The difference between “知道(zhīdào)” and “认识(rènshi)”

Correct Answer: A

In the Chinese language, both “知道(zhīdào)” and “认识(rènshi)” can be used to indicate “to know.” However, they are actually used to express quite different meanings, especially in the two situations below.

Situation 1: “知道(zhīdào)” someone ≠ “认识(rènshi)” someone

“知道(zhīdào)” someone means that you know of a person, that you are generally aware of his or her name, appearance, status and some other basic details, but you have not met in-person. “认识(rènshi)” represents a higher degree than “知道(zhīdào)”, which implies that both sides are acquainted with each other and have actually met.


A: zhīdào zúqiú míngxīng David Beckham ma?
A: 你 知道 足球   明星       David Beckham 吗?

A: Do you know the football star David Beckham?

B:zhīdào tā!
B:我   知道 他!

B:I know him!

Hěn gāoxìng rènshi nǐ!
很    高兴       认识 你!

Nice to meet you.

rènshi Linda, tā shì wǒde dàxué tóngxué.
我   认识 Linda,  她 是   我的  大学    同学。

I’m acquainted with Linda. She is my university classmate.

Situation 2: “知道(zhīdào)” something ≠ “认识(rènshi)” something

In Chinese, to “知道(zhīdào)” something means you already know about a fact, an object, a thing, a piece of news, a certain place, etc. To “认识(rènshi)” something implies a level of understanding that goes beyond “知道(zhīdào)”, indicating that you are deeply familiar with something. Besides, “认识(rènshi)” also has the meaning of realizing or recognizing.


zhīdào Lǐ Méi de dìzhǐ ma?
知道 李 梅   的 地址  吗?

Do you know Li Mei’s address?

Wǒ bù zhīdào zhège xiāoxi.
我   不  知道 这个    消息。

I don’t know the news.

rènshi zhège hànzì.
我   认识 这个    汉字。

I am familiar with this character.

Betty méiyǒu rènshi dào tāde cuòwù.
Betty 没有      认识 到   她的  错误。

Betty didn’t realize her mistakes.

To recap, as in the test at the start, just because you “知道(zhīdào), to know” someone, doesn’t necessarily mean you “认识(rènshi), be acquainted with” him or her. However, if you “认识(rènshi), be acquainted with” him or her, you certainly must “知道(zhīdào), to know” him or her. So, the answer is A.

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