I'm trying to write some dialogue for a character who lives in 18th century England. I want the dialogue to sound as accurate as possible, but I'm not sure what the proper phrasing should be. I suppose the modern-day equivalent would be:

"She doesn't know me either."

But this sounds wrong for that time period. In 18th century, I feel like they didn't use the word "didn't" or "did not" very often. Instead of saying "I don't want to go." they would say "I wish not to go." and so forth. But in this particular case, I'm not sure what the proper phrasing would be.

Would he say "She doesn't know me either" or "She knows me not either" or "She neither knows me"? The last one doesn't sound right. Any advice would be very helpful. And if anyone can offer some good resources on 18th century British language I would also greatly appreciate it!

Edit: Also I should add that the character is of the upper-class and educated.

Edit 2: Thanks to everyone for the suggestions and recommendations on reading material!

  • 4
    Comment as it's an unsourced guess: "Neither does she know me" ?
    – IanF1
    Jul 31, 2017 at 5:05
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    According to Google Books dated 1700-1850, she neither knows... was used in literature.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jul 31, 2017 at 5:09
  • 2
    "Neither doth she know me" sounds right to me.
    – P. E. Dant
    Jul 31, 2017 at 6:05
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    Is this a case of '[She doesn't know him and] she doesn't know me either' or of '[I don't know her and] she doesn't know me either'? It's possible the answer would differ slightly in each circumstance. In any case, perhaps 'know' is the problem, try playing around with 'acquainted with', 'familiar with' or even 'she and I have never been introduced'. As well as 'translating' a sentence you may need to consider the social manners around the situation: is 'she' an upper class person the speaker might expect to know, or an socially invisible servant?
    – Spagirl
    Jul 31, 2017 at 6:46
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    @Mari-Lou A. She neither knows ... sounds like the start of she neither knows me nor him or she neither knows nor cares. I second IanF1's comment above: Neither does she know me. Jul 31, 2017 at 11:53

5 Answers 5


Robinson Crusoe, which was published in 1719, includes the phrases:

He was now grown old, and had left off going to sea, having put his son, who was far from a young man, into his ship, and who still used the Brazil trade. The old man did not know me, and indeed I hardly knew him. But I soon brought him to my remembrance, and as soon brought myself to his remembrance, when I told him who I was.

I knew I had been here now almost eighteen years, and never saw the least footsteps of human creature there before; and I might be eighteen years more as entirely concealed as I was now, if I did not discover myself to them, which I had no manner of occasion to do; it being my only business to keep myself entirely concealed where I was, unless I found a better sort of creatures than cannibals to make myself known to.

It seems that know has fairly 'modern' uses too:

I had, God knows, more sincerity than knowledge in all the methods I took for this poor creature’s instruction

As you can see, the traditionally archaic 'She doth know' isn't actually relevant - I couldn't find 'doth' in Robinson Crusoe. As Spagirl points out in the comments below, admittedly these examples aren't directly proof of your 'She doesn't know me either', but hopefully shows that language was still relatively similar to modern usage.

Worthy of note is that the social class/upbringing of the speaker is extremely significant, as is the origin. You may want to check other, more appropriate books in which case.

  • 1
    In the first example, I think the speaker is saying that the old man didn't recognise him, rather than was unacquainted with him. Which I don't think is the sense the OP is after.
    – Spagirl
    Jul 31, 2017 at 10:01
  • @Spagirl Good point, but what i'm trying to say is that 1700s English isn't that obsure in it's expressions. (I haven't come across any 'doth's yet...) Jul 31, 2017 at 10:09
  • 1
    Agree on the 'doths', but I think it is worth specifically making clear for the OP that some of the other uses of 'know' were more common then.
    – Spagirl
    Jul 31, 2017 at 10:19
  • @Spagirl Hope my latest edit clarifies it - feel free to edit it to improve... Jul 31, 2017 at 10:42
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    @marcellothearcane Thanks for taking the time to answer. I guess I never realized how common the phrase "didn't" was used back then, but it's comforting to see it used in text published during that time period.
    – mille271
    Jul 31, 2017 at 19:50

"A New Grammar, English and French" (1734) includes

He doesn't know me

as a 'familiar phrase' in translation, suggesting that "doesn't know" is perfectly normal conversational phrasing for that time.

One of Jane Austen's letters (LXIX, 1813) includes the sentence

I am not known to her by name, however.

So perhaps: I am not known to her, either.

