I remember reading a bit about this topic in the answer of another post, but I specifically wanted to make this its own question:

It seems to make sense that "to know" is typically 知っている, because 知る by itself only means something along the lines of "to get to know". But going with that meaning, I can't quite grasp the logic behind "not knowing" being 知らない as opposed to, let's say, 知っていない.

Is there a good explanation for this? For example, 知る actually having a much broader meaning than what I described?


1 Answer 1


This is easy to misunderstand because the Vている form can mean a few things. Here are two that you're probably aware of:

  1. Doing something or a continuous activity i.e.: running 走っている, eating 食べている, walking 歩いている, thinking 考えている
  2. A state i.e.: the door is open ドアが開いている, the cup is broken コップが割れている(われている)

It might be easier to think of 知っている as a verb that falls under the 1st category. As it's a continuous activity, then you can't be in a certain state if you haven't started it (i.e if you don't know something). I hope this makes sense!

Also, once you know something, you can't un-know it or stop knowing it. So while you can say to express the current state of something:


...It would be strange to say 知っていない。


生徒1: 先生はどこに行ったのか、知っている?


Note that 知らなかった is used, not 知っていなかった。This also reflects the verb being a continuous activity.

N.B. Just to make things more confusing, all of the below are used in Japanese and I just memorised them after failing to find a good explanation:
わかる (to understand)
わからない (negative form)
わかっていない (te-iru form)

  • I have to stop editing this...Such a difficult (but very good) question!
    – user65218
    Jul 18, 2019 at 17:37
  • I appreciate it!
    – Kaskade
    Jul 19, 2019 at 8:43
  • But yet there are sentences like 「彼女はまだ、自分がなぜこの席へ呼び出されたのか知っていないらしい。」『犬神家の一族』1972
    – By137
    Jul 19, 2019 at 16:23
  • @By137 Haha yes...When I see stuff like, I just assume it's just a quirk (that the reader won't need to think too much about) or something that got missed in editing (unlikely but you never know).
    – user65218
    Jul 21, 2019 at 15:03

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