I came across several verbs meaning knowledge or skill about something.

I guess that 会 (simplified) / 會 (traditional) is used specifically to imply a skill, as in "他会说中文" - He can speak Chinese.

Whereas 认识 (認識) and 知道 imply knowledge of facts.

So far I found expressions such as "我不知道!" (I don't know!), "我认识他" (I know him), "他不认识路" (He doesn't know the way).

But, what's exactly the difference between 认识 and 知道? Are they synonyms?


Yes, they are.

The meaning of these two phrases is such close and are often used exchangeably on most occasions (correctly or not). However, in my opinion, the proper time to use 认识 is when the recognition is through tangible engagement. For example:

我认识他 means I know him. Because I've met, worked/studied/lived with, him before. Here, the words met, worked, studied, lived, are all describing a tangible act.

On the other hand, 我知道他 is a more comprehend statement that can mean all of the above, also including the case that you have never met the subject person (him) in person before, but seen him on somewhere, or heard of his name through someone before, so the recognition is through both tangible engagement/act and some ways that are intangible.

Now let's list some examples that 认识 is an inappropriate replacement for 知道:

我知道這件事. 我知道這條法規. 我知道他的想法.

Hope the above explanation makes sense and helps.

  • So, in short, 认识 implies intimate or empirical knowledge of sb/sth, while 知道 rather implies sth you've just heard of? – swrutra May 1 at 19:49
  • 1
    @swrutra Yes. 认识 through the past association/interaction with the subject person. Here, 认识 can be replaced by 知道. But it wouldn't be correct in reverse if you know the person merely through reading the news article, watching his show, also, coming to his party as a guest but the two of you have never been formally introduced. Hope this helps. – r13 May 1 at 20:31
  1. indicates ability. 認識 emphasises recognition (exposure). 知道 emphasises the possession of knowledge. Let us look at the following unfortunately similar examples:

    i. 你會這首歌嗎?

    ii. 你認識這首歌嗎?

    iii. 你知道這首歌嗎?

    Sentence i.: this inclines to mean 'Can you sing this song?' (There is understandably the omitted verb 'to sing') Of course by being able to sing you possess the knowledge (知道) about the song, but this sentence emphasises whether you have the ability to sing it.

    Sentence ii.: this inclines to mean 'Do you recognise this song?' That is to say, the asker expects the recipient to have already been exposed to this song elsewhere.

    Sentence iii.: this inclines to mean 'Do you have knowledge about this song?' There is no emphasis on prior exposure (of course by being knowledgeable on something, logically, one has to be exposed to it, but this is not the emphasis of the verb 知道 per se), the asker is simply interested to know if the recipient knows or understands the existence of the song (in this case, it functions similarly to 認識), or the content of the song. Or even the knowledge of the singer / composer / lyricist. That is to say, 知道 has the broadest and most general sense and is expectedly used most frequently in modern Chinese.

  2. In the case of people (Dr Sun Yat-sen in the following examples):

    i. *你會孫中山嗎? / *你會認識/知道孫中山嗎?

    ii. 你認識孫中山嗎?

    iii. 你知道孫中山嗎?

    functions best when prefixing a skill (游泳 'swimming', 唱歌 'singing', 寫作 'writing'). There is no possible verb candidate (not even 認識 or 知道 because they are not exactly skills) in sentence i.

    The word 認識 has also developed to mean 'to know each other' (相識) over time. So unless you are a contemporary of Dr Sun or a time traveller, sentence ii. usually does not make any sense. That is to say, it is nonsensical but not ungrammatical. (Of course, you may argue there is some sense in a pedagogical setting – when asking if students recognise this historical figure based on the assumption of prior learning exposure. But in general, this sentence is slightly odd.)

    Sentence iii. merely asks if you are knowledgeable about Dr Sun Yat-sen (not the other way around, the asker is not interested in that). His existence, his life etc. That is why it emphasises unilateral knowledge, as mentioned in this answer.

  3. Finally,

    i. 你們認識嗎?

    ii. 你們知道嗎?

    Sentence i. means 'Do you two know each other?'. The omitted object is ‘each other’ (對方/彼此). Because of expected mutuality, you can only use sentence i.

    Because of unilaterality of 知道, sentence ii. cannot be used to say 'Do you two know each other?'. It only means rhetorically 'Did you two know?', the omitted object being something else.

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