Wild Nihongo!


わかる Japanese Grammar Lesson

Grammar Type: Potential Verb

Essential Meaning: To understand

Construction: Potential Verb


  • The basic meaning of わかる (かる in kanji) is “To understand“, but there are some noteworthy nuances to keep in mind. Firstly, かる is a potential form verb, meaning that かる technically indicates one’s potential or ability to understand something. It also means that there is no potential form conjugation of かる (i.e. かれる is ungrammatical).
  • かる typically follows the ~は~が sentence structure, in which the experiencer is marked by and the thing that is understood is marked by . The understander can also optionally take the に (Existence) particle in addition to .
    • E.g. わたしにはこの言葉ことばかる。[As for me, I understand these words.]
  • One exception to this ~は~が structure is that when the sentence involves conscious effort to comprehend something (as opposed to spontaneous comprehension). In such cases, the particle is used to mark the object of comprehension.
    • E.g. おやちいさい子供こどもからせるのはむずかしい。[It’s hard to make a small child comprehend the death of a parent.]
    • E.g. ジャックはリンダの気持きもちをかろうとしない。[Jack does not make an effort to understand Linda’s feelings.]
  • There is a subtle difference between かるand る [To know]. Namely, かる indicates a process of understanding, whereas indicates a state of knowing or an act of receiving raw information from an outside source. In other words, かる involves the process of finding out, understanding, or comprehending something, and る involves the transmission and receipt of raw, discrete information that does not need to be analyzed or unpacked.
    • E.g. 友達ともだちいて大野おおの結婚けっこんのことをっていた。[I knew about Ono’s marriage by hearing it from a friend.] This sentence involves a mere transmission of information rather than a process of understanding or reasoning. Therefore, is the appropriate verb choice.
    • E.g. よくかんがえればかります。[If you think hard, you’ll understand.] This sentence involves a deliberate act of consideration and reasoning. Therefore, かる is the appropriate verb choice.
    • E.g. A: いくらかりますか?B: はい、調しらべればかります。[A: Do you know how much it is? B: Yes, if I look it up I can figure it out.]
    • E.g. こんばんなにをするつもりですか?まだかりません。[A: What are you planning to do this evening: B: I haven’t figured that out yet.]

Example Sentences:

わたしにはこの言葉ことばからない。[As for me, I don’t understand these words.]

わたしはこの映画えいが意味いみからない。[I don’t understand this movie’s meaning.]

この問題もんだいむずかしくてかりません。[This problem is difficult, so I don’t understand it.]

明日あしたまでにこの仕事しごとができるかどうかわかりません。[I’m not sure whether I will be able to finish this job by tomorrow.]

A: 田中たなかさんをっていますか B: っていますが、あのひとはどうもよくかりません。[A: Do you know Tanaka-san? B: I know him, but he is somehow incomprehensible to me.]

WILD Examples:

At 0:18, listen for this line: からないことばかりさ [There’s nothing but things that I can’t understand.] The context here is that Tarzan has just encountered fellow humans, and he wants to learn more about them.
At 0:27, listen for this line: かがやほしながれるくも名前なまえかれてもからない [As for the shining stars and the streaming cloud…if I were asked what their names are, I would have no idea.]

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