I don’t know in Japanese

How to say I don’t know in Japanese is one of the common questions.


Before answering the question, let’s think about the question of ‘ do you know~?’. Actually we use the form as’ te-form + います’ because you have a remaining condition of the actions after you have already done. In the following case, you have gotten to know A-san already and now you know A-san.


わたし:Aさんを しっていますか。

( Do you know A-san?)


( Yes I know him. He is working for HR, right?)


(That’s right, A-san in HR)

じゃ、Bさんを しっていますか。

( Do you know B-san then?)


( I don’t know)


(B-san, engineer)

たなかさん:しりませんね。エンジニアとは あまり はなしませんから。

(I don’t know, because I barely speak with engineer )

For answering the question, what form should we use? We use しりません as a negative answer, because the things has not yet happened at this moment. Thus しっていません is an wrong answer.

However we have to keep in mind that しりません is more likely to be used as literally ‘ I don’t know’ but in the following situation, you would not use しりません. Please use わかりません instead.


わたし:Aさんは どこか しっていますか。

(Do you know where A-san is?)


( I don’t know)

Because if you use しりません in above case, you sound like ‘ you have no interest in your questions, and also you are not even trying to think about that for him/her.’

Let’s take a look one more example.

母:なにが たべたい?

( what do you want to eat?)


( I don’t know)

Now you know two types of ‘ I don’t know’ in Japanese!

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