Difference between 知らない and わからない in questions


With embedded questions saying, i don’t know whether x is y or whatever I’m not sure which verb to use.

I came across this sentence and when I translated i used 知らない but in the Japanese text 分からない was used.

I don’t know what Rupert is studying.

I put: 私はルパートさんが何を勉強しているか知らない。
I don’t know why i’m wrong haha
any help would be appreciated!

Firstly, where did you find the sentence and its translation?

I’m assuming you know the general difference between 知る and 分かる?

As far as I can tell, without any additional context, those two sentences (your translation and the one using 分かる) just have different meanings implied by the choice of 知る or 分かる and the one sentence isn’t enough for me to tell you why one feels better than the other.

知らない is used when you have no knowledge (知識) of something. 分からない implies that you don’t have the understanding of something, maybe that something is too confusing or just too weird for you.

Like Leebo, I’m very much questioning your source for that translation. Because that’s not exactly correct.

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My Japanese teacher explained it like this:

わからない: You thought about it, and come to the conclusion that you do not know the answer/can’t decide.
知らない: Plainly, you know that you do not know the answer, and do not have to think about it very much, or you are not expected to make a decision to come to an answer (like what you should eat, scheduling a meeting)

Further, if someone would ask you where you are gonna eat, when you should meet up etc, you should not use 知らない because that would have the nuance that you can’t even bother to care about the question, and is considered rude.


it was an extra challenge translation my teacher wrote to help with our exams.

It was the first line of the paragraph so the rest went like this:
"I don’t know what Rupert is studying. Even though we’ve been living together since
last October I still haven’t talked to him."
That’s the full paragraph but I think galaxy your explanation helps quite a lot. so wakaranai is probably used as he’s given it some thought and still doesn’t know. thanks :slight_smile:

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