How to say “I Know” in Japanese – Casual & Formal Ways

In this lesson, we learn how to say “I know” in Japanese. Like the English words “know” and “understand,” there are more than one words in Japanese to describe the situation that we are aware of something or what we comprehend.

A smiling man wearing blue cardigan with his index finger pointing up to a lightbulb

Let’s find out the detailed meanings and correct usage of  “I know” in Japanese!

Japanese Words for “I Know”/ “I Understand”

There are different ways to express that you know something in the Japanese language. We’ve listed them down below.

Casual ways of saying “I Know” in Japanese

There are two verbs for the English expression “know” and “understand” in the Japanese language. Here are the detailed definitions and phrase examples.

  • しる (Shiru | 知る | to know)
  • わかる (Wakaru | 分かる、解る、判る | to know, to understand)

しる (Shiru | 知る)

Japanese people use the word しる (Shiru | 知る) when they know something. This expression is similar to “know” in English, though additional meanings can apply.

English Translation for しる (Shiru)

  1. to acknowledge, to have knowledge
  2. to notice, to sense
  3. to grasp, to become conscious of
  4. to be familiar with things, to remember something
  5. to experience, to acquire
  6. to learn, to get used to something
  7. to get to know
  8. to be responsible for something

Sentence Examples:

あのひとをしっています (Ano hito wo shitteimasu | あの人を知っています)

I know that person.

はじをしれ! (Haji wo sire! | 恥を知れ!)

Shame on you!

それはわたしのしったことではない (Sore wa watashi no shitta koto de wa nai | それは私の知ったことではない)

That’s not my concern.

わかる (Wakaru | 分かる、判る、解る)

Japanese people use the word わかる (Wakaru | 分かる、判る、解る) in three different ways. It’s often written in ひらがな (Hiragana | 平仮名) and not in かんじ (Kanji | 漢字) because the meanings slightly differ in each form.

The Kanji 分かる is the most general form to use for “know” and “understand” in the Japanese language, and it can cover multiple circumstances. However, the other Kanji 解る and 判る are a little more specific.

When you comprehend something as a consequence of thinking logically, 解る is the correct expression. On the other hand, 判る is used for the situation after facts, meanings, and distinctions are clarified.

English Translation for わかる (Wakaru)

  1. to distinguish, to understand
  2. to become clear, to answer
  3. to be sensible, have a keen insight
  4. to get separated

Sentence Examples:

わたしはにほんごがわかりません (Watashi wa nihongo ga wakarimasen | 私は日本語が分かりません)

I don’t understand Japanese.

このじゅくごのいみはわかる? (Kono jukugo no imi wa wakaru? | この熟語の意味は解る?)

Do you understand the meaning of this idiom?

ひがいしゃのみもとがわかったようです (Higaisha no mimoto ga wakattayou desu | 被害者の身元が判ったようです)

It seems that the victim has been identified.

Synonym and Related Verb

Below are different Japanese verbs that are synonymous with the verbs “to know” or “to understand” in Japanese.

If you’d like to learn more verbs in Japanese, you can refer to this article.

Formal ways of saying “I Know” in Japanese

The word しる (Shiru | 知る) and わかる (Wakaru | 分かる、判る、解る) could be inappropriate in certain formal situations. In those cases, the following words are preferred.

This change depends on the context and whom you’re talking to, so it would be complicated to study in a short time. Thus, we introduce you to the most common phrases here. Just remember, if a phrase finishes with ですます (Desu-Masu | ですます), it’s already good enough for casual conversations.

Japanese words for “I Know”/ “I Understand” in phrases

Now that you know the words used to express “I know” and “I understand” in Japanese, we’ll move on to the next level. Below are phrases that you can use for practice, categorized as positive, negative, and question phrases.

Positive Phrases

Here are the positive phrases that you can use related to saying “I know” in Japanese.

Negative Phrases

Below you can find the negative phrases. These phrases relate to not understanding or knowing about the topic at hand.

What? Don't you know that? え?そんなことも知らないの?え?そんなこともしらないの? E? Sonna koto mo shiranai no?
I didn't understand well, could you say it again? よく分からなかったので、もう一度言ってくれますか? よくわからなかったので、もういちどいってくれますか? Yoku wakaranakatta node, mou ichido itte kuremasu ka?
I was driving a car, so I didn't immediately know/notice that there was an earthquake 車を運転していたので、地震があったことがすぐに判りませんでした くるまをうんてんしていたので、じしんがあったことがすぐにわかりませんでした Kuruma wo untenshiteita node, jishin ga atta koto ga suguni wakarimasendeshita
I didn't know such news そんなニュースは知らなかった そんなニュースはしらなかった Shirana nyuusu wa shiranakatta
This question is too difficult for me to understand/answer この問題は難しすぎて、私には解らない このもんだいはむずかしすぎて、わたしにはわからない Kono mondai wa muzukashi sugite, watashi niwa wakaranai

Question Phrases

Lastly, here are also some phrases that you can use to ask questions related to “know” in Japanese.

To help you ask questions better, learning about the question words in Japanese can be very helpful.

Do you know this Kanji? この漢字、知ってる? このかんじ、しってる? Kono Kanji, shitteru?
Do you understand Japanese? 日本語はわかりますか? にほんごはわかりますか? Nihongo wa wakarimasuka?
Don't you know where my bag is? 私のかばんがどこか知りませんか? わたしのかばんがどこかしりませんか? Watashi no kaban ga doko ka shirimasenka?

Listening Tips

In Japanese, there are some words called いぬきことば (I-Nuki Kotoba | い抜き言葉 | words omitting “I” sound), and the change of sounds named おんびん (Onbin | 音便 | euphonic change). You might hear the following phrases regularly because it’s common in casual conversations.

I know it * 知ってるよ しってるよ Shitteru yo
Come on, so you know about it ** なんだ、わかってんじゃん なんだ、わかってんじゃん Nanda, wakatten jan
I didn't know, but seriously? *** 知らなかったんだけど、本当? しらなかったんだけど、ほんとう? Shiranakatta n dakedo, hontou?

*I-Nuki Kotoba

**I-Nuki Kotoba and colloquial expression


Wrap Up

That’s it for how to say “I know” and “I understand” in Japanese. Have some time for practice, and you’ll soon find yourself easily answering questions if you know about something!

Now on to the next word to learn! How about learning how to say “Don’t worry” in Japanese, next? Practice speaking Japanese every day and see the difference.

がんばっ てください (Ganbatte kudasai!)! ^^

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