"Ellas no han sabido nadar."

Translation:They have not known how to swim.

January 18, 2013



This seems awkward. I can't imagine a time I would ever use this form of this sentence.

January 18, 2013


Agreed . This is a silly sentence.

March 22, 2014


Teacher A: "Why haven't we encourged our students to be lifeguards?" Teacher B: "In the past, they have not known how to swim." It's a bit clunky, but it's grammatical.

May 17, 2013


I agree that the sentence is grammatically correct, but it's waaaaay out of the realm of normal conversation. Such sentences are difficult for learners because when you you come up with your best translation and it still sounds clunky, you think it must be wrong.

July 11, 2014


It doesn't sound like awkward grammar and syntax (AKA sentence structure and a choice of words that suits that sentence structure). What is objectionable is that the meaning of the sentence is outlandish. This being said, since we all know that the sentences are put together by a logarithm, I urge all of us DL users to just get on with it, taking the sentence for what it's worth. And what it's worth is that we get to learn Spanish for free.

December 2, 2017

February 24, 2019


Wouldn't that be: "In the past, they didn't know how to swim?" OR "They don't know how to swim." If you qualify it as, "in the past," I don't think present perfect works.

May 18, 2013


But, "For three years now, they have not known how to swim." would work.

May 18, 2013


I don't think anyone would ever say that. It's still a nonsensical sentence. It would work if you said: "For three years now, they have not learned how to swim"

January 22, 2016


"They have not learned how to swim" was accepted.

November 19, 2017


My guess was "They don't have to know how to swim." Needless to say, it was rejected as incorrect.

December 2, 2017


Present perfect is specifically used for actions or events that have happened in the past, or before now, at unspecificied times.


April 6, 2014


The present perfect is used to talk about something that happened in the past which has a significance in the present. So any new situation which is affected by or changes this past circumstance is appropriate. So ANY time you see the present perfect you need to posit that relevance. Of course there is also a chance that you mean to bring that into the future. For example. Our students are preschoolers. They have not known how to swim in the past, so why would you recommend a swimming outing.

October 18, 2017


Screw grammatical. No point in saying it if everyone thinks you're a blooming idiot by the way it sounds.

October 29, 2015


If people think someone is a blooming idiot, perhaps that person's mouth was engaged before his or her mind. Context is everything, as lynettemcw's comment showed when she added a few more words to supply context, although I would have put a question mark after the word "outing."

December 2, 2017


No. "They have not know how to swim" is hanging and very unnatural to an English speaker. Even with context it sounds strange. Very awkward sentence.

February 19, 2016


The sentence is "They have not known how to swim." It is not awkward to me and there is nothing at all wrong with it. I notice neither you – nor any of the others screaming about it – offer even the slightest rationale or authority as to why it would be unacceptable.

February 19, 2016


I did. I said that at school the sentence was "they couldn't swim" and in the French lessons we had to translate that first into "they did not know how to swim" Your sentence goes according to the motto: why make it simple, when you can make it complicated?

February 20, 2016


With all respect to you and your French lesson, "they couldn't swim" and "they did not know how to swim" do not mean the same thing. The knowledge to do a thing is not necessarily the ability to do it.

Secondly, by "rationale or authority" I meant a reason or grammatical rule somehow not to use the present perfect (PP) with the verb "know;" I'm sorry, but "He has known how to swim since he was 6 years old" is just as valid grammatically as "He has lived in the United States all of his life."

Thirdly, your aphorism has no bearing here; "have not known" is not more complicated than "did not know," and even if it were, again, simple past tense and present perfect do not carry the same meaning. For example, before the death of a famous Supreme Court Justice last week, we could say "He has lived in the United States all of his life." Today we can no longer say that, but must say (simple past), "He lived in the United States all of his life."

Finally, if the PP meant the same thing as simple past, if PP were more complicated than simple past and if "complication" were a reason to choose one form over another, then we could just dispense with the PP altogether. The above example, I think, demonstrates why we don't do that.

February 20, 2016


It would be more natural to say "they did not know" or "they hadn't learned yet.

September 1, 2017


Muddgirl. That makes Duo's answer a fragment of a phrase that only makes good sense with the addition of a 'in the past' or 'because... before' clause. It is clumsy, it is awkward and with a little thought a far better example could have easily been found - but 4 years later, it's still in here!

August 11, 2017


Four years later, it's still here, and that is as it should be. Why? Because in all that time, not one complainer has offered any solid grammatical reason from any authority as to why it is wrong to say or, more broadly, why the present perfect can't be used with the verb "to know." In fact, there is none.

