How to use 知る & わかる ( = shiru & wakaru)

Snowy: 「ちょっとやせたんだけどわかる?」

= Chotto yasetan dakedo wakaru?

= I lost a little weight. Can you tell?


Zoey: 「私の好きな食べ物知ってる?」

= Watashi no sukina tabemono shitteru?

= Do you know what my favorite food is?


= Ninjin dayo!

= Carrots! 


無断転載禁止(All rights reserved)

Hi everyone!

We are today’s guest teachers, Snowy and Zoey !

Today we are going to learn the differences between the verb 知る ( = shiru) and the verb わかる (  = wakaru). 

They are both often simply translated as “to know” but there are subtle differences.  And choosing the tense is sometimes a bit tricky.

Making this lesson is like opening a Pandora’s box, but it’s too late. I already opened it! (^_−)−☆

Let’s start! 

知る= しる= shiru 

The dictionary form is 

知る ( =shiru)

 and the masu-form is: 

知ります ( = shirimasu) 

But when you describe the state of knowing something/someone, you don’t use these forms.

Instead, you say: 

* 知っています( = shitte imasu)  polite

* 知ってます( = shitte masu)  polite but conversational 

* 知っている ( = shitteiru)   casual

* 知ってる ( = shitteru)  more casual

Note:  In casual speech, you drop ( = i).  Most “proper” Japanese textbooks cover this form, but you hear this form a lot in daily conversation so we will study it.

1) The current state of knowing something/someone/to have knowledge about ~ .

Ex. A: 「 マギー先生を知っていますか?」

= Maggie Sensei wo shitte imasu ka?

= Do you know who Maggie Sensei is?

= Do you know Maggie Sensei?

Note: You don’t say

X マギー先生を知りますか?(wrong) 

= Maggie Sensei wo shirimasu ka?


=Yes, I do. (I know her/who she is.) 


= Un, shitteru. 

=Yes, I do. (I know her/who she is.) 

Note: You don’t say:

X はい、知ります(wrong)

= Hai,  shirimasu. 

X うん、知る (wrong)

= Un, shiru. 

When you say:  someone + を知っている (= someone wo shitte iru)

It could mean

1) you met the person and know that person  

2) you heard about that person, you know who that person is

If the listener gets confused, you can say, for example,

1) 会ったことがある 

= atta koto ga aru 

= I have met that person

or 会ったことがない 

= atta koto ga aru

= I have never met that person

2) someoneについて知っている

= someone ni tsuite shitte iru

 = I know about that person. 

3) 聞いたことがある

= kiita koto ga aru 

= I heard about that person 

These expressions can help clear up any situation.

And if you are talking about something, you say:

知っている ( = shitteiru)

It means

1) You are familiar with that thing  

2) you heard/read about the thing


Ex. A: 「このブランド知ってる?」 (casual) 

= Kono burando shitteru?

= Do you know about this brand?

B: 「うん、知ってる。そのブランドの靴持ってるよ。」

= Un, shitteru. Sono burando no kutsu motteru yo.

= Yes, I do. (I know this brand.) I have a pair of shoes of that brand. 

Ex. 「犬のおまわりさん」という歌を知っていますか?

= “Inu no omawari-san” toiu uta wo shitte imasu ka?

= Do you know the song called “Dog Policeman”?

Ex. 彼のことを昔からよく知っています

= Kare no koto wo mukashi kara yoku shitte imasu.

= I have known him since forever.

Ex. 「希望*」という言葉を知っていますか?

= “Kibou” toiu kotoba wo shitte imasuka?

= Do you know the word, “kibou”? 

(* 希望= kibou = hope

* Negative form: 

(1) don’t know/ doesn’t know (the current state of not knowing something or not having knowledge about something) 

Unlike the affirmative form, you don’t use ている ( = teiru) form when you express the current state of not knowing something. 

