How would I translate ""I know that I don't know" into Chinese?

I can translate the similar sentence "I know that you don't know" as 我知道你不知道. However, saying 我知道我不知道 sounds strange. What's the best way to translate it? Is there a sensible translation that preserves the grammatical structure in English, which has "I don't know" as the nominalized object of "I know"?

  • It is obvious that you know you don't know when you say "I don't know". Just say "我不知道" or "我并不知道" if you want to emphasize your ignorance on the subject.
    – 杨以轩
    Commented Oct 23, 2014 at 3:39

8 Answers 8


我意识到我不知道. I realize that I don't know.

我知道我不了解情况. I know I don't know the situation.


Classical answer: 知之为知之,不知为不知,是知也。

  • 5
    FYI for readers: This actually means "To know when you know and know when you do not--this is knowledge!". Also, it's fun to say fast. Commented Oct 22, 2014 at 18:10
  • It is not just classic, it is specifically Kongzi Analects, 2.17. Commented Jan 14, 2015 at 3:18
  • Plato possibly citing Socrates: Εν οίδα ότι ουδέν οίδα All I know is that I know nothing. translatum.gr/forum/index.php?topic=918.0
    – Gangosa
    Commented Dec 9, 2016 at 10:46

For me "我知道你不知道" and "我知道我不知道" both look funny on paper, but if you are talking to someone with proper context, these sentences are perfectly fine.

If you still feel a bit weird, its because the duplicate use of "知道". Repeated words sound more unnatural in Chinese than in English. In this case, you might want say "我知道我不懂" or "我知道我不了解", or better yet, "我知道我(在这方面)是无知的"。


You may say 我发现我竟然不知道 / 我发现原来我并不清楚 in a casual conversation.


我明白我不知道/我了解我不知道: I understand i don't know.


Maybe 对,我不知道。/是的,我不知道。 The first 我知道 is a confirm. So just make signs is enough.


From Grammar, this is right (Object Clause).

From meaning, you may get confused by “我知道我不知道……”. In fact, this statement can be reguarded like this following:

我 知道 (我不知道……)

Here “我不知道”是整体一个宾语从句(Object Clause)。Here I wanna emphasis that I see that I have no idea about something. And I know about myself very much that I cannot do something because of no ideas or……related things.

You can also reguard this as:



Limitless learning, Socrates knew he had a lot to learn!

出自 《庄子·内篇·养生主第三》,原文“吾生也有涯,而知也无涯。以有涯随无涯,殆已!已而为知者,殆而已矣!为善无近名,为恶无近刑,缘督以为经,可以保身,可以全生,可以养亲,可以尽年。”

Ars longa, vita brevis.

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