Commonly Confused Words: New vs. Knew

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What does each word mean?

If something is new it has only just been acquired, made, or discovered. The word also describes things that have only just come into being. 

Click here for the full Spellzone dictionary definition of the word. 

Here is new used in some example sentences:

  • I got a new book for Christmas. 
  • The painter stepped back and took in his new creation.
  • I’ve learned a new way to practise my spelling.
  • Happy New Year! 

Knew is the past tense of know. If you know something, it means you are aware of or familiar with it.

Click here for the full Spellzone dictionary definition of the word know

Here is knew used in some example sentences: 

  • I already knew how to spell the words in the homework. 
  • I knew it wasn’t a good idea but I did it anyway. 
  • I knew her from my schooldays. 


Where does each word come from?

New comes from the Middle English ‘neue’, which comes from the Old English ‘neowe’, ‘niowe’, and ‘niew’. These Old English words meaning ‘made or established for the first time’ come from the Proto-Germanic ‘neuja’, from the PIE ‘newo’.

Knew comes from the Old English ‘cneow’ and is the past tense of know which comes from the Old English ‘cnawan’.

Are there any tricks to help remember the difference between new and knew?

  • Think of a nice new treat to help you remember that new begins with an n
  • Think of the word knowledge to help you remember the silent k in knew.

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07 Jan 2021
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"This is a fantastic opportunity for our students!  I'm sure Spellzone will be invaluable in helping them to improve their spellings and therefore improve the quality of their writing in all subject areas!"

Teacher, High School, UK