X 知っていない ( = shitte inai) wrong

X 知っていません( = shitte imasen) wrong 

You say: 

* 知りません ( =  shirimasen)   polite

* 知らないです ( = shiranai desu)   polite but more conversational 

*  知らない ( =  shiranai) casual 


Ex. 彼は、日本の歴史について何も知らない

= Kare wa, nihon no rekishi ni tsuite nani mo shiranai.

= He doesn’t know anything about Japanese history.

Ex. 私に彼がいることを友達はまだ知らない

= Watashi ni kare ga iru koto wo tomodachi wa mada shiranai.

= My friends don’t know yet that I have a boyfriend.

Ex. A:「日本語お上手ですね。」

= Nihongo ojouzu desu ne.

= Your Japanese is very good.


= ieie, mada shiranai kotoba ga ippai arimasu.

= No, that’s not true. There are still many words that I don’t know. 

Ex. 知らない人から電話がかかってきた。

= Shiranai hito kara denwa ga kakatte kita.

= I got a phone call from a stranger (someone I don’t know).

Ex. 子供には知らない人について行ってはいけないといつも言っている。

= Kodomo niwa shiranai hito ni tsuite itte wa ikenai to itsumo itte iru.

= I’ve been always telling my child not to follow someone that they don’t know ( = a stranger)

(2) Conversational usage of 知らない ( = shiranai) / 知りません( = shirimasen) 

You use the negative form when you are fed up with someone showing your frustration. 

Ex. もう知らない!/ もう知りません

= Mou shiranai! / Mou shirimasen! 

= I’m done with you! / I have had it.

Ex. 海斗くんなんてもう知らない

= Kaito kun nante mou shiranai!

=  I don’t care about you anymore, Kaito! 

2) past tense

affirmative form: 

* 知りました ( = shirimashita) polite

* 知った ( = shitta )  casual 

(1)  learned / found out / heard some information / news, to realized something  (at a certain time)

Ex. どこでその事件のことを知りましたか?

= Doko de sono jiken no koto wo shirimashita ka?

= Where did you hear about that incident? 

Ex. Yahooニュースで知りました

= Yahoo nyuusu de shirimashita.

= I read (found out about) it on Yahoo News.

Ex. あの二人が付き合っているっていつ知ったの?

= Ano futari ga tsukiatte iru tte itsu shitta no?

= When did you find out those two were seeing each other?

Ex. LINEのメッセージをもらって初めて彼女が自分のことを好きだと知ったんだよ。

= Line no messeeji wo moratte hajimete kanojo ga jibun no koto wo sukida to shittan dayo.

= I learned that she had a feeling for me for the first time when I received a LINE message from her.

Ex. 新聞でその事件について知りました

= Shinbun de sono jiken ni tsuite shirimashita.

= I learned about that news from the newspaper. 

Ex. 日本人の友達に聞いて初めて、その言葉の本当の意味を知った

= Nihonjin no tomodachi ni kiite hajimete, sono kotoba no hontou no imi wo shitta.

= I first found out the real meaning of the word when I asked my Japanese friend. 

(2) to experience something/ discover ~ 

Ex. 働き始めて初めて社会の厳しさを知った

= Hatarakihajimete hajimete shakai no kibishisa wo shitta.

= I learned the hardship of society for the first time when I started to work. 

Ex. 日本酒の美味しさを知ったのはつい最近です。

= Nihonshu no oishisa wo shitta nowa tsui saikin desu.

= I recently discovered how delicious Japanese sake was. 

*negative form: You didn’t know until you found out/heard some news or realize something. 

You can also use this form when you just found out something at the moment. 

didn’t know / was not aware of something 

* 知りませんでした ( = shirimasen deshita) polite 

* 知らなかったです( = shiranakatta desu) polite but more conversational 

* 知らなかった ( = shiranakatta) casual


Ex. 日本に来るまで漢字を一つも知らなかった

= Nihon ni kuru made kanji wo hitotsu mo shiranakatta.

= Until I came to Japan, I didn’t know any kanji.

Ex. A: 「本田さんが、会社をやめたって知ってる?」

= “Honda-san ga, kaisha wo yametatte shitteru?”

= Did you know Mr. Honda quit the company?

