I would know.

The following is an excerpt from the Op-ed in the New York Times of Sept. 5.

What the author mean by "I would know." towards the end of the quote?

"President Trump is facing a test to his presidency unlike any faced by a modern American leader.

It’s not just that the special counsel looms large. Or that the country is bitterly divided over Mr. Trump’s leadership. Or even that his party might well lose the House to an opposition hellbent on his downfall.

The dilemma — which he does not fully grasp — is that many of the senior officials in his own administration are working diligently from within to frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations.

I 〈would know〉. I am one of them."

Original Post

Hi, Fujibei,

Native speakers do sometimes say "I would know" in that manner, especially when it is followed by a statement explaining why one would know something. I can understand why you might find it strange.

I hear it as posturing for rhetorical effect. The speaker or writer positions himself outside himself as if he were someone considering whether or not to believe what he himself has said. It can be compared to this:

A: He says that many senior officials in Trump's administration are working diligently to frustrate his agenda.

B: Why should we believe that?

C: He would know. He is a senior official in Trump's administration.

In other words, anyone who is a senior official in Trump's administration would know whether senior officials in Trump's administration are trying to frustrate Trump's agenda. He is a senior official in Trump's administration. Therefore he would know whether senior officials in Trump's administration are trying to frustrate Trump's agenda. (Therefore, we should believe him.)

Thanks for your explanation.

What if the author says, "I know this because I am one of them?" Is it any different from "I would know.  I am one of them?"

Your example "He would know. He is a senior official in Trump's administration." is clear for me to understand. My problem is when someone says, "I would know." Further explanations would be appreciated.

Hi, Fujibei,

David's explanation:

I hear it as posturing for rhetorical effect. The speaker or writer positions himself outside himself as if he were someone considering whether or not to believe what he himself has said.

couldn't be clearer. However, just like David, I understand your confusion. How about imagining that short sentence as an answer to an imaginary question (this is as a matter of fact what "rhetorical language" is about):

- You (readers) are asking me if I would know if this were the case? The answer is I would know, because I'm one of them.

Fujibei,

I agree with David's and Gustavo's excellent responses.  I'll throw out a couple of suggestions of my own, though.

Q: I've been hearing that Jack was an evil man, but he was always kind to me.  What do you think?
A1: Well, I would know.  I lived with him for fifteen years.
A2: Well, I should know.  I lived with him for fifteen years.
A3: Well, I ought to know.  I lived with him for fifteen years.

Please let me know if this was helpful.

DocV

Thank you for your insightful additions, Gustavo and DocV. In revisiting this thread, I have decided that I have more to say.

fujibei posted:
Your example "He would know. He is a senior official in Trump's administration." is clear for me to understand. My problem is when someone says, "I would know." Further explanations would be appreciated.

It works the same way, Fujibei. It has to do with the "posturing" I was talking about. You are capable of thinking about yourself as Fujibei, right? You can adopt the position of someone else looking at you or listening to you or considering your credibility in light of facts about you.

When you say "I would know" in the way in which it is being used in these types of sentences, you are using "I" to refer to yourself, naturally, but from the standpoint of your interlocutor, from whose standpoint you are "he" (assuming I have guessed your gender correctly).

If you can understand "He would know. He is a senior official in Trump's administration," you can also understand "I would know. I am a senior official in Trump's administration." If you used "I would know" like this, you could replace it with "Fujibei would know." You could speak of yourself in the third person.

Interestingly -- now I am getting to the main reason I have made another post in this thread -- we also use "I wouldn't know" in a similar way. Indeed, there are no fewer than 548 results for "I wouldn't know" on COCA.  Here, too, one is positioning oneself outside oneself for rhetorical effect:

A: I wonder if prison beds are comfortable.
B: I wouldn't know. I've never been in prison.

A: I wonder how the band sounded last night.
B: I wouldn't know. I wasn't there. But DocV was there. He would know.

In both examples (especially the second), "I don't know" could, of course, be used instead of "I wouldn't know." I say "especially the second" because, in the first example, "I wouldn't know" packs a nice rhetorical punch. It's a bit like saying "Don't ask me." It has a slightly edgy quality.

Interesting points, David.  Your reference to the negation brings a whole different light to the dialog.

Of course, your examples also invite such variations as:

A4: How would I know?

For the record, I was not at a concert last night, and it's none of your damned business whether or not I've had enough experience to determine whether or not prison beds are comfortable.  Don't ask me.

And by the way, they're not.  Or so I'm told.  That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Life is almost always interesting.  Some moments are more interesting than others.  I can't think of a more interesting moment in my entire life than the time a Nicaraguan National Guardsman stuck an automatic rifle in my eye and asked me why I didn't have my passport with me.  True story.  I actually continue to be amazed that I'm still alive to tell it.

DocV

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