The use of "how would you be knowing that?"


I ran into "how would you be knowing that?" when reading a novel. I did a search in Google Books.

It seems to be a fairly productive use:

“And how would you be knowing that?” “Billy's your brother and I heard you calling him Billy James. Not an amazing piece of deduction, I assure you.” “You're quick with your mind, you are. Or at least you'd have me believe."

"You're hiding something from me," said Margaret, frowning. "It was Mr. Morton, wasn't it?" Hilda's eyes grew round. "How would you be knowing that?" "I was on the corner when he came here. I saw him.

“And how would you be knowing that?” Beth countered bravely. “My Mummy told me!” Paige said haughtily. “You don't think I would ever let a man touch me without a huge valuable engagement ring on my finger do you?”

I think the use of would here exhibits the speakers' surprise.

But why would the continuous infinitive be used instead of the bare infinitive of know?

Know is a stative verb which isn't normally cast into an ing-form.

Kinzle B

Posted 2016-07-09T12:59:49.820

Reputation: 7 089

The questioner is interested in the process of your knowing, which includes how you got the knowledge. It is almost, but not quite, like asking "How did you come to know that?" as though the knowledge were illicit goods, something you had no business having, or something that demands explaining, such as "How did you come to be holding that bloody knife if it wasn't you who stabbed the Colonel in the study?" Just as "have" or "hold" would not hint at the incipient aspect in that question, "know" would not do so in your example. – Tᴚoɯɐuo – 2016-07-09T13:20:03.587

It's the combination of the conditional would with be knowning that produces this effect. Under what conditions did you come to be in the ongoing possession of this knowledge? Not only did you get it, but you've kept it. – Tᴚoɯɐuo – 2016-07-09T13:26:27.433

Your comments are unrelated to the answer below. I'm not sure which is correct. Perhaps both :) @TRomano – Kinzle B – 2016-07-09T13:56:17.770

2The people I've heard using this locution are from Ireland or are of Irish descent, family on my mother's side. Country folk, for the most part. – Tᴚoɯɐuo – 2016-07-09T14:06:17.490

Which novel? By which writer? Also, please provide a link to each Google result. – Alan Carmack – 2016-07-09T14:10:27.577

I see little justification for the idea that *would* here expresses "surprise". Note dozens of written instances of *How would I be knowing that?*, where in most cases the speaker isn't in the least surprised - they're simply asking a rhetorical question where the notional expected answer is something like *Oh, okay - you don't know it, since there's no way you could.* The construction is particularly popular with the Irish, though.

– FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica – 2016-07-09T15:15:11.767


Also consider Why would I be thinking that?, which is more likely to be from an Irish speaker. Mainland Brits would be much more likely to say Why would I think that? The tendency to use progressive forms is definitely stronger for Irish speakers than the rest of us, in a wide range of contexts. I don't think it's restricted to "uneducated speakers".

– FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica – 2016-07-09T15:22:43.903

"Why would I be believing you?" Would that sound OK? @FumbleFingers – Kinzle B – 2016-07-09T16:32:57.230

1@Kinzle: It would sound OK to me if I knew you were Irish, but normally (particularly if you had an Indian accent! :) I'd just take it as evidence that you weren't that familiar with standard English. You're better off sticking to *know is a stative verb which isn't normally cast into an ing-form* (same for *think, believe,* a tricky point for some non-native speakers, so you're already doing well if you've got that under your belt! :) – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica – 2016-07-09T16:39:53.490

1@FumbleFingers I actually read somewhere that the Indian over-usage of the progressive is partially due to the influence of Irish soldiers during the colonial period, but I can't confirm that. However, Hindi, Bengali, and other languages are also using very much the progressive. – Cascabel – 2016-07-09T17:37:03.163


@Gandalf: That never occurred to me, but apparently At the time of the famous Indian Mutiny of 1857, more than half of East India company's white soldiers were Irish, so perhaps there's something in it. My instinct is it's more significant that many native Indian languages use the progressive a lot more than English does, but I'm certainly no expert. I do expect more "creative" IE usages to enter mainstream English over the coming decades though.

– FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica – 2016-07-09T17:56:29.890



This turn of speech is often used by writers to portray the speaker as an uneducated person. Reading a sentence like this, I picture a country bumpkin speaking with a very strong west country accent. See also pirate English.


Posted 2016-07-09T12:59:49.820

Reputation: 43 538


I don't think this expresses surprise; rather it is a regional dialect and might express skepticism or doubt that the person really does know that.

Peter Flom

Posted 2016-07-09T12:59:49.820

Reputation: 2 320