B: 「えっ?全然知りませんでした。」

= Eh? Zenzen shirimasen deshita.

= What? I had no idea. 

Ex. あの二人が別れたなんて知らなかった

= Ano futari ga wakareta nante shiranakatta.

= I didn’t know that they (those two)  broke up. 

3) the past continuous form: Have known the information for certain period of time, since ~  / knew about something 

* 知っていました ( = shitte imashita)  polite

* 知っていた ( = shitteita) casual

* 知ってた ( = shitteta) very casual

It describes a continuing state of knowing something. You heard/saw something and you have known about that for a certain period of time.

Note: There is no negative form of  知っていました ( = shitte imashita) / 知っていた ( = shitteita) 

You say:

* 知りませんでした ( = shirimasen deshita)  polite

知らなかったです( = shiranakatta desu) polite but more conversational 

* 知らなかった ( = shiranakatta) casual


Ex. このサイトのことを知っていました

= Kono saito no koto wo shitte imashita.

= I have known about this site.


= Kono saito no koto wo shitte imashita ka?

= Did you know about this site?

Ex. 彼の秘密は2年前から知っていました

= Kare no himitsu wa ninen mae kara shitte imashita.

= I have known his secret for 2 years. 

Ex. A: 「斎藤さんが転勤になるの知ってた?」

= “Saitou-san ga tenkin ni naru no shitteta?”

= Did you know that Mr. Saito is going to be transferred?


= “Uun, shiranakatta. Shitteitara aisatsu shita noni.”

= No, I didn’t know that. If I had known, I would have said hello to him. 


わかる ( = wakaru) 

As I mentioned above, you don’t use the dictionary form of 知る ( = shiru) or masu-form 知ります ( = shirimasu) to express the current state of knowing something. 

私は彼を知る ( = watashi wa kare wo shiru)  wrong

 →私は彼を知っている( = watashi wa kare wo shitteiru) I know him. 

私は彼を知ります ( = watashi wa kare wo shirimasu) wrong

 →私は彼を知っています ( = watashi wa kare wo shitte imasu) I know him. 

However you do use the dictionary form, わかる ( = wakaru) / masu-form わかります ( = wakarimasu) to express the current state of understanding something. 

★Present tense:

affirmative form:

* わかります  ( = wakarimasu) polite

* わかる ( = wakaru) casual 

negative form: the current state of not understanding something. 

* わかりません( = wakarimasen) polite 

* わからない ( = wakaranai) casual 

* わかんない (  = wakannai) more casual  

1) to comprehend, to understand the meaning /value/true state, to know how things work, to know how to use ~/ what something is for  (current state) 

Ex.  この言葉の意味がわかりますか?

= Kono kotoba no imi ga wakarimasu ka?

= Do you understand the meaning of this word?

Note: If you say


= Kono kotoba no imi wo shitte imasu ka?

It means “Do you know the meaning of this word?” 

Note that you use different particles!    (= ga) is used with わかる  (= wakaru) and を ( = wo) is used with 知る(=shiru).

 :n: something+ ( = wo) + 知っている ( = shitte iru) / 知らない( = shiranai) = to know something / not to know something 

 :purple: something +  ( = ga ) + わかる ( wakaru) / わからない( = wakaranai)  = to understand something/ not to understand something 

You use a particle ( = ga) with わかる ( = wakaru) because わかる ( = wakaru) has a potential meaning, to be able to understand.

Ex. 先生の言うこと何もわからない

= Sensei no iu koto ga nanimo wakaranai .

= I don’t understand what the teacher says at all.

Ex. 敬語の使い方よくわかりません

= Keigo no tsukaikata ga yoku wakarimasen.

= I don’t understand how to use the honorific. 

Note: If you were to say 使い方知らない ( = tsukai kata wo shiranai), it would mean that you didn’t know how to use it (you had not learned how to use it).

Ex. もっとわかりやすく説明をしてください。

= Motto wakariyasuku setsumei wo shite kudasai.

= Please explain it in more simple terms. 

