English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

A book I'm reading has this sentence in it:

"How dared you go and see her without me?"

Is the usage of the past tense 'dared' here grammatically wrong or just odd given the established phrase "How dare you?"

share|improve this question
Er, "How durst you go and see her without me!" – F.E. Mar 20 '14 at 21:43
I dared him to do it! – Elliott Frisch Mar 20 '14 at 23:03

This seems to be a quote from Robert Gilbraith's The Cuckoo's Calling.

In the original, the 'dared's are italicised for emphasis. They refer to an event in the past. The question is repeated in shorter form immediately after, for emphasis.

If you flip the question to a statement, you'll see that, although unconventional, it's a reasonable and grammatical construction:

You dared go and see her without me.

So, I can't see a problem with it in context. You could argue it adds to the drama.

share|improve this answer
If you wrote it as a statement you would be correct, but flipping it around as a question I believe invalidates that usage. – Lynn Mar 20 '14 at 21:07
@Lynn You might want to consider retracting that comment after looking at the ngram statistics for 'How dared' here: books.google.com/ngrams/… – Leon Conrad Mar 20 '14 at 21:10
I appreciate the link but I stand by my comment. Compare the usage to "How dare" and it seems like a comparatively tiny amount of uses. I liken it to comparing: "You climbed the mountain!" and "How climbed you the mountain?" Grammatically it "should" be: "How did you climb the mountain?" – Lynn Mar 20 '14 at 21:19
@Lynn Right, but you don't get "How climb you the mountain?" either, so you don't get "How climbed you the mountain?" But given that you do get "How dare you?" is "How dared you?" ungrammatical? – Matthew H Mar 20 '14 at 21:21
@MatthewH - I was viewing it as an ellipsis of 'How did you dare'. But I would be happy to see a more authoritative grammatical reason as an answer. – Lynn Mar 20 '14 at 21:24

"dare" can be used as a modal: "How dare you go there alone?" (compare with "how can you go there alone?") - "go" is the main verb

"How dared you go and see her without me?" is simply the simple past version (compare with "how could you go and see her without me?")

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.