Zhidao - Daily Mandarin Lesson

Saying "I Know"


When learning a new language and practicing it with native speakers, you often need to indicate your knowledge of the topic. In Mandarin you use zhīdao (know) and bù zhīdào (don’t know). These are used as you would expect if translated directly from English. If you get asked a question, the most natural way of saying you don't know is wǒ bù zhīdào (I don’t know).

Zhīdao is made up of two characters: 知道. The first character 知 (zhī) means "to know,” or “to be aware” and the second character 道 (dào) means “truth,” or “principle.” Dào also means “direction” or “path” and in this context it forms the first character of “Daoism” (Taoism). Pleas note that this word is also commonly pronounced with a neutral tone on the second syllable, so both zhīdao and zhīdào are common.

Examples of Zhidao

Qǐngwèn, sheí zhīdao nǎli yǒu yóujú?
請問, 誰知道哪裡有郵局?
请问, 谁知道哪里有邮局?
Excuse me, does anyone know where the post office is?
Wǒ bù zhīdào.
I don’t know.

There are more words that have a similar meaning in Mandarin, so let's look at how zhīdào related to words like 明白 (míngbai) and 了解 (liǎojiě). Both these are better translated as "understand", compared to just knowing about something. 明白 (míngbai) has the added meaning that something is not just understood, but also clear. This is typically used to ask if someone understands something that was just explained or to express that you understand what your teacher just explained. Zhīdào is more commonly used when you just want to say that you have noted a fact someone mentioned or that you're aware of something.

Update: This article was significantly updated by Olle Linge on May 7thth, 2016.

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Su, Qiu Gui. "Zhidao - Daily Mandarin Lesson." ThoughtCo, Aug. 26, 2020, thoughtco.com/zhidao-i-know-2279197. Su, Qiu Gui. (2020, August 26). Zhidao - Daily Mandarin Lesson. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/zhidao-i-know-2279197 Su, Qiu Gui. "Zhidao - Daily Mandarin Lesson." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/zhidao-i-know-2279197 (accessed March 20, 2023).