In the WeTV version of Three Body Problem (ep. 12, minute 12:31) Wang Miao tells  detective Shi Qiang not to smoke in front of Wang Miao's daughter.  While the detective hates being told not to smoke, he replies "知道了". Would that mean something different from saying "明白了"?  I wondered if maybe 知道了 suggests Shi Qiang will actually not smoke because he knows not to, and 明白了 might suggest he understands the request without agreeing to it. (in fact he starts to smoke three times but always gets interrupted so he never does smoke in front of her.)

4 Answers 4


知道了 = I know (your objection) now.

明白了 = I understand (the reason) now.

  • Thanks. But does one or the other of these mean Shi Qiang is more likely to do as Wang Miao asks? Feb 25 at 20:46
  • The likely full answer is "知道了, 我不在她面前抽就是了.", he's reluctant but will comply with the request. It's like he says "Okay, I hear you."
    – r13
    Feb 26 at 0:36
  • Thanks. But could 明白了 just as well mean he is reluctant but will comply? Feb 26 at 2:13
  • 2
    (我)明白了 = "I understand your point now (that is to protect your kid), I'll comply", it sounds more conciliatory than 知道了. In general, "知道了" is used when you feel you are forced to do something under pressure and you can't reject the request. 明白了 is used when you accept the reasoning behind the request and agree to comply with the request by heart.
    – r13
    Feb 26 at 3:46
  • 1
    @ColinMcLarty these types of subtlety are very context and person specific, so it may vary in the future. Here, with their relationship 明白 would make sense if it was something he genuinely didn't know and was okay to do. Here it is actually something everyone already knows, and he is reluctant as he is trying to destress etc. A bit similar to the subtetly of an english "okay" and a "fine" to anwer a request. the literal meaning of the two phrases doesn't make much difference itself.
    – zagrycha
    Feb 27 at 16:07

明白了 is translated as "I understand it now" (thank you for your help). It is usually used as a response to an explanation on a topic. One situation is when a student asks a question to the teacher. After the teacher give the student an explanation in detail, the student would say 明白了.

知道了 is translated as "I am informed about it" (you or someone told me about something). It is usually a short answer to a dialogue and wish to put an end to the conversation.


明白了 is a bit neutral. 知道了 is a bit negative. Together with the speaking tone, 知道了 means I know it and you don't need to tell me.

  • ... and you don't need to tell me again (or, again and again).
    – PdotWang
    Mar 2 at 18:25

知道了 and 明白了 both show that speaker knows the information others want him/her to know.

but 知道了 shows the speaker knows the fact/the information/the word others said.

明白了 shows the speaker understands the information behind the words.

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