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I was wondering what is the difference between I wasn't knowing and I didn't know? If I say, I wasn't knowing, I am talking about something unknown in past, the act of not knowing is finished, it means that I know it now, but before it was unknown to me.

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    In English, "I didn't know" is used to indicate the past tense of "I do not know" even though the not knowing was continuous over a period of time. It is the same for synonymous verbs: I wasn't aware, I didn't realize, I wasn't cognizant, I wasn't conscious. "I wasn't knowing" isn't used in English. Jun 15, 2014 at 11:43
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    Please visit English Language Learners
    – Kris
    Jun 15, 2014 at 12:59
  • I know (ha!) the "answer" is common knowledge for native speakers, but the "why" behind it would be interesting to explore. If "know" is a stative verb, does that mean it expresses an involuntary or non volitive state? Is to know really "static" as oerkelens' answer claims it to be? Can't you know something better over time?
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jun 16, 2014 at 0:09
  • I wasn't knowing that particular usage makes sense to me.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jun 16, 2014 at 0:17

3 Answers 3

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The main difference would be that any continuous tense of know will be frowned upon. "I am knowing", "I was knowing", "I will be knowing" all make little sense, as we don't perceive the act of knowing as a feasible thing. Knowing something is a state, not an action.

I can say I am biking, I am painting, I am thinking.

But when I describe a state, a static property which does not describe any action, a continuous tense is confusing. At any moment in time, I either know or I do not know. But in neither case am I actively performing an action of knowing.

So the correct sentence would be:

I didn't know.

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  • Nicely explained. A marginal case is to think - where "I'm thinking" means I'm currently engaged in the act of thinking [about something], but "I think" probably means I'm specifically thinking about Cartesian philosophy. And with an object clause, it would normally be "I think this is a good answer". I wouldn't like to say if there's general agreement about exactly what if any difference it would make if I said "I'm thinking this is a good answer". (Perhaps you'd like to have a go at that! :) Jun 15, 2014 at 12:03
  • my point is , there is a continuous time unknowing that thing and you just knew Is it also correct to say I didnt know ? Jun 15, 2014 at 12:35
  • I'm not sure if this helps a non-native speaker in any way. This question should (could) have been asked on ELL instead.
    – Kris
    Jun 15, 2014 at 13:04
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    @rabarkareem - there is no such thing as a continuous act of knowing, it is a fixed state, a property. "I know" is no different from "I am Dutch" - it is not something that I can actively be doing. So if in the past there was a time you did not know something, yes, you always say "I didn't know".
    – oerkelens
    Jun 15, 2014 at 13:25
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    @Kris - This question could indeed have been asked on English Language Learners. I sometimes do assume that someone has a reason to ask a question here, rather than on ELL.
    – oerkelens
    Jun 15, 2014 at 13:29
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I wasn't knowing or I didn't know

The first is incorrect, use the second form. If you want to convey that you now know, use

I didn't know then.

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I don't know if the question as stated can really be answered as one would never say "I wasn't knowing".

You should definitely go with "I didn't know", "I wasn't aware" or something to that regard.

Knowing something isn't an action but rather a mental state, the continuous form is not used for this.

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