Ex. A:「フランス語*わかりますか?」

= Furansugo wakarimasu ka?

= Do you understand French? 

(Note: Sometimes you skip the particle ( = ga) in casual conversation.) 

B: 「いいえ、全然、わかりません。」

= iie, zenzen wakarimasen.

= I don’t understand (French) at all.

C: 「少しならわかります。」

= Sukoshi nara wakarimasu.

= I understand (if it’s) a little.

Ex. 彼女は友情の大切さがわからない

= Kanojo wa yuujou no taisetsusa ga wakaranai.

= She doesn’t get the importance of friendship. 

Ex. 「わかる」の使い方がわからない

= “Wakaru” no tsukaikata ga wakaranai.

= I don’t know how to use “wakaru”. 

Ex. 今、自分が何をやりたいのかわからない

= ima, jibun ga nani wo yaritai no ka wakaranai.

= I don’t know what I want to do now.

Ex. A:「明日の予定は?」

= Ashita no yotei wa?

= What are your plans for tomorrow?/ What is happening tomorrow?

B: 「まだわかんない。」(casual)

= Mada wakannai.

= I don’t know yet. 

Ex. この絵の価値がわかりますか?

= Kono e no kachi ga wakarimasu ka?

= Do you know the value of this picture?

Ex. A:「このコーヒーメーカーの使い方わかる?」(casual)

= Kono koohii meekaa no tsukaikata wakaru?

= Do you know how to use this coffee maker?


= Uun, wakaranai.

= No, I don’t know


You also say 


= Kono koohii meekaa no tsukai kata shitteru?

= Do you know how to use this coffee maker?

(The particle ( = wo) is omitted in casual conversation.)

The nuance differences are:

わかる ( = wakaru) can be used when the person just saw the machine for the first time.

Can you figure out how to use this machine by looking at it?

知っている ( = shitteiru) implies the person has used it before or read the manual or heard how to use it from somebody and has knowledge of the machine. 

Ex. このボタンがなんのためにあるのかわからない

= Kono botan ga nan no tame ni aru no ka wakaranai.

= I don’t know what this button is for.

Ex. 着物の着方がわかりません

= Kimono no kikata ga wakarimasen.

= I don’t know how to put on a kimono. 

The speaker is trying to figure out how to put on a kimono but has no idea. 

The translation is the same, but if you say: 


= Kimono no kikata wo shiranai

It implies you have never learned how to put on a kimono, you don’t have any experience wearing kimono or you put it on anyway but the way you put on the kimono is not correct.

2) to understand someone’s feelings, to be able to relate to someone’s feelings,  to be aware of something 

Ex. 母がどうして私のことをあんなに心配するのかよくわかります

= Haha ga doushite watashi no koto wo annani shinpai suru no ka  yoku wakarimasu.

= I understand why my mother worries about me so much. 

Ex. 約束をやぶった友達が悪いのはわかるけど、僕は彼のことを信じたい。

= Yakusoku wo yabutta tomodachi ga warui no wa wakaru kedo, boku wa kare no koto wo shinjitai.

= I am aware that my friend is in the wrong for breaking his promise, but I still want to believe in him.

Ex. 誰も私のことをわかってくれない。

= Dare mo watashi no koto wo wakatte kurenai.

= Nobody understands me. 

3) When you are listening to someone and show them you are listening to them, expressing empathy or can relate to their feelings. /Reacting to on going conversation showing agreement


= Watashi no itteru koto wakaru?

= Do you know what I mean?

B: 「うん、わかるよ。」

= Un, wakaru yo.

= Yes, I do. 

Ex. A: 「あの日のことを考えただけでもう悲しくて。」

= Ano hi no koto wo kangaeta dake de mou kanashikute.

= Just thinking about what happened on that day makes me feel so sad.

B: わかるわかる

= Wakaru, wakaru.

= I understand how you feel. 

Note: We often say this to show the speaker that we are listening. 