While it is true that clarifiers like 'in the past" or "until now" are often used with the present perfect, they are not actually necessary, especially in the context of a conversation where the time frame is understood. Therefore, Duo's given translation is certainly NOT a "fragment of a phrase." By definition, it is a complete sentence having a subject (they), a verb (have not known), and an object (how to swim.)

August 17, 2017


There is nothing at all wrong or clumsy about using present perfect tense here.

Suppose, using muddgirls's example, Teacher B were to say, "In the past, they haven't known how to swim."

Or, possibly, "Until now, they haven't known how to swim."

Either of those is not only grammatical, but not even remotely "clunky."

Conversationally, we tend to speak informally, with frequent use of contractions. Maybe a lot of this grousing about "clunkiness" is rooted in our taking the Owl's raw English translations as presented, rather than the way we would actually say them.

December 16, 2013


I disagree, this sounds very clunky to me, you would say- In the past they did not know how to swim, or- until now they did not know how to swim. @tejano are you a native English speaker?

January 21, 2014


Yes, well, certainly. With only 278,000,000 hits on Google for the exact phrase "have not known", then, obviously, a person to whom this would sound proper could not be a native speaker, right?

In large measure, 'clunkiness' is a matter of what you're accustomed to hearing — or not. In this case, it certainly has nothing to do with proper usage.

You know, one of the strengths of English has been its great flexibility in expressing things, a feature probably derived from its bifurcated W. Germanic and O. French roots. This, contributing to the fact that we can say things in so many different ways, is one of the reasons it's so hard for DL to cover enough alternate English translations to please everyone. But then, maybe, given that television and other media are homogenizing the language down to its lowest common denominator(s), that won't be a problem for much longer, and all 1.2 billion English speakers will soon be saying everything in exactly the same way...to avoid being "clunky". Won't that be grand?

(And , yes, Suezq, I am a native speaker and have been at least as long as you have. ;-)

January 21, 2014


Invoking the Google incidence of a phrase in isolation, such as "have not known", doesn't help to clarify how a phrase in context such as here ("have not known" + infinitive verb) would be properly translated into English.

Without a qualifier such as 'for a long time', the English translation above is undeniably awkward, if not wrong. One can say "I have seen him swimming" and "I saw him swimming" and they can mean the same thing, i.e. both can have perfect and imperfect meanings and the difference would only be made clear by a qualifier. "I've seen him swimming here every day." "I saw him swimming there once."

Is there any native speaker who would say, "I have known how to swim" (or knit or dance the tango)? Ranting about the putative homogenization of English (which is also debatable, considering the richness of dialects, immigrant varieties, slang, etc.) makes it sound as if you'd like to harken back to the days of classically-inspired prescriptive grammars, which encouraged people to construct their English as if it were Greek.


March 2, 2014


As a retired College level English teacher I disagree. I would assume that anyone who wrote a sentence like that in English was a migrant or using using English as a second language.

November 16, 2015


The purpose of any language is clarity of communication. If the grammar is correct but inelegant, as this phrase is, it does not fulfill its purpose. Complaining that clear and elegant grammar is somehow the purview of "the lowest common denominator" is bizarre. There are much better ways to phrase this sentence and I don't know an English teacher who would allow this phrase without asking it to be restructured. If it was a common idiomatic phrase used in Spanish, as some of the more unusual constructions are, there would be no problem, but unless Spanish speakers use having swimming knowledge as a euphamism, it is, as everyone else has said, extremely clunky.

October 21, 2015


I think your Google hit count is a bit misleading. In England, it would be typical to say they 'have not known' before abstract nouns such as love, poverty etc.

I agree English is spoken differently all over the world but to me, as a native English speaker, 'they have not known how to swim' sounds extremely clunky.

May 17, 2016


Actually, the top hits for "have not known how to" (which would have made so much more sense to search on) point to this particular thread on Duolingo.

December 30, 2016


Checking in as a native speaker, I would like to respond to RositaLW. Lots of people have credentials, but they rely on their arguments to make their points. Just for fun, I made up a sentence that I think might pass your muster and not brand me as an ESL student or an immigrant:

Even people who HAVE NOT HAVE KNOWN HOW TO SWIM make the attempt when the consequence of not trying is to drown.

Beware of absolutes! Realtors may say that location is everything but I, as a language buff, say that context is everything.

December 2, 2017


Sounds very clunky and awkward to me rather than ,"until now they didnt know ......or even, "until now they couldnt......"

December 17, 2013


Understandable, I suppose, if those are the only ways you've heard such things said. But the English-speaking world is a big place and, within it, not everyone has or uses the same set phraseology. The good thing is, you are free to say it as you will.

