Which phrase is correct?
I could make this very simple and give you the answer first. That wouldn’t be any fun (for me at least). I will tell you this: different rules apply to spoken language than apply to written language. While basic grammar rules seem immutable within the boundaries of any given language whether spoken or written, that simply isn’t true. Rules and regulations as they pertain to grammar change frequently especially in today’s digital twitterfied instagrammed syntax morphing age. An expression that was in wide use three years ago could be gone today and back in a few years, while an expression coined thousands of years ago could have – over its thousands of years lifetime – gone through complete changes in definition or generally acceptable use only to return to the exact same use it started out with. That would be silly. No, the word SILLY. Silly has gone through so many changes that it has at times meant the complete opposite of it’s original meaning only to return to its original meaning. Which is correct? It depends on the time, the audience, the context, the . . . on and on and on.
For this post I will focus on spoken language to address the question, “Which phrase is correct?”
The short answer is it depends on many variables, even in terms of spoken language it can be very complicated as to why. Given the context of the conversation, why would a person consistently choose one phrase over another one or insist that this is correct and that is wrong? Today, I was asked “Which is correct?” about these two phrases:
- You never know what’s going to happen.
- You will never know what’s going to happen.
Let’s run through a scenario, shall we?
Two friends, Josh and Roberto, are getting into a discussion about what grades they each expect to receive on a Social Studies Final Exam they will take tomorrow and how the class will do as a whole. Let’s join them . . .
“Yeah, I studied all night and took great notes from Mr. Napier’s lectures. I even did a presentation for the class on the many possible social ramifications of a Trayvon Martin not guilty verdict. I figure I’m guaranteed to get a B or better. I don’t know about the rest of the class. Rochelle never studies. Adam sleeps through class. You hardly show up to class on time and are always being called out for early dismissal.”
Roberto shrugged his shoulders, “I get you, bruh. As far as your grade goes, you can’t predict how you will do. In fact, day after day, you will never know what’s going to happen. I on the other hand got an edge up on you. Did you get a copy of the Answer Key?”
“What? You mean you – ?”
Roberto’s eyebrows flicked up and down, and he nodded smoothly rocking his head back confirming what Josh suspected.
From over Josh’s left shoulder, a jet engine fell from the sky, just missing him, but landing on Roberto.
“No, Roberto, you will never know what is going to happen.” And he thought to himself, You never know what’s going to happen.
School was cancelled the next day.
If we pick this apart, we might like to speak to Roberto’s hollier than thou stand. Roberto felt he beat the system when he told Josh, “In fact, day after day, you will never know what’s going to happen.” In that moment, Roberto was right. As it turned out though, he in fact is the one who will never know what is gong to happen. There is a certain finality to You will never know what is going to happen, a finality that doesn’t apply to the Universal Message carried by You never know what’s going to happen.
Ultimately, Josh, looking over at the wreckage, was right in his moment when he said, “You will never know what’s going to happen.” We also saw deep into Josh’s way of being when he thought to himself, “You never know what’s going to happen.” Josh lives in the moment. He isn’t concerned with what will happen because, in this case, he prepared in each moment. Could any measure of preparation have made Roberto ready for what was going to happen? Of course not. That is why life as we know it in this moment is much more important than any life as we predict it will be.
In this case, (I giggle) in an absolute final sense, Roberto will never know what is going to happen. Roberto will never find out if Hillary Clinton will run for president; if Josh will tell anyone that Roberto cheated; whether or not he would have gone to college, would have started a multi-billion dollar tech start-up company. Roberto will never find out if asteroids would cross paths above our outer atmosphere giving all of us a brief spectacular show, causing a new ice age or the decimation of all life on earth; he will never know if news coverage of peace makers will eclipse news coverage of war mongers. Josh will know what’s going to happen in a relative sense. I mean, he’ll know what happens during his lifetime. All that said, universally thinking or speaking, no one knows what’s going to happen, in other words, ready? You never know what’s going to happen. But given a good data set, most of us can and will know within a certain margin of error what’s going to happen.
I ask you if that is important?
All we can actually know is what we do in this moment. Now. And now. And now. And this can go on and on and on. You, your colleagues, I will never know what’s going to happen because as things stand right now, we can’t see into the future. What is essential is that we can see what we are doing right now.
You never know what’s going to happen. How timely. Or should I ask? How timely?
Other grammar funny business to bring to discussions that I deliberately left undealt within in this post include but are not limited to: (1) starting sentences with “but”; (2) common acceptable uses of the comma; (3) the dash as anything other than a minus sign.
I don’t know about you all, but I had a lot of fun with this.
Post any comments you see fit to post right now, come back and post comments later, or don’t comment at all. I never know what’s going to happen.
Love you, Bro!
With more love than can be measured I want to thank the extraordinary Rescue 96 A Shift crew of Station 6 saving lives for the City of Plantation Fire Department in Plantation, Florida: Lieutenant Paramedic Eric (my Bro!), and Paramedics Theresa, and Danny. Thanks for the topic.