Is the sentence "You wouldn't know if he did" grammatical/idiomatic?


Google gives you 0 results so I'm a bit skeptic.

Example sentence:

Speaker A: "My husband has never lied to me."

Speaker B: “You wouldn’t know if he did.”

(Meaning that Speaker A wouldn't know her husband was lying even if he lied to her. Because he wouldn't have told her.)


Posted 2017-03-24T15:12:57.330

Reputation: 4 803

4Yes, it's fine. The complement of the auxiliary verb "did" is ellipted, but understood as "Lie to you". This is perfectly normal in such constructions – BillJ – 2017-03-24T15:19:26.667

2The two alternatives are *You wouldn't know if he did [lie to you at any time in the past, present, or future]* and *You wouldn't know if he had [lied to you in the past]*. Which in principle do mean slightly different things. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica – 2017-03-24T15:48:31.820

There are trillions upon trillions of possible English sentences, and it is easy to make a new one that no one has ever spoken before, so it's not surprising that you can't find any results for one particular sentence. – stangdon – 2017-03-24T16:51:59.833

@stangdon Yes, but I for one am very surprised indeed. The sentence only involves function words (auxiliaries and pronouns) apart from the verb know. It's like getting no results for "He didn't know it". – Araucaria - Not here any more. – 2017-03-24T16:57:26.727

Try instead googling "you would know if you did". 2.5 million results. – Andrew – 2017-03-24T21:19:38.947

How about "You wouldn't know it if he did"? In this sentence, I take "if he did" to be the direct object of "You wouldn't know," anticipated by dummy "it." The original sentence without "it" could sound like a conditional, which it is not. – Gustavson – 2017-03-25T02:12:43.463



Other folks should get points, but they answered in the Comments.

It is grammatically incorrect. To agree with the tense of the sentence, it should be, "You wouldn't know if he had".

Idiomatically, if you want to refer to the previous history, then I would say, "If he had, you wouldn't know it". If you want to talk about the on-going history of his truthfulness, I would say, "If he did, you wouldn't know it".


Posted 2017-03-24T15:12:57.330

Reputation: 130


It's true that "had" would tie more closely to the verb in the initial sentence, but "did" would be acceptable if the speaker wanted to indicate that the action might not have already happened. It would also be acceptable in speech to cover either meaning.


Posted 2017-03-24T15:12:57.330

Reputation: 558