December 17, 2013


Tejano, I agree with you. Why are so many people addressing their own style of speaking when we are trying to learn the correct verb tenses, vocabulary in Spanish? I have said many times, but there will always be people who firmly believe that their individual speech patterns are the same as all the world wide speakers of English. Thank you for the post.

January 13, 2016


" Until now, they have known how to swim" sounds much better.

April 20, 2017


tejano, but Duo didn't add 'in the past' or 'until now' and without those clauses it's even clunkier thsan it would be with them.

August 11, 2017


'In the past' or 'until now' are not actually needed to make sense of the sentence: "they haven't known" in itself tells you (1) that the condition of not knowing began at sometime in the past and (2) that the condition is still in effect at the time of utterance. That;s what the present perfect does.

August 17, 2017


it's not what you know; it's how much you write that really counts ;)

August 17, 2017


Present perfect isn't used with the time expression "in the past". In that example the simple past would suffice since the action started and ended in the past. There's no connection with the present, hence why it's called "present" perfect.

October 27, 2014


Chronosparks: Non-specific time expressions such as 'in the past', 'in the last year', 'until now', 'before now', etc. are precisely the kinds of references to time that can be used with the Present Perfect.

Specific expressions such as 'last year', 'last week', 'when I lived in ...', 'at that time', and the like, cannot, however, be used to modify the Present Perfect and require the simple past tense. Perhaps that is what you meant.

See this: http://www.englishpage.com/verbpage/presentperfect.html

Also, to say that the PP has "no connection with the present," [ as in 'never'] is a bit off the mark as well and that is not why it's called Present Perfect.

As noted by the following quote found at this link:

http://grammar.ccc.commnet.edu/grammar/tenses/present_perfect.htm "This tense [Presesnt Perfect]indicates either that an action was completed (finished or "perfected") at some point in the past or that the action extends to the present:

  • I have walked two miles already [but I'm still walking].

  • I have run the Boston Marathon [but that was some time ago].

  • The critics have praised the film 'Saving Private Ryan' since it came out [and they continue to do so].

October 28, 2014


chronosparks: It's evident that you neither read my post nor the resources I provided you through those links.

Try again to read my second paragraph: "Specific expressions such as 'last year' . . . cannot, however, be used to modify the Present Perfect" . . . and require the simple past tense.

Yes, "last year" is specific; "in the past" is not specific.

And how did I misunderstand your post when you wrote "There's no connection with the present..."?

... and "Present perfect isn't used with the time expression 'in the past' "? (Which, by the way, is just flatly wrong.)

I'm having a hard time believing you can actually read English; even that which you, yourself, have written.

October 28, 2014


I think you've misunderstood my post. The PP is connected with the present. Also, I would consider last year as specific. Nobody would ever say, "I have been there last year." A native speaker would say "I went there last year." I'm having a hard time believing you're a native speaker of English.

October 28, 2014


That is not grammatical, That's lunacy... if following the "rules" that some 17th century people jotted down makes you sound like a modern lunatic, it becomes irrelevant.

November 10, 2015


It is entirely grammatical. Otherwise, offer some rule, modern or otherwise, that says it is not. Lunacy is coming aboard and declaring something ungrammatical without no support for it other than name-calling and vile commentary lsuch as yours above.

February 19, 2016


Teacher B does not sound like a native speaker in your example. Present perfect is not used with phrases like "in the past"

November 27, 2015


Phrases like "in the past" (or other non-specific references to the past) are exactly the kind of phrases thar are used with Present Perfect. Specific expressions such as 'last year', 'last week', 'when I lived in ...', 'at that time', and the like, cannot, however, be used to modify the Present Perfect and require the simple past tense.

February 19, 2016


Agreed, but I think this is just a case of DL opting for a literal translation over a natural one. The alternative answer "They have not learnt/learned to swim" is accepted, and I believe this should be the primary translation. Here's why:

In English we say "They know how to swim" and "They do not know how to swim" but "They have not known how to swim" just sounds weird. More naturally we change the verb to "learnt/learned" giving us "They have not learnt how to swim."

In Spanish this verb change is not necessary. They can say "Saben nadar" and "No saben nadar" and "No han sabido nadar."

So the change is an idiosyncrasy of English that Spanish does not have to follow. DL may have chosen not to use "learnt" in the primary translation because inevitably this would result in people saying, hang on, shouldn't that be "No han aprendido a nadar"? But, for me, I'd prefer natural over literal any day.

