5

Which is correct?

The facts are known by us

or

The facts are known to us

I think by is correct but my friends persist that it's to.

1 Answer 1

8

Both are grammatically correct. However known to is idiomatic and included in Oxford Dictionaries' examples:

  1. Recognized, familiar, or within the scope of knowledge:
    plants little known to western science

known, ODO

Known by in a passive construction such as that, although not incorrect, is definitely awkward. The passive voice is used when the agent is immaterial and omissible: "The facts are known." If the facts are known by us, then the passive-voice construction is unnecessary: "We know the facts." Subverting the use of the passive voice by tacking "by us" on the end is what makes it awkward.

Known to is an idiomatic set phrase and not a passive construction.

3
  • Active: I know John. Passive: John is known to me. Is that not the case? In order for it to be construed as passive, would you have to say: John is known by me I realise that it conveys a different nuance depending on whether one uses to or by.
    – WS2
    Commented Feb 15, 2015 at 12:07
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    I'm struggling with identifying known's position along the verb-adjective continuum in 'John is known to me'. By comparing with say 'unknown to science' and 'familiar to me', I think I've got to put it at the 'adjective' end and analyse the to-phrase as a prepositional-phrase complement of the adjective. So 'known' in 'known to ...' isn't [necessarily] the same part of speech as in 'known by'. Compare the broken's in 'The window was broken by the stone' and 'The window was broken, we sadly observed'. Commented Feb 15, 2015 at 12:16
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    I'm not sure what you're asking, @WS2, as you seem to be contradicting yourself. As Andrew says, known to is not a passive: I would describe it as using the adjective known (derived from a past participle) which subcategorises for an optional knower with to.
    – Colin Fine
    Commented Feb 15, 2015 at 12:17

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