If the speaker is still talking and the conversation is not done yet, you don’t say わかりました ( = wakarimashita) / わかった ( = wakatta) 

Ex. 早口すぎて何を言っているのかわからないよ。

= Hayakuchi sugite nani wo itte iru no ka wakaranai yo.

= You speak so fast that I can’t follow you. 

Ex. A: 「春になるとついいらないものまで買っちゃうんだよね。」

= Haru ni naru to tsui iranai mono made kacchaunda yo ne.

= For some reason, I tend to buy things I don’t need in the spring. 

B: わかる!私もこの間、スカート3枚も買っちゃった。」

= Wakaru! Watashi mo kono aida, sukaato sanmai mo kacchatta.

= I know! I myself bought three skirts the other day, too. 

Ex. A: 「夜一人になると不安になることがあります。」

= Yoru hitori ni naruto fuan ni naru koto ga arimasu.

= I sometimes feel uneasy when I am by myself at night. 

B: わかります。私もそういうときは友達にすぐにメールします。」

= Wakarimasu. Watashi mo souiu toki wa tomodachi ni sugu ni meeru shimasu.

= I understand. When that happens, I immediately text my friends. 

4) When you can tell/see the difference, you use わかる ( = wakaru) / わかります( = wakarimasu)

Ex. A: 「部屋のレイアウトを少し変えたんだけどわかる?」

= Heya no reiauto wo sukoshi kaetan dakedo wakaru?

= I changed the layout of the room a little. Can you tell the difference?

B: 「なに?ベッドの位置?全然、わからない。」

= Nani? Beddo no ichi? Zenzen, wakaranai.

= What is it? The position of your bed?  I can’t tell at all. 

Ex. 声だけ聞いていても誰かわからない

= Koe dake kiite itemo dare ka wakaranai.

= I can’t tell who it is by just listening the voice.

5) to be able to get some information/solution 

Ex.  A: 「マギーの電話番号わかる?」

= Maggie no denwa bangou wakaru?

= Do you know Maggie’s telephone number? 

B: 「ええ、わかんない。」(casual)

= Eeh, wakannai.

= Hmm I don’t know. 

C:「私、わかるよ。ちょっと待って。」(female speech)

= Watashi, wakaru yo. Chotto matte. 

=  I know. Just a sec. 

(It means “I know where the information is so that I can give it to you.” )

Note: If you say 電話番号知ってる? (= denwa bangou shitteru?) , it means “Do you know what Maggie’s telephone number is?” 

The difference is, you use 知っている( = shitte iru) when you have the information. Maybe you memorize the number or you often use it. 

わかる ( = wakaru) is used when you know how to find the information. 

Ex. 彼女の新しい住所がわからないので年賀状が出せない。

= Kanojo no atarashii juusho ga wakaranai node nengajou ga dasenai.

= I don’t know her new address, so I can’t send her a new year’s card.

Note: わからない ( = wakaranai) here means I don’t know  how to get the information (who to ask)

If you say


= kanojo no atarashii juusho wo shiranai

It means, you didn’t get the information (of her new address) / she didn’t give me her new address so I don’t know. 


affirmative form: I got it. / I understood./ OK! / Sure! 

わかりました ( = wakarimashita)  polite

わかった ( = wakatta) casual 

negative form:didn’t get it/didn’t understand / couldn’t find out/ couldn’t understand 

わかりませんでした ( = wakarimasen deshita) polite 

わからかったです(  = wakaranakatta desu) polite but more conversational

わからなかった ( = wakaranakatta) casual

わかんなかった ( = wakannakatta) very casual 

(1) Something unclear has became clear.

Typical mistakes:

When I get a question and explain something, many of you say: 

X いま、わかります wrong

= Ima, wakarimasu.

I know you want to say, “Now I understand.

But that is not natural.

You should say:


= Ima, wakarimashita.


Ex. 最終回で真犯人が誰かやっとわかった

= Saishuukai de shinhannin ga dare ka yatto wakatta.

= I finally found out who the real culprit was in the last episode. 

Ex. お話を伺って事情はよくわかりました

= Ohanashi wo ukagatte jijou wa yoku wakarimashita.

