part of the meaning.
"Have" in particular can mean "consume" used for drinks and food which is an active definition for it which is not usually found in other languages. So that is not used for possessing. You either have (own or have it with you) something or you don't, but you could be actively getting something. I don't think that "to get" should be on that list. In British English, "I have got" is possession, but "to get" is often about the process of going to obtain something.
"Know" is something different. You either know or you don't know. You could gain knowledge by learning or find out by someone explaining it to you. We have other verbs to create the actions. I hear something or I don't hear it, but I can be listening to something.
Now, the media is using the present progressive with stative verbs to attract attention to their advertisements just like a misspelling would. Over time, people will probably get used to these and who knows, maybe one day the rules may change. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eBlD2N_AwgI McDonald's "I'm loving it."
There are verbs that have a different meaning in the present progressive like "have", for example "see". "I am seeing him." actually would mean that I am dating him. So, I either see someone or I don't, but I could be looking at someone.
I would say "I was good to him, so that he would be good to me." and "I felt well this morning."
"I was thinking of you." is definitely quite common and I have always thought of "thinking" as an active process, unlike whether you know something or not.
The fact is in English we can use the simple past in lieu of almost any other past tenses if we want. I smelled tea. would be just fine. It doesn't give that "imperfect" information, but "during" does.
Some English verbs rarely take the progressive (ing) form, generally because they're states of being which are not temporary-- progressives often show temporariness.. ie: he is eating - now, at this moment. Some examples of verbs which don't often use 'ing' are: believe, admire, forget, remember, like, love, hate, fear, have (possessive), etc.
Agreed. Although technically grammatically correct, it is wrong to use to know in ANY progressive tense. to be knowing means you are in the process of knowing; this makes no sense. knowing is not an action.
I could only come up with one ear pleasing sentence, but it is really a trick.
- I am knowing what real pain is as I watch my sister cry.
It is really just an emphatic way to say I feel, remember you can't be in the process of knowing! As far as the imperfect, we can would know, knew, or used to know just fine.
I agree with your explanation. However doesn't translating it as 'I did not know' make it more suitable for passe compose than imparfait?
The other language does not have that limit. In French they are perfectly happy using the imperfect with this verb, even if we cannot in English.
English speakers are uncomfortable using the imperfect in conversation in just about every context. They prefer to use the past tense and let the listener work it out.
French speakers prefer to use the various shades of the past tense in conversation rather than forcing the listener to work out the nuances of the intended meaning.
Or you can use "knowing" as an adjective: He gave her a knowing smile. She had a knowing look in her eyes.
I read through the comments and nobody seems to address this. Can anyone explain why "I knew not" is unacceptable? I know it sounds old-fashioned, but in my mind it should still be correct. It's interesting that while both answers make sense, the correct answer "I did not know" uses the past tense of "to do" (did), while my answer uses the past tense of "to know" (knew). Thoughts?
The expression "I knew not" is grammatically correct and might fit in a poetic scenario but as part of standard English speech, it would be quite far down the list of possible ways to translate this.
In another example, savais was translated as 'know how' so why is it not in this sentence?
Why I did and not I'd. In another question they did is wrong and they'd correct . Does not make sense to me
Not sure what Duo's reasoning is on any given example but I can tell you that in English, I'd could mean ...I would ... or it could mean ..I had...
I'd not know is likely to be taken to mean I would not know.
There are some (hidden) algorithms at work which may display incorrect answers regarding contractions. Best advice: avoid contractions like this. See comment by northernguy.
Why is "I did not know" not counted as correct, when "I'd not know" is counted as correct?
Read the comment by 14490 that is a little bit up the page from your question. It is identical and has already been answered.
Well, not exactly, because the phrase "I'd not know" we don't use really in US english, but "I did not know" is a phrase we would say. Maybe in British english or another standard such a phrase has that denotation, but... I'd not know.
I'd = I would, I had = correct
I'd = I did = incorrect
I'd it = I did it = incorrect
I'd not know = I did not know = incorrect
I'd have gone (if you asked me to) = I would have gone. = correct
I'd done it = I had done it.(because you asked me to) = correct
I'd not know that = I would not know that (so don't ask me) = correct
In this example I would not know is closer to the original French Imperfect than the simple English past I did not know.
Other than as an exercise in mapping the French imperfect and English simple past this Duo example is a poor choice.
Just thinking, did anyone think of it as "I knew not". It was marked wrong though, an explanation would be great. :)
So much for the English classics. My first interpretation was "I knew not". It seemed like a obvious way to translate the phrase but I would seldom use it when speaking.
For our purposes, it is assumed that users are translating into current standard English. From that standpoint, Duo also does not accept "I knewest not". ;-) Neither will you find thee, thou, thine, canst, mayest, doth, doeth, hast, couldst, wouldst, and a host of other lovely terms of by-gone days.
I thought "savais" could be interpreted as "know" or "know how" but in this sentence"I did not know how " was marked wrong, any ideas??
"To know how to + verb" = savoir + verbe. Here, there is no verb.
Here, "I did not know how" would translate into je ne savais pas comment.
Ex: I wanted to do that, but I didn't know how: Je voulais faire ça, mais je ne savais pas comment.
I didn't know how to swim: Je ne savais pas nager.
Is there "I didn't know that" in French too?
In English we can say "I didn't know" and "I didn't know that" in different situations.