October 21, 2015


I agree with all of that. But IMHO this sentence should be retired. It's just not a good teaching tool because assuming that this sentence makes sense in Spanish, it requires too much wrestling to make it sound sensible in English.

October 21, 2015


Yep. I agree. While it is good to be reminded that direct translations are not always best, it would probably be better for DL to avoid these examples because they can cause confusion and impede learning.

October 22, 2015


It doesn't make much sense to me either. Can you ever use "know" or "saber" in the perfect?

January 18, 2013


I think it's just that it's lacking a time part at the end that makes it sound strange. If it were "They have not known how to swim for very long", it sounds a lot less awkward.

January 24, 2013


"They haven't learned to swim" was marked as correct for me and I think is what the sentence is really going for.

February 24, 2014


This translation sounds more natural to me, but I hesitated to use it as I feared it would be marked as incorrect.

April 13, 2015


Yes, Pecka's right. I was wracking my brain trying to think of an actual English sentence where this phrase would sound natural, and Pecka nailed it.

July 1, 2013


Good point.

February 23, 2015


That still sounds weird. I'd never use it. I come from a family of book writers and journalists. I can't imagine any of us saying "(I,you, he, she, it, they) have not known how to (do something)." even if we added "for very long" at the end.

November 16, 2015


"I have known her for a long time" possibly? But certainly the phrase above doesn't make sense.

January 21, 2013


Yeah, works in English, but it'd be conocido in Spanish >_<

January 21, 2013


actually you use conocido mainly when referring to know someone and saber for almost everything else

April 25, 2013


When I approached this question I honestly was stumbled, because I didn't know how (no pun) to translate this into a sentence that made sense to me but low and behold and took a half court shot before and buzzer and scored LoL

June 29, 2014


Could this be, perhaps, an idiomatic expression of the English phrase "They have not ever learned to swim."?

April 23, 2014


I put "They have never known how to swim." and it was marked wrong, but that is how we would say it.

July 26, 2014


That would be "they never learned to swim" if written in the type of language that is used in modern day books and newspapers. "They have never learned to swim" is possible, but does reflect the meaning of the Spanish construction.
The actual problem is that the natural Spanish is incomparable with anything that is socio-linguistically natural in English.

November 16, 2015


@Jared, I think there are contexts in which you could use such wording. They will surely be far-fetched, but still...

January 15, 2015


Agreed. It's possible to concoct a situation where that sentence might be used. I just think it's a bad question, and should be wadded up and fired into the sun.

November 16, 2015


I've seen several sentences with this kind of construction that would not normally be use in everyday English. My question is, is this a common construction in Spanish?

July 20, 2015


I thought the same thing when I read it.

June 9, 2017


How about: They have not know how to swim until now.

May 2, 2018


So true.

February 22, 2015


In Spain, this would be understood as "They didn't know how to swim.", which sounds better than the direct translation of the above Spanish sentence into English. They have a preference for the 'pretérito perfecto compuesto' form over the 'pretérito perfecto simple' form. You would more likely hear "¿Qué has dicho?" ("What have you said?", but better localised as "What did you say?") than "¿Qué dijiste?" ("What did you say?") in Spain.

April 7, 2013


"They didn't know how to swim" is just simple past isn't it? Past perfect would be uh, "They had not known..." i believe.

August 9, 2013


One tense in one language doesn't always translate to the same tense in another.

March 8, 2015


Is that really true??? Is so, it would explain a lot.

April 21, 2015


Think about present progressive/continuous. In English, it's used for pretty much anything that's ongoing. In Spanish it's only used to emphasize that this is what is occupying my time (or whoever/whatever is the object), as explained towards the end here http://www.studyspanish.com/lessons/presprog.htm .

I think it's a little subtler with past perfect though.

April 21, 2015


Thank you!

April 21, 2015


Spanish has more tenses than English. :)

February 4, 2016


That is something that novice language learners most often do not understand. It is quite common to find tenses and expressions that just cannot be directly translated into another target language because there is no direct equivalent or the options are ambiguous.

There are also things that do not translate because they are not part of the social customs of the target language. An example being the use of Miss, Mister and Mrs as stand alone polite titles in some languages while being rude if used in another where the polite custom is to omit them entirely.

The Spanish past tenses are very hard to find exact equivalents for in English.

For example: Ha habido un accidente: There has had an accident. -- becomes- - There has BEEN as accident. - - which used the verb TO BE in English.

November 17, 2015


Yeah, simple past is "didn't" past present is "have" and past perfect is "had".

