For an action in the past tense, it means the action stops at the current time. For example, "I lived in that house" means that I lived in the house sometime in the past and do not live in the house now.

I want to know if this holds for stative verbs like know. In other words, does "I knew him" means I came to know him sometime in the past, and I forget him now or have not seen or heard of him for a long time?

  • 1
    It's not black and white, but it does not mean I forget him. It could mean I knew him then to be honest, but recently I had bad experiences with him. Dec 16, 2019 at 18:18
  • To add what @YosefBaskin said, if you no longer associate with him, you would probably say it like this, "I used to know him". Dec 16, 2019 at 18:45
  • “I knew him” can also be used when the person has died.
    – Jim
    Dec 16, 2019 at 20:19
  • 1
    "I lived in that house in 2001" does not mean that I no longer live there. "I knew him in 2001" does not mean that I no longer know him.
    – GEdgar
    Dec 16, 2019 at 21:11
  • "I lived in that house in 2001" does mean that I no longer live there. If I still live there, it would be ""I have lived in that house since 2001".
    – E Zhang
    Dec 16, 2019 at 23:19

1 Answer 1


In its most likely meaning, I knew John Smith would imply that John Smith is now dead; see the numerous examples here.

As Jim said in the comments, if you want to avoid that implication, use I used to know John Smith.

You can also avoid that implication in other ways, e.g. by saying When I was in college, I knew a man called John Smith (see e.g. here). This makes no implication that John Smith is now dead, and it doesn't imply you've forgotten him. It does imply that you haven't had any information about him in a long while.

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