= I understood the situation very well after hearing your story.

Ex. 「ここまでの説明はわかりましたか?」

= Koko made no setsumei wa wakarimashita ka?

= Do you understand my explanation so far?


= Hai, yoku wakarimashita.

= Yes, I understand very well. 

Ex. わからないことがあったらいつでも聞いてください。

= Wakaranai koto ga attara itsudemo kiite kudasai.

= If there is something you don’t understand, you can ask me anytime. 

(2) When you respond to someone who just explained something or just finished explaining something, 

You say わかりました ( = wakarimashita) / わかった ( = wakatta) when you show your approval or agreement. 

Ex. A: 「今日、打ち合わせをしますので5時に会議室に来てください。」

= Kyou, uchiawase wo shimasu node goji  ni kaigishitsu ni kite kudasai.

= We are going to have a meeting today so please come to the meeting room at five. 

B: わかりました。」

= Wakarimashita.

= No problem. 

Ex. A「ねえ、給料日まで3千円貸してくれない?」

= Nee, kyuuryoubi made sanzen-en kashite kurenai?

= Hey, can you spare me 3,000 yen until the pay day?


= Un, wakatta. Demo kanarazu kaeshitene.

= OK, but make sure you pay me back. 

Ex. 妻 :「今日は、早く帰ってきてね。」

= Tsuma: Kyou wa hayaku kaette kitene.

= Wife: “Please be back home early today.”


= Otto: Wakatta. Rokuji made niwa kaeru yo.

= Husband: “OK, I’ll be back by six.” 

Ex. 生徒: 「実は、父が入院していたので試験を受けることができませんでした。」

Seito: Jitsu wa, chichi ga nyuuinn shite ita no de shiken wo ukeru koto ga dekimasen deshita.

Student: Actually my father was hospitalized so I couldn’t take the exam. 

先生: 「わかった。じゃあ林先生に説明しておくよ。」

=Sensei:  Wakatta. Jaa Hayashi sensei ni setsumei shite okuyo.

= Teacher: OK, then I will explain that to Mr. Hayashi. 

(3) to identify something/someone/ to be able to tell the difference

Ex. A: 「ねえ、前髪少しだけ切ったの。わかる?」

=Nee, maegami sukoshidake kitta no. Wakaru?

= Hey, I got my bangs trimmed just a little. Can you tell?

B: 「全然、わからなかった。」

= Zenzen, wakaranakatta.

= I couldn’t tell at all. 

C: 「すぐにわかったよ。」

= Sugu ni wakatta yo.

= I could tell right away. 



= Watashi ga dare ka wakaru? Sayaka dayo.

= Do you know who I am?  I’m Sayaka!  (Can you tell who I am from my face, figure, voice, expressions, etc.)

B:「ええ?さやか? 全くわからなかった!」

= Eeh? Sayaka? Mattaku wakaranakatta.

= What? Sayaka? I had no idea. (You look so different.)

★present continuous form:

affirmative form:

* わかっています ( = wakatte imasu) polite

* わかっている( = wakatteiru)  casual

* わかってる ( = wakatteru) very casual

negative form:  

* わかっていません ( = wakatte imasen)  polite 

* わかっていない ( = wakatte inai) casual 

* わかってない  ( = wakattenai) very casual

Use these forms to:

– describe the current state of understanding or not understanding something

– when you have understood the situation, someone’s feelings for a certain period of time.

-when stressing the fact that you are aware of something or you understand something.

Ex. 子供の気持ちはよくわかっています

= Kodomo no kimochi wa yoku wakatte imasu.

= I know my child’s feelings very well. 

Ex. 働かなければならないなんてことはわかっています。でも仕事が見つからないんです。

= Hatarakanakereba naranai nante koto wa wakatte imasu. Demo shigoto ga mitsukaranain desu.

= I know that I have to work. But I can’t find a job. 

Ex.  A: 「困っていたら誰かに相談したら楽になるよ。」

= Komatte itara darekani soudan shitara raku ni naru yo.