August 9, 2013


I think there was confusion about whether my tenses were referring to the Spanish sentences or their English translations, so I've clarified the tenses' names in Spanish. My English knowledge of the names of tenses is almost nonexistent :)

August 9, 2013


Thanks for the insights.

January 13, 2014


It is my pleasure.

January 13, 2014


These types of sentences should always be introduced through multiple choice first.

January 24, 2013


"They have not learned how to swim" is a much freer translation but I took a chance and it was.....ACCEPTED.

November 7, 2013


Except that... "they have not known how to swim" implies "until now" whereas your alternative suggests they still don't know how to swim... I hate it when two possible translations have different meanings! Still, will use yours from now on. Thx.

July 22, 2014


It does sound clunky in English, but how does it sound in Spanish? Would a Spanish speaker say this?

July 17, 2013


Perhaps they should use aprender (to learn) instead of saber (to know). Ellas no han aprendido nadar - they have not learned to swim

February 26, 2013


It's an incomplete sentence rather than a awkward or wrong structure. If you added.... "for very long" at the end, it would make sense.

February 17, 2015


I think in English it would make more sense to say, "they have not learned how to swim."

June 11, 2014


This should be translated as "They didn't know how to swim." According to B&B, the Spanish perfect often requires translation by the English simple past.

A New Reference Grammar of Modern Spanish: Fifth Edition (Butt and Benjamin, 2011, section 14.9 "The Perfect Indicative Tense")


March 23, 2015


Thank you for checking B&B and putting this whole silly discussion to rest, Greg.

November 17, 2015


The sentence is technically correct, but it is awkward.

August 9, 2015


This is a really weird sentence to put in perfect tense. Either they didn't or they don't - "have known" somehow implies you're done knowing it.

(This is about the English translation "have not known how to swim"; I don't know if it's less awkward in Spanish.)

September 4, 2015


No, it doesn't. "Have known" implies you still DO know. (PP = Something occurring or begun in the past and carrying forward to the present. "Have not known" implies you still don't know.unless there is a qualifier like "until recently" or "for very long."

December 4, 2017


Truly, a cludge of a sentence.

October 12, 2016


What a great word. I'll use it:

kludge (also cludge): NOUN: An ill-assorted collection of parts assembled to fulfil a particular purpose. VERB: Improvise or put together from an ill-assorted collection of parts. (oxforddictionaries.com)

October 12, 2016


I wonder if it's throwing off English speakers to not hear the contraction. Does "They haven't known how to swim" (for a long time) sound better?

April 13, 2017


Saber is a tricky word when used in the past tense. In the imperfect past tense, it correlates with the common English understanding of the verb "to know" (e.g., yo lo sabia = I knew it; ella sabia nadar, pero se le ha olvidado = she knew how to swim but she has forgotten).

However, because the perfect past essentially implies that an action has been singularly begun and completed at a time in the past, the word saber actually translates into English more precisely as "to find out". This is because in the perfect preterite you are basically saying you had no knowledge of something and then suddenly you had knowledge, with the act of gaining knowledge coming to completion. For example in Spanish you can say "Yo estuve en el trabajo cuando SUPE que mi padre habia muerto" I was at work when I FOUND OUT that my father had died. You couldn't really translate it as "when I knew that my father had died" because in English that would be a little ambiguous and seem to suggest that you have psychic powers or something.

By extension, the example attached to this page is a little more coherent in Spanish than the translation lets on because it kind of suggests that the girls never gained the knowledge of how to swim, even though the word "learn" isn't used. That said, it still sounds a little wonky even to the Spanish speaking ear.

November 13, 2017


Just to clarify, the example attached to this page is not the "past preterite" but the Present Perfect (or in Spanish, the pretérito perfecto compuesto).

This does not imply that an action has been "singularly begun and completed at a time in the past," as does the preterit.

Rather, in both languages, PP is used to address things that started in the past and which continue or repeat into the present.

So though I [learned/found out/acquired the knowledge] to drive a car at the age of 10, some sixty (+) years ago, since that time, I have known how to drive a car, and in the present, I still do.

November 21, 2017


Thanks for the clarification, tejano!

November 21, 2017


For me, the clarification that the Spanish terminology "pretérito perfecto compuesto" = the English terminology "Present Perfect." My next question is: Is "pretérito perfecto compuesto" supposed to be capitalized?

December 2, 2017


Doesnt this really mean 'They haven't learned how to swim'

February 7, 2019


That's accepted and probably the best English translation possible. It's worth noting, however, that translating this back into Spanish would give you: Ellas no han aprendido a nadar.

