Take the 2-minute tour ×
Chinese Language Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for students, teachers, and linguists wanting to discuss the finer points of the Chinese language. It's 100% free, no registration required.

了解, 明白, and 知道 seem to be fairly synonymous in Mandarin, but there does seem to be some subtle differences between them.

What exactly is the difference? When should I use each one? Could you give me an example sentence to show when each of these terms would be the most appropriate?

share|improve this question
add comment

3 Answers 3

up vote 7 down vote accepted

知道 means you just know something, you don't need to understand it. 了解, you understand it. 明白, you understand something, and have a clear idea of what it is about.

I think the order of them is: 知道<了解<=明白

for 了解, it can also means 'to investigate'. e.g 小白, 你去了解一下这事情怎么发生的.

share|improve this answer
add comment

知道 = Know

了解 = Know clearly

明白 = Know completely

share|improve this answer
add comment

知道 = to Know, verb

了解 = to understand, verb

明白 = to be clear, adjective

share|improve this answer
2  
That doesn't seem exactly accurate, given things like the well-known song lyrics, "明明白白我的心“ and sentences like "他对这个题目的了解..." in which 了解 does not behave like a noun. –  Terry Waltz Jan 25 '12 at 20:01
    
I read "明明白白我的心“ as 我的心 is 明明白白, but you are right, 了解 can be used as a noun. good call. –  Laguna Jan 25 '12 at 20:28
    
Actually now I'm contemplating over this, I think 明白 can be used as verb too, as in 明白事理。 –  Laguna Jan 25 '12 at 20:30
    
I've heard people asking, "你明白嗎?" to mean "do you understand?" in Taiwan. –  Terry Waltz Jan 27 '12 at 3:46
    
lol and +1 at 明明白白我的心 in this context, @Terry Waltz =) –  magnetar Jan 29 '12 at 19:51
add comment

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.