-1

I was reading a book when I saw this sentence:

A few months later he left to work for a competitor, where I understand he is doing a fine job.

I thought if wanted to say something like this, I would have said it like this:

A few months later he left to work for a competitor, where I know he is doing a fine job.

What's the difference between these two sentences? Are there any implied differences in meaning or the audience's perception of the situation?
Thanks.

2

There is definitely a difference in meaning between these phrases:

". . .where I understand he is doing a fine job," implies that you are familiar with the work he is doing there. Perhaps someone from his new company has told you he is doing well, or you keep up with the man in question, who then told you himself. Essentially, you have some form of (probably anecdotal) evidence about the situation — although you do not know for certain, or necessarily even believe it to be true yourself (you are taking it on someone's word, for example).

". . .where I know he is doing a fine job," implies that you don't have any information about his work. This is something one would expect to hear someone say of their relative (e.g. a mother talking about her son), a close friend, or perhaps a respected past-coworker. Essentially, you have no form of concrete evidence or information about the person's work and are instead trusting your personal intuition about the person's abilities. For example, "My son just switched jobs. He's been busy and we haven't talked, but I just know he's doing a fine job there."

In the case that you actually do know for certain that the man is doing a fine job (possibly because you've seen it yourself), the most natural phrasing would simply be to state so:

". . .where he is doing a fine job."

If you wanted to use the word "know" in this case, I recommend you somehow qualify your statement:

"I know he is doing fine work because I checked it myself."

  • 1
    My own view would be that "I understand he is doing a fine job" indicates you have been told so, but are explicitly not saying so yourself, whereas "I know he is doing a fine job" is your own view, supported by evidence. – Tim Lymington Jul 13 '18 at 13:18
  • Those two views are not incompatible. I would take their intersection as the norm. – John Lawler Jul 13 '18 at 18:28

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

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