Or, if "saber" were being used: Ellas no saben nadar. This would give us literally "They don't know how to swim" but also, assuming they haven't forgotten, "They haven't learned how to swim."

The upshot is that with "saber" the present perfect would be redundant unless you explicitly wanted to say "They have not known how to swim". It's just as weird in Spanish as it is in English, and DL should scrap this sentence all together.

February 7, 2019


I agree that 'they haven't learnt to swim' would be better. It did actually suggest this answer but only 'learned' and not 'learnt' (UK English)...i'll report it.

September 23, 2013


I'm not sure why "They did not know how to swim" would not be accepted. This sentence doesn't even make sense...

January 27, 2014


In English this translation doesn't make sense because it is not correct to use the present perfect here (reference: http://www.englishpage.com/verbpage/presentperfect.html).

Maybe it should be translated as "they didn't know how to swim" (past simple). If this is the case I don't understand why the present perfect can be used here in Spanish, or why it is used instead of the past simple.

Perhaps instead in should be translated as "they haven't learned how to swim" but I can't find any reference to "saber" being translated as "learn".

If someone could explain this to me it would be much appreciated.

January 29, 2014


In casual conversation in English, if we aren't going take the time to select our tenses carefully with regard to aspect and vantage, we tend to default to the preterite (past simple) when talking about the past. Spanish instead tends to default to their equivalent of what we call present perfect.

It's really just a matter of convention. So changing such constructions to past simple is probably the best way to translate them into English.

June 9, 2014


Could you please quote how the reference you link says it is "not correct" to use the present perfect here?

And how would you be avoiding the present perfect by saying "have not learned' instead of "have not known"?

Again, do a Google search for the exact phrase "have not known," and it will return something like 278,000,000 hits. That's 278 million. Admittedly, a number of those references are to "known" in one Biblical sense or another, but not nearly all of them.

Apparently, a lot of people have not known the phrase makes no sense.

January 29, 2014


If you google "have not known" then the very first result that comes up explains why it is not correct in English (in this case). The majority of the other results are biblical quotes, which does not mean that it is correct in modern English. Also there are some times when using "have not known" is correct. For example "I haven't known you very long". However, with the duolingo sentence here it is not. Have a look at any grammar reference page about using the present perfect and check if that sentence complies with any of the uses.

Also if you google that exact phrase "they have not known how to swim" you will find no results whereas "they didn't know how to swim" has over 2 million. However, you can't use a google search to prove that a phrase is grammatically correct or not. Google "haven't got nothing" and it will also find over 140 million pages and for "haven't done nothing" over 500 million. Google "that will learn you" and you will find over four billion pages, but "that will teach you" finds only 700 million.

January 31, 2014


I don't have a problem with this sentence because the grammar is incorrect, as many duolingo sentences in English are, but rather because it is SO incorrect that I can not understand the tense of the sentence.

Know isn't generally used with the present perfect tense, because we don't know something up until the point we learn it and then we know it and will continue to know it (unless we forget). Therefore past simple is almost always used.

So is this sentence in the past - they hadn't known how to swim at some point in the past but they do know now? Or the present - they haven't yet learned (known?) how to swim?

January 31, 2014


That is my point, also. As well as not occurring in the language of educated native speakers from the last 100 years, the sentence, translated literally, is very ambiguous in modern English.

November 17, 2015


"they have failed to swim" is the translators version.

February 17, 2014


Not English we would ever use.

March 6, 2014


how can we assume the how is to be used in how to swim?

March 29, 2014


'They haven't known swimming' sounds better, but marked incorrect. I was introduced to the activity of swimming today. I haven't known swimming. Very clumsy either way!

April 10, 2014


What about "they have not been known to swim?"

I'm sure that DL wouldn't accept it, but it sounds better than the translation

April 26, 2014


"They had not known how to swim" would have fitted better.

May 9, 2014


This sentence is stupid...

July 1, 2014


Bad English....They do not know how to swim is correct

December 27, 2014


Are "know(n)" and "learn(ed)" the same word in Spanish?

January 21, 2015


Nope, they're not.

January 21, 2015


This makes sense coming from Paraguayan Spanish because saber + another verb can mean "Do you do this regularly / Are you comfortable doing this" more or less. "Sabes tomar cerveza?" was often asked, and they're not literally asking "Do you know how to drink beer?" but more asking if you usually do. So the original sentence to me means something like, "They haven't been accustomed to swimming."

April 19, 2015


they dont know how to swim is better!

May 29, 2015


Come one duolingo, really?