"I didn't know" seems to be reserved for situations where you're suggesting you might have done something differently had you known a fact. For example:
"When can I meet you parents?" "My parents are dead." "Sorry. I didn't know."
You could also use "I didn't know that" here.
But in other situations (e.g. expressing interest rather than regret) only "I didn't know that" will do:
"My parents are scientists." "I didn't know that!"
Can I use "Je ne savais pas" in either kind of situation? Or would it sound wrong in the latter example, as "I didn't know" would?
You can say je ne savais pas, or je ne le savais pas. Both forms are correct and (IMHO) equally used, but there is no difference in the meaning between the two forms.
Simply, this French tense doesn't exist in English. You should invent one at least.
Actually, the French imperfect tense is expressed in several different ways in English; it just that it doesn't map directly to a single English tense. You will find the same kind of issue cropping up in the French present tense, as well. Since French does not have a present continuous tense (at all), it is often translated as either English simple present or English present continuous. The French Passé composé doesn't map to one English tense either. Sometimes it is translated as simple past, sometimes as present perfect and even occasionally as present perfect continuous. The latter is a real bug-a-boo because I have found as many as eight different ways in French to express the English present perfect continuous tense. Be grateful that this is only considered an elementary course in French.
Because the French is in the Past Imperfect tense and you must express it in an English past tense, i.e., I didn't know.
Because it would have been « Je ne savais rien ».
« Ne... pas » is the simple negation ("not"); « Ne... rien » translates into "nothing".
A year later I come across your answer and probably would not have asked the question now, because I have learned a bit more over the past year. Thank you for the explanation and sorry for the delayed thank you.
I translated this as "I had not known" It seemed to fulfill the idea of something in the past setting a scene and whatnot, but alas, marked wrong. Is it?
Using "had" + past participle marks it as pluperfect, i.e., "je n'avais pas su" but such an expression begs for more explanation about, "and then what happened?"
What about... I wouldn't know.
If the imperfect isn't how you would express it in French, then what tense would you use?
Also, if I didn't know something in past but I do now, wouldn't that lack of knowledge be expressed through past tense?
Edit: this was written a long time ago. I have answered my own question below.
I'm going to take a guess that you wanted to put "used to" in there because it seems like a good formula to use when translating the past imperfect tense. A number of francophones thought so, too, when learning about how to express this in English. That resulted in an unwarranted proliferation of "used to" in just about every English translation involving the imperfect tense. The fact is that it doesn't always work that way. There are not such simple cookie-cutter approaches to translating the imperfect tense. One must be familiar with the several uses of the imperfect tense and know when to use one approach and when to use another.
While I agree with your general sentiment about knowing the various applications of the imparfait and how these can be mapped to English tenses, I don't think you actually answered why, here, „I used to not know” cannot be an appropriate translation. So let me ask:
Why does it have to be marked wrong?
What be a better French sentence to translate „I used to know”?
"I used to not know" is perfectly correct. Duolingo just marks things wrong because it's not common. And shame on them for doing so. The reason you would use this phrase is because your next sentence would be, "But now I do."
English speakers turn negative imperfect into negative past.
The problem for Duo is to teach the use of a tense which English speakers routinely turn into the simple past in general. Tying the imperfect to negative is so rare in English that it is barely understandable. However, French does use the imperfect, much more than the simple past actually, and it is something that has to be learned even if it does seem bizarre and unworkable.
Imagine the frustration of a French speaker trying to translate something like ...... I did it again and again.... The French speaker says the sentence doesn't even make sense. It uses the simple past to talk about something that is obviously repeated and likely still going on. How can you understand what is meant when the imperfect ongoing situation is deliberately replaced with the simple past. Who would ever say that? His view is that of course it should be something like........I was doing it again and again/ I have done it again and again...... For him, it appears that Duo, using the simple past so much when teaching English to French speakers, is just crazy....no one talks like that in French!
thanks northernguy! I appreciate your explanation, being rather "unejamicated" I had never heard of "past imperfect" before. From reading your post I begin to understand a bit better. Have a lingot and a very nice day too.
English speakers avoid the imperfect tense so a literal translation into English seems strange. However, sometimes the notion of a repeated action or ongoing action is important in a sentence so English speakers should practice using the imperfect in their translations of the French imperfect.
I did it again and again seems perfectly normal while I was doing it again and again seems uncommon and a use of unnecessary words.
It is the result of cookie-cutter translation. If one has it in one's mind that "used to" is always going to fit in this English past tense, it is considered as a given that it must be correct. In reality, it is just awkward and not idiomatic (natural) at all.
Imparfait does not always imply a repeated action. It can also be a about a past state or condition. This condition may still be true in the present and future. The "used to" translation implies the state has changed ... in my understanding’ this is not necessarily the case in this sentence.
There must have been some other error because it has been accepted for at least a year and as you can see at the top of the page, it is the preferred translation.
What is wrong with didn't?
Nothing and it is accepted. If you had the multiple choice, there can be more than one correct answer and you have to choose all correct answers.
That would be the present form: « Je ne sais pas. ». This is the past form. “I didn’t know.” is correct for « Je ne savais pas. »
Could someone please clarify this for me? If 'savoir' means 'to know how', why is it wrong to translate 'je ne savais pas' as 'I did not know how'? And if my translation is really incorrect, how would one actually say 'I did not know HOW'? Many thanks in advance...
« Savoir » can be used to know a fact as well as for knowing how to do something. If it was about knowing how to do something, then we would mention what is was we know how to do, or didn’t know how to do.