Example: 知らないよ in response to someone thinking you know, even though you don’t.

Using wikitionary for particle lookup, I found these 2 uses of よ that could fit the context:

  • indicating statement of certainty (I don't know, you know. / I'm certain that I don't know.)
  • indicating emphasis (I don’t know!)

There are also some other sources that say よ can be used to emphasize feeling (I really don't know), or to contradict (you thought I know, but I don't know).

Is it possible for multiple uses of a particle to be in use at the same time, or is there always one usage that's most correct?

  • 1
    FYI 知らないよ may also convey the "I warned you so don't blame me" nuance
    – dungarian
    Commented Oct 24, 2023 at 13:33
  • I'm not sure I understand what you mean by "at once" or "at the same time" here. Are you asking if one sentence-ending particle can carry multiple meanings in one utterance?
    – aguijonazo
    Commented Oct 24, 2023 at 21:35
  • @aguijonazo yes, you understood correctly. I might have gotten a bit too used to textbook example sentences that try to teach you one clear meaning at a time and started looking at real sentences like math problems, looking for that one solution. Commented Oct 24, 2023 at 22:30

1 Answer 1


It is impossible to unarguably classify the use of such words into a finite number of categories.

Have you ever wondered how many ways "hey" is used in English, and how it should be strictly categorized? If you look up an English dictionary, several usages of "hey" are listed. In some dictionaries, usages such as "hey expressing surprise" and "hey indicating lack of interest" might be listed, but such categorization differs from dictionary to dictionary. Of course this does not mean you can't use "hey" without knowing all of these.

The same is true for the particle よ. While some usages of よ can be clearly distinguished from others (e.g., vocative-よ is relatively distinct), the nuances of よ as a sentence-ending particle vary, and it is impossible to categorize them strictly. You cannot assume there is always only one correct definition when the number of definitions is indefinite in the first place.

  • 1
    Thank you, this explanation helps a lot. Think I got a bit too used to thinking in terms of rules, and trying to find the most applicable meaning all the time rather than just trying to get the general feel for it. Commented Oct 24, 2023 at 22:32

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