August 25, 2015


Present perfect is up to and including the present for verbs of state like "know", "like", "hate" and "be". An action verb may happen once or more times in the past. So here we have an unchanged state to the present. we can just use present simple. That is why it is "clunky".

September 14, 2015


Which sounds better? They drowned because they did not know how to swim. Or, they drowned because they have not known how to swim. I suggest the first...

September 22, 2015


I have reported this to the developers. I would never say that in Australian English. It would be something like , "They did not know how to swim" which is marked wrong by the program.

November 16, 2015


I did a search for the English phrase "they have not known how to" - and came up with nothing but references back to this page. I did, however, come up with some Olde English from the King James version Bible that has some vague similarity to the suggested "correct" sentence - but which is also just as clearly incorrect in terms of modern grammatical English useage, as confirmed by parallel translations from recent years.

American King James Version (AKJV) //For my people is foolish, they have not known me; they are silly children, and they have none understanding://

World English Bible //"For my people are foolish, they don't know me. They are foolish children, and they have no understanding.//

I suggest that the developers responsible for that silly English translation "have not known" proper modern English.

Por favor, either rewrite the example or ditch it! We can do without the confusion.

November 16, 2015


Neither the King James Bible nor the works of Shakespeare are written in "Olde English.," which went out of use some 450 years earlier. They are set in Early Modern English.

From Wikipedia: Modern English (sometimes New English or NE[3] as opposed to Middle English and Old English) is the form of the English language spoken since the Great Vowel Shift in England, which began in the late 14th century and was completed in roughly 1550.

With some differences in vocabulary, texts from the early 17th century, such as the works of William Shakespeare and the King James Bible, are considered to be in Early Modern English.

If the use of the present perfect with the verb "to know" were "clearly incorrect in terms of modern grammatical English useage, {sic]" it would have been easy enough by now for someone to have provided a citation of some kind of authority as to that "fact."

Thus far, no one has done so, and citing a comparison between "parallel translations" confirms nothing as to the "correctness" of either .the AKJV or the World English Bible.

June 13, 2017


I know that the "have" part of this is generally translated as "has" or "have" - and, yes, sounds a little odd in this instance - but, wouldn't "They hadn't known how to swim." be equally "correct," and sound a little smoother?

  • Why didn't they drive?
  • They hadn't received their licences.
November 26, 2015


It would sound better, but alas, it would not be correct, at least not as a textual translation. That would be past perfect, not present perfect, and come from "Ellas no habían sabido nadar."

November 26, 2015


Knew I was missing the obvious there. :) I think it's just an unusual combination of elements, continuation and change in the same sentence. It is what it is. :)

November 26, 2015


Yep. I think DL's grammatically strange sentences are often the result of literal translations being given instead of natural (sometimes idiosyncratic) English, and I think this is exactly what is happening here. While in English we can say "They know how to swim" and "They do not know how to swim" we would not be likely to say "They have not known how to swim." More naturally we change the verb to "learnt/learned" giving us "They have not learnt how to swim." In Spanish this verb change is not necessary. They can say "Saben nadar" and "No saben nadar" and "No han sabido nadar." So the Spanish sentence is fine, it is just DL's literal English translation that is odd. The more natural "They have not learnt how to swim" is better (and is an accepted alternative answer).

November 26, 2015


This is just ❤❤❤❤ English! Nobody in England would ever, EVER say this. Like EVER!

January 8, 2016


This is obviously a controversial subject, but the Spanish is similar to French. I learned at school that if you wish to say "I cannot swim", you have to rephrase it as (I do not know how to swim". This applies to other verbs as well.

January 20, 2016


I answered "They have not known anything."

February 8, 2016


they do not know how to swim

May 31, 2016


As a native English speaker, this sentence is so weird. I only got it correctly because of the structure of the Spanish sentence.

June 7, 2016


They did not know how to swim. Would be better.

July 13, 2016


I think "They have not known how to swim" does not make sense in english and is grammatically incorrect. "Have not" suggests an unspecified time and "known" is suggesting awareness of the actual act of swimming. Ex. they found themselves in a sinking boat, they didn't know that swimming was an option?

July 31, 2016


It is awkward, agreed. I think it would only be used with "until now" added to the end. Or perhaps in the case of an entire culture or subgroup who wasn't accustomed to swimming? Definitely a limited usage!

However, we would say "They have never known how to swim." That would be more common.

July 31, 2016


Agree with critiques. English sentence here is awkward

August 8, 2016


Duolingo its 2016 this sentence is irrelevant, if I say it to someone even in English, it will confuse the hell out of them.

