知りません vs 分かりません

Question here.

When I’ve been conversing with people on HelloTalk I’ve been told that 知りません can come off as a little cold and that I should use 分かりません instead. But, from what I’ve read they don’t carry the same meaning. 知りません means that you don’t know and 分かりません means you don’t understand. Are these more interchangeable in Japanese? I found this ARTICLE HERE but a lot of what I’ve read is wishy-washy both ways.

Anyone who lives in Japan and talks with Natives all the time have an opinion? Maybe someone with a Japanese girlfriend and speaks less formally often?? Someone who’s online right now??? :wink:

Edit: I was hinting at @Leebo . Your opinion would be much appreciated. Though I’d appreciate anyone’s thoughts on this matter.

4 Likes

Haha…

Well, I’ve heard the same thing, and I think it basically goes like this… yes, they are not the same and that’s part of why you hear that 知りません or 知らない comes off as cold.

It basically means that you have no knowledge of whatever it was you were asked. It’s blunt.

分かりません means that you have considered something and do not understand, so I can see how that softens the bluntness. You gave it a shot, but you can’t answer.

But there are people who do know grammar and nuance better than I do.

I don’t think this means you can’t ever say 知りません. It just means think about your body language and what else you say when you use it.

6 Likes

From a little research I did earlier for a question about 分かる vs 理解する, it seems like 知りません means “I don’t know” specifically, while 分かりません can also mean “I don’t know,” but has various other meanings/usages as well.

Umm…though I don’t have much IRL Japanese experience…just lots and lots of anime mostly. From which I can also say, I can definitely see how 知りません seems colder somehow…like it’s more final/definite–“I don’t know,” whereas maybe 分かりません is closer to, “I’m not aware of it.”

2 Likes

Thanks for the responses. It’s funny how this is the hardest thing I’ve been trying to wrap my head around in Japanese. This video is interesting as well.

At one point I was also told I could add よく to soften it more. よくわからない。

2 Likes

Yeah, that would do that.

But I certainly don’t understand why that person made that video.

That makes sense. Like “I don’t really know” vs. “I don’t know.”

1 Like

And if you want to go for optimal bluntness, I recommend 知らん

This often gets translated as “who cares” heh

7 Likes

Neither do I. :laughing:

I just thought it was interesting that they translation they assumed was 分かりません for “I don’t know”.

I have a feeling this is very casual, just like “who cares”.

Oh, yeah, it’s beyond casual. It’s outright rude.

1 Like

You wouldn’t know anything about that, right?

:roll_eyes:

1 Like

Of course not! :slight_smile:

1 Like

Alrighty. Thanks for the help guys. :blush:

I’ve also heard of “知るか” which is like “who cares” and is very blunt too. When Yukiteru said it to Yuno in Mirai Nikki, it sounded pretty badass.

1 Like

Yeah adding the か really gives the feeling of “How the hell should I know?”

1 Like

Congratulations. You guys have given me the ability to sound more rude. :laughing:

6 Likes

It’s worth noting that although 知らない can be a little cold, sometimes it is the right choice. It distances you a little bit from knowing, like saying “I wouldn’t know”. For example, someone was describing a certain person I had heard about but never met. They were saying that that person was kind of overweight. I commented 「知らない」, because it’s something I didn’t have any idea about and it’s not something that pertains to me to comment about.

And then there are situations where it doesn’t make logical sense to say 分からない, for example when someone asks when you know of something, like a book, or a place. (—この映画知ってる?—いいえ、知らない).

3 Likes

I say 知らん all the time :stuck_out_tongue:

Mostly because whenever I need to say I don’t know I’m speaking to 12 year olds or under and do a huge exaggerated shrug at the same time (a lot of my students also aren’t receptive to strictness or politeness and are often very bratty). Also, my work places are very casual, but it’s not something I’d say to my Vp or Principal. Our VP has scolded the music teacher (who is quite feminine as it is) that she isn’t speaking ‘lady like enough’ :cold_sweat:

Edit 24/7: Male coworker scolded me for saying 知らん because it’s ‘mans talk’. I think he was just being difficult for the sake of it (he was saying no to everything else I asked him to do and being generally unhelpful). All the kids rolled their eyes when he said I couldn’t say it :stuck_out_tongue:

My teacher when I studied abroad often said adding か made it sound like yakuza talk :zipper_mouth_face:

But yeah, soften things with よく and わからない is more polite and open.

3 Likes

Make it roll and you’ll sound like one of those anime gang members with the tube sock hair also :wink:

1 Like

To the best of my knowledge, 知る is used for knowing ABOUT things. You wouldn’t say セーラームーンが分かる? because it sounds like you’re asking if the person understands what “Sailor Moon” means. You would, however, ask セーラムーンを知っている?and the correct response would be ああ!知っている! or ええ?知らない。with a look of disgust as your boyfriend realizes that you’re one of THOSE white people who’re into stupid anime series.

(Note, while the affirmative is in the -ている form, the negative would be in just the -ない form. I have no idea why, but that’s how it seems to be.)

I think 知る is also used when talking about knowledge of happenings. 田中さんが結婚するのを知っている?ーーええ?!知らなかった!Did you know about Tanaka getting married? --Huh!? I didn’t know!

When you hear surprising news, I think you say 知らなかった in the past because it WAS unknown, but now you know it.

I think 分かる is used more for knowing the answer to something or understanding something/figuring something out. Also, remember, that 分かる uses が, meaning the thing itself is being/not being understood, whereas 知る uses を, meaning you are the one doing the knowing or unknowing. I think this is why 知る appears more direct and sometimes rude.

Anyway, this is from personal experience with a Japanese partner and Japanese friends. Hope it helps! :smiley:

6 Likes