= You will feel better if you talk to someone when you are in trouble. 

B: 「そんなことはわかっているけど、誰に言ったらいいかわからなかったんだ。」

= Sonna koto wa wakatteiru kedo, dare ni ittara ii ka wakaranakattan da.

= I KNOW that. But I didn’t know who I should talk to.

★past continuous form: 

affirmative form : 

* わかっていました ( = wakatte imashita) polite 

* わかっていた ( = wakatteita)  casual 

* わかってた ( = wakatteta) very casual 

You knew about something/understood the circumstances, feelings, situation, reason, etc, 

negative form: 

* わかっていませんでした ( = wakatteimasen deshita)  polite 

* わかっていなかったです ( = wakatteinakatta desu) polite but more conversational

* わかっていなかった ( = wakatteinakatta)  casual 

* わかってなかった ( = wakattenakatta) very casual 

You didn’t understand/get something for the certain period of time. (You know about it now.)

Ex. A:「初めてあった時からずっと好きでした。」

= Hajimete atta toki kara zutto suki deshita.

= I’ve liked you since I first met you. 


= Wakattetayo.

= I knew it. / I have always known. 

Ex. 自分が悪いことはわかっていたが、どうしても彼に謝ることができなかった。

= Jibun ga warui koto wa wakatte ita ga, doushite mo kare ni ayamaru koto ga dekinakatta.

= I knew I was wrong, but I just couldn’t apologize to him. 

Ex. 毎晩お酒を飲んでいてはいけないとわかっていましたがついつい…

= Maiban osake wo nonde ite wa ikenai to wakatte imashitaga tsuitsui…

= I knew I should’t drink every night but I couldn’t help it. 

Ex. 二十歳の時は自分が何をしたいかわかっていなかった

= Hatachi no toki wa jibun ga nani wo shitai ka wakatte inakatta.

= I didn’t know what I wanted to do when I was 20 year’s old.

Ex. 緊急時に何をしなくてはいけないかわかっているつもりだったが実際わかっていなかった。

= Kinkyuuji ni nani wo shinakute wa ikenai ka wakatte iru tsumori datta ga jissai wakatte inakatta.

= I though I knew what to do in emergency, but I actually didn’t know. 


* Other forms: to start to understand/ to start to get confused 

Note: You can use わかる ( = wakaru) to express the change, begin to understand something, start to be able to understand, gradually come to understand something.

affirmative form: 

* わかるようになる ( = wakaruyou ni naru)  to be able to understand 

* わかってきました ( = wakatte kimashita)  have come to understand / start to understand /see something

* わかってきた ( = wakatte kita ) 

negative form: 

* わからなくなってくる ( = wakaranaku natte kuru) to get confused 

* わからなくなってきた ( = wakaranaku natte kita) getting confused 


Ex. 将来、何をしたらいいのかわからなくなってきた

= Shourai, nani wo shitara ii no ka wakaranaku natte kita.

= I am getting confused as to what I should do in the future. 

Ex. 日本語がわかるようになってきた

= Nihongo wa wakaru you ni natte kita.

= I’ve started to understand Japanese. 

Ex. 親のありがたみがわかってきた

= Oya no arigatami ga wakatte kita.

= I’ve started feel grateful for my parents. 

But you can’t say

X 知るようになる ( = shiru you ni naru)

X 知るようになってきた ( = shiru you ni nattekita)

X 知ってきた ( = shittekita ) 


マギー先生より = Maggie Sensei yori = From Maggie Sensei


= Snowy Sensei, Zoey Sensei arigatou!

= Thank you, Snowy Sensei and Zoey Sensei.


= Kono ressun wo yonde “shiru” to “wakaru” no tsukai kata ga wakaru you ni natte kuretara ureshii desu.

= I hope this lesson helped you understand the usages and differences between  “shiru” and “wakaru”..


I REALLY appreciate your support!  サポートありがとう! !CHECKHEART! 

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Audio Files for this lesson

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  1. いつもお世話になっております(^^)
    How do you say “I didn´t know your grandmother died” in a casual way?
    My attempt: お祖母さんは亡くなったを知らなかった。

    Тhank you!