August 17, 2016


In some other situations, it has seemed to me that 'sabido' could have a meaning closer to 'learned'. So I translated it that way and DL accepted it. It sounds more grammatical in English. 'They have not learned how to swim'. Can any native Spanish speakers comment on whether that is a reasonable translation?

September 16, 2016


This tripped me up so bad

October 24, 2016


This is not correct english. The correct word is learned to swim. Aprendido nadar.

January 5, 2017


It would seem to make more since if it was "They have not BEEN known to swim". Does that change the tense?

January 14, 2017


Someone is making weird sentences.

April 20, 2017


as usual with DuoLingo I have encountered many many intances of poor English expression ... ie. if English is the base then it better be correct and not odd and archaic

June 1, 2017


very awkward

June 9, 2017


I shouldn't need to report mistakes like this here. This kind of thing shouldn't be happening. It's not good enough.

June 12, 2017


There is no mistake here. If you think otherwise, please provide a link or authority that prohibits the use of the present perfect with the verb, "to know."

June 13, 2017


You may disagree all you like but it isn't a sentence that would be used in English (nor Spanish probably) so why it has been included must be open to debate.

June 13, 2017


It has been included because it is an entirely valid English construct that mirrors an entirely valid Spanish phraseology. .

But debate is good, so in the spirit of debate, I say again: please provide a link or grammatical authority that supports your claim that "it isn't a sentence that would be used in English."

June 14, 2017


I put it in exactly the same and it still says its wrong..??

June 23, 2017


Horrible sentence .. i got the gist but would never say nor write this

June 29, 2017


you know facts but learn skills swimming is a skill

July 6, 2017


So then, why do people routinely say things such as:

  • Do you know how to swim?
  • Do you know how to drive?
  • Do you know how to read Spanish?

Learning and knowing are not mutually exclusive. One results in the other. You know facts, but you must learn them before you know them, right? Learning is both the process of acquiring knowledge (in and of itself, i.e, "facts") and also that of acquiring knowledge which is then applied to the development of a skill.

You cannot have the skills of, say, programming a computer, flying an airplane or doing brain surgery without first learning how and then knowing how to do them.

July 6, 2017


Muy confuso

July 24, 2017


Incorrect English

August 2, 2017


Cite an authority that says it's "Incorrect English."

August 2, 2017


Does it really matter if it's an awkward English sentence? It isn't grammatically incorrect, it's just not the way we would say it. For me real question is, how would Spanish speakers phrase it and in what situation would they use this phrasing?

August 4, 2017


Just came to see the comments on this one, cause i knew it was super awkward. It is grammatically correct but as others gave said, this is not a real sentence

September 26, 2017


very clumsy English. They did not know how to swim. is more APPROPIATE

December 6, 2017


the translation "They have not known to swim." doe snot seem correct (especially after deleting the "how"

February 21, 2018


When ella(s)/ello(s) is used, I often wonder if Duo would accept the girls/the boys or ? when the sex is specified?

September 9, 2018


I doubt it. Without context it would be too narrow of a translation. "Ellas" could be females of any age, female animals, or any plural feminine noun. Likewise "ellos" with masculine options, and additionally for any unknown or mixed gender group.

September 10, 2018


"Ellos" marked wrong. Why is "Ellas" only correct please?

October 13, 2018


Literal translation seems awkward

October 19, 2018


I got it right but this sentence structure is really poor and awkward; I would never use this structure in English.

February 21, 2019



August 6, 2019


Hi Mumbles, frustrated much?? What could possibly help you in this sort of instance, is to replace the subject/ or object/ or verb with other words. You will then have a much larger repertoire of phrases/sentences to work with. I always look for patterns of the structure of the sentence. I certainly do not try to memorize each sentence, and somehow plug it into my daily conversations, if you know what I mean.

August 6, 2019


Not useful in the least... Totally insane n pointless... What a few minutes of my life force wasted n never to return... Jeezanages!

August 6, 2019


? I don't know where to start

June 11, 2014


maybe the whole "clunky" discussion if 'nunca' had been used instead of 'no'

July 31, 2015


Agree with everyone here, maybe if they inserted COMO before NADAR we would all have nailed it!

February 27, 2013


That's not really the issue because you don't say "saber como nadar" in Spanish, you just say "saber hacer". The issue is that the use of the perfect tense sounds bizarre in English, and presumably in Spanish too, without a further context. It would make more sense, as Pecka suggested, if there was some sort of time frame.

February 27, 2013


You are right, thanks for clearing that up

February 27, 2013

<h1>2 and # 3 answers are identical ! this is bizarre! only one of the answers turns out to be correct</h1>
April 2, 2013
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