Is there a difference between 理解する、and 分かる? They all seem to mean "understand" but I cannot figure their difference:

Here is some context:


They understood each other better than anyone else.
  • Your question seems a bit too vague, if you look up the three words in a dictionary you'll see that they are clearly different, especially 把握.
    – user36788
    Commented Mar 8, 2020 at 1:12
  • OK Ben I reformulated the question so its domain is more narrow
    – Makoto
    Commented Mar 8, 2020 at 6:34
  • OK I'll try to answer, but there is a duplicate here: japanese.stackexchange.com/questions/33826/…
    – user36788
    Commented Mar 8, 2020 at 6:45

1 Answer 1


理解する is very close to わかる in one of its meanings, to understand something.

人の気持ちを理解する - OK

人の気持ちがわかる - OK

理解する is transitive and takes を whereas わかる takes が. 理解する is a kango (漢語) word consisting of a kanji pair plus suru, so it tends to be used in more formal contexts.

The use of わかる and わからない to mean "know/don't know" is not interchangeable with 理解する:

brother: 僕のカギどこ?

sister: わからない - OK

brother: 僕のカギどこ?

sister: 理解しない・理解できない - wrong or at least strange-sounding

  • Could you add an example where わかる doesn't work but 理解する does? Would help me a lot, thanks Commented Jan 23, 2023 at 14:56

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