## Why do some people use 分からない, when they mean 知らない?

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Possible Duplicate:
How should I choose between [知]{し}る and わかる?

I often get puzzled when I ask a question and the other person says 分からない or 分からん, when they seem to understand but they don't have the answer. In which case I would expect them to say 知らない. Am I mistaken, or is this a nuance of Japanese?

Question was closed 2011-12-31T02:01:42.860

1“when they seem to understand” … the answer? I do not think that it is common for someone to understand an answer and not to have the answer at the same time. – Tsuyoshi Ito – 2011-12-28T14:35:30.690

@TsuyoshiIto : I think he is saying that they understood the question. – fefe – 2011-12-28T15:00:14.723

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It's subtle: If you want to be polite try to use わからない when possible because 知らない implies that you don't care. For example if you're asked "Have you seen my keys?" then it's nicer to say わからない. See for example here for a more detailed explanation. Hope this helps.

– Rudy the Reindeer – 2011-12-28T15:47:50.737

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– Questioner – 2011-12-28T16:01:16.933

5@fefe: I see. jjg: わからない does not mean 質問がわからない. It means 答えがわからない. わからない and 知らない do not correspond well to “I do not understand” and “I do not know” in English. – Tsuyoshi Ito – 2011-12-28T23:37:12.533

• 分かる: To subjectively grasp/accept the mechanism/reasoning/meaning behind something, or being able to handle/analyze/conclude something through thinking. As the kanji indicates, this verb is related to 分ける, which means 'to divide', which leads to 'analyzing'.
In case of a question given, if it is something you need to think of or if it is a question that you have heard for the first time (which is the majority of cases), then 分かる/分からない is appropriate. If it is something that you either simply know or not, then 知っている/知らない is appropriate (Be aware that it is not 知る/知らない).