  2. こんにちは
    How do you say in Japanese:

    “Who knows the meaning of this word?”
    “I do. I know the meaning of this word.”

    “Who understands the meaning of this word?”
    “I do. I understand the meaning of this word.”

    1. こんにちは、iji



  3. Hi Maggie Sensei.

    I really got confused why we use “Shiranai” instead of “Shitteinai” when you say “I don’t know”. I wonder what is the technical reason behind this.

    1. Hello Richmond-san,

      Affirmative form:
      You get some information (知る・知った)and you have been knowing the fact /having the information since that moment, so you can say 知っている。

      ↑知った       知っている

      The dot above is the point where someone got some information.

      The negative form is tricky.

      Since one gets the information instantaneously, you can’t describe the state with 知っていない
      You only can talk about whether one knows the fact or not. 知っている (knowing something) or not (知らない)

  4. 「百点だと思ったら、隣の子の答案用紙だったことがわかってぬか喜びに終わった。」

    Would the meaning change if ことがわかって was replaced with とわかって?

  5. Maggie先生、こんにちは!
    先生、いつも ありがとうございます。

    1. こんにちは


      2 implies the speaker has knows the fact for a while.

  6. Hello, Maggie Sensei
    Does this sentence “赦されることがあるのなら” mean “What if sometimes I can be forgiven”?

  7. Is 分かりました used, instead of 分かっています when talking about the present or past event in relation to present (wherein the focus is on present), even though it is a punctual/instant-state change/ stative verb, as when ている extends to it 分かる, it becomes from “to understand” to “to know”, wherein it starts acting like verb 知る? Which is an exception to this rule of ている (in case of perfectual aspect)

    本当にありがとう Maggie sensei for your quick response to queries, as these responses to my queries become a bigger part of my learning !!

    1. (I erased one of your comments)
      分かっています: You understood something in one point and have known that since then. So it will be strange to say that when someone just explained something. It sounds like “I already knew that.”
      You understood something right after someone explained so you say 分かりました。

      1. However Maggiesensei here I am not using the adverb もう, but 今 to say, Now, I know (Eng) and Now, I have known/understood it (literal)! So, will it still take 分かりました? ありがとう!!!

        1. Also that’s the point. You use 今 which indicates particular moment. When you use the verb わかる, there is a moment which you understood something.
          I hope sometime there is a moment you truly understand the difference..

          1. ありがとう 先生、私は今先生の答えが分かりました. The point is when I speak about the that I understood, I am not referring to the current state but the point back in time when I understood it (i.e. focus on past and not on present).

  8. Hi ! I really like your lessons and there is something I would like to ask you about this one .
    In the sentence
    “Watashi ni kare ga iru koto wo tomodachi wa mada shiranai” from this lesson, why does “ni” go after “watashi” instead of “wa ” ? Thanks for everything up to this point !

    1. Hello hoshi,

      You can say
      Watashi wa kare ga iru
      When you emphasize “watashi” you add “ni”
      Watashi niwa kare ga iru.

      Watashi wa yaru koto ga arimasu. = I have things to do.
      When you emphasize “watashi”, you say
      watashi niwa yaru koto ga arimasu.

  9. Hello, Maggie先生!
    I just want to ask how to use 知る and 分かる to differentiate the following situation.

    My colleagues (日本人) would often ask me if I know some Japanese words they use. My answer would either be:

    1) I know the kanji, but I don’t know the meaning.
    2) I am totally unfamiliar with the word.
    3) I know the meaning, but I can’t read the kanji.

    Sometimes, when I answer either 知りません or 分かりません, they assume that I just don’t understand Japanese. But I do, just not the whole thing.

    よろしくお願いします。m(_ _)m

    1. Hi Annie,

      You can use both 知る/わかる for 1) and 3)
      1) I know the kanji, but I don’t know the meaning.

      2) I am totally unfamiliar with the word.

      3) I know the meaning, but I can’t read the kanji.

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