What's new

could have known VS may have known

hirashin

Sempai
Donor
Joined
Apr 8, 2004
Messages
2,340
Ratings
23
I think (a) and (b) have almost the same meaning, but how about (c)?
(a) He may have known that fact.
(b) He might have known that fact.
(c) He could have known that fact.

Thanks in advance.

Hirashin
 
Joined
May 5, 2013
Messages
552
Ratings
99
I think (a) and (b) have almost the same meaning, but how about (c)?
(a) He may have known that fact.
(b) He might have known that fact.
(c) He could have known that fact.

Thanks in advance.

Hirashin
(a) feels entirely wrong. I think it maybe okay in antiquated language or maybe non-American dialects, but it's not normal speech for the American dialect. (b) and (c) are both fine and I'd have trouble describing what is different between them.

I guess, if we already know that he *didn't* know, then (b) expresses that we didn't know until we checked whether or not he knew, while (c) expresses that if the situation had been different, it would have been possible for him to know.

In the (probably more normal?) case that we still don't know what he knew, the two are almost indistinguishable.

In all cases, the normal sentence would be 'He ___ have known.' or 'He ___ have known that.'

'He ___ have known that fact' in itself feels like a textbook example substituting in for something like 'He could have known that she was a spy' (or whatever other 'He ___ have known that ___' sentence where the second blank is an independent clause that he may/might/could have known.)
 
Top