  • Interesting. This is a little later than the specified years (1700s) - do you think that English became more sophisticated during the Victorian Era, or was this language still used a century earlier? Jul 31, 2017 at 13:09
  • 1
    True - at least Austen was growing up in the late 1700s, so I wouldn't have expected language to change too much at least in that period. I think the education and social standing of the character in the OPs question would be relevant to finding the most appropriate answer. I've found an earlier reference (1734), perhaps more relevant to conversational style.
    – sxpmaths
    Jul 31, 2017 at 14:48
  • Are you saying that "I am not known to her, either" is another way of saying "She doesn't know me either"? Those mean very different things. Jan 28, 2022 at 2:30

After reading the answers and comments that others have offered, I’m a bit confused what you’re asking. Your question seems to be about where the negation belongs in the statement, not about replacing the word “know” with some synonym, as suggested by several people.

Anyhow, I looked around 18th-C. English literature and found no hard rule. The word “know” is sometimes used to indicate that people know each other, but occasionally synonyms are used. The contraction is sometimes used, and sometimes avoided. And different degrees of fanciness of expression occurred in the 18th Century, just as they do today.

I have no special experience with this issue, but just my general sense of the way language sounds, plus a bit of research included below. But to me, some of the suggestions in your question sound strangely out of balance; “either” seems to indicate one of two considerations, and supplying both of these might help a reader follow you more easily. But the following sound to me like possible 18th Century constructions.

  • I know her not; neither does she know me.
  • She neither loves me nor even knows me.

Moll Flanders, by Daniel Defoe, offers the following examples.

  • 'I tell you,' says he again, 'she is a wife and no wife; you don't know what I am, or what she is.' 'That's true,' said I; 'sir, I do not know what you are, but I believe you to be an honest man…
  • 'You don't know that neither,' says the brother.
  • 'You don't know those sort of people, child,' says she;
  • At last I resolved to go to my old governess, and acquaint myself with her again.

Gulliver’s Travels, by Jonathan Swift, appears to contain no instance of “n’t.” It offers the following examples.

  • … neither did I know any artist in that country so nice and exact, as would undertake to make me another
  • … neither do the most learned know what sort of mortals inhabit beyond those mountains…
  • … for I soon began to be known and esteemed among the greatest officers…

And from The Spectator, Vol’s 1 To 3, by Addison and Steele:

  • I don't know but it might be exactly where the Coffee-house is now.
  • I do not know whether I have observed in any of my former Papers
  • .. an old Acquaintance of mine, a Person of Worth, whom I would have bowed to in the Pit, at two Yards distance did not know me.

Both "does not know me" and "knows me not" were used at that time. This source, however, indicates that the aristocracy may have preferred the form with do (links added):

There was also considerable variation in the use of periphrastic do in negative sentences and questions depending on the style of writing, the author’s background, and the degree of influence from prestigious users. Usage of do-less negative sentences, for example, I question not but that..., in informative prose (novels, essays, history) ranges between 2 per cent (Lady Mary Wortley Montagu) and 75 per cent (Fanny Burney), that in letters between 1 per cent (Walpole) and 52 per cent (Richardson). In both styles, usage is most advanced with members of the aristocracy. Fanny Burney’s exceptional status can be explained by the fact that she allowed her language to be influenced by that of Dr Johnson, who was her linguistic model. Richardson’s usage is equally high in his letters as in his informative prose, which is unusual for the time: like Fanny Burney, he appears to have modelled himself on Johnson, and on the language of Johnson’s periodical the Rambler rather than on Johnson’s other prose styles (that of his Lives of the Poets, for instance), which are less archaic in their use of periphrastic do.
English at the onset of the normative tradition

It's also important to note that know was one of a handful of verbs that resisted the switch to periphrastic do for quite some time:

Verbs such as know, doubt, care, mistake, speak continued to adopt forms such as If I mistake not until as late as the 19th century.
The use of periphrastic do in Early Modern English negative declaratives: evidence from the Helsinki Corpus

I've written about the origins periphrastic do here, which includes some more links on the subject.


Try knowest, you story is certainly done by now but there is a rule for 18th century writing, -Th endings for verbs used with third - person singular subjects end -est endings for thou and thee. Example: Thou knowest that he runneth translate to modern, you know that he runs.

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    Jan 28, 2022 at 6:08
  • 1
    Thou and declined forms like knoweth had largely fallen out of use by the eighteenth century. They were in use up to Early Modern English (the language of Shakespeare).
    – Andrew Leach
    Jan 28, 2022 at 8:25

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