In How should I choose between [知]{し}る and わかる? Derek asked about usage of 知る and 分かる. My tentative reply was made of examples (and their translations) that show either usage or explicit nuances, and a comment stating that unless one feels the difference, imitation was the key. His reply shows he didn't seem satisfied at all, while I think I answered his question.

My point is then: should askers tell whether they're looking after the reply of a linguist, or do they just want to be able to write/talk in Japanese? I based most of my knowledge of word usage on imitation and questions like "can I say A work in this precise context?", not on rules. To "what is the difference between A and B", I will always answer with examples, and I'd rather not be welcome with "If all you have is examples, I could have googled it myself."

So, how about a tag that would say "hey, I want a long and technical dissertation that tries to exhaustively map Japanese grammar to English grammar, rather that just examples, however carefully crafted to express particular common nuances and usages"?

3 Answers 3


People asking questions should, of course, always give the specifics of the answer they are looking for (if any). In general, this does not belong in a tag (unless the tag happens to give you context information, such as ).

That being said: it is perfectly alright for a question to have multiple answers, where one completes the other, or gives a different angle (e.g. example sentences vs. grammar rules).

While the person asking is the ultimate decider of what constitute the "accepted" answer to his question, the community is free to upvote other answers and they will show on top right after the accepted answer. This is what voting is for.

  • I'd rather not spend 30 minutes on an overkill answer, however useful and interesting it might be to others, and conversely, I'd rather be told "I could google that myself", however relevant the answer may be. Whatever kind of reply is made, it is time gracefully spent for someone else's (expected) benefit. Thus, I would really appreciate if the questions could be unambiguously asking for a kind of answer or another (or both).
    – Axioplase
    Jul 3, 2011 at 10:19
  • @Axioplase: That is how things work here, and I cannot see what you are uncomfortable with. Jul 3, 2011 at 22:50
  • @Tsuyoshe: That answers which do reply to the question but do not fulfil the expectations of the asker are welcome with "that's not what I asked for" or "useless" is rude. I doubt that it's how things are supposed to work.
    – Axioplase
    Jul 4, 2011 at 2:23
  • @Axuioplase: i think the problem here was that the person who answered the question was a little rude to complain about your answer. I'm perfectly fine with 2 answers. In that one answer is for linguists and another answer is for laymen. Jul 4, 2011 at 2:24
  • 2
    @Axioplase: nobody is denying that his response to your answer was a little rude. But that's a people problem, not a systemic one. The model of "the person asking the question should give reasonable details on what they expect, and are ultimately judge of what fits their question" is the way it works and there's no changing it. Once again, community votes can and will correct cases where the asker is incompetent and does not properly acknowledge a good answer. Your answer is not meant solely for the person asking, but for the community at large.
    – Dave
    Jul 4, 2011 at 2:45
  • Don't think I'm taking personally! Still, I'd rather avoid this kind of situations. It's mostly about how to ask a question.
    – Axioplase
    Jul 4, 2011 at 8:36
  • @Axioplase: If you want to know my impression, I thought that your answer was a little pretentious and even a little condescending to begin with, and I think that that is why Derek posted a comment which is indeed not exactly appropriate. I will not defend his comment at all, but I will not defend your answer either. Jul 4, 2011 at 21:09

So, how about a tag that would say "hey, I want a long and technical dissertation that tries to exhaustively map Japanese grammar to English grammar, rather that just examples, however carefully crafted to express particular common nuances and usages"?

No, that is not what a tag is for. If an asker wants that, he/she should state it in his/her own words in the question.


The reason I took issue with your answer, Axioplase, is because I specifically asked, "How do you know which to use when? Are there any rules to help you decide?" I wanted to be able to mentally separate the overlapping ideas of 知る and わかる by understanding how the Japanese mind approaches these two concepts. This was not a question where a one-paragraph answer would suffice, nor was it a question where a list of examples (however well crafted) sans explanation would work, either. Had you expanded your answer to explain why you used one over the other and perhaps attempted to codify these choices into manageable rules, I would have been much happier.

  • Well, I meant to say (1) in cases like the examples, it's systematic, (2) in the other cases, it works by mimicking, because natural languages are de facto not based on derivable rules. But don't worry, I do not make this story a personnal feud with you and me :)
    – Axioplase
    Jul 6, 2011 at 2:39
  • @Axioplase: I agree that imitation is a good way to learn a language, but everyone's different, and some people have to build mental scaffolding during the learning process. The fact that said rules are necessarily created ex post facto doesn't mean they're useless (cf. "i before e" rule in English). They're just one way of going about the process of learning a language. I wish I could naturally pick up and be able to explain differences in usage just by exposing myself to the language like you can, but as fate would have it, I ended up with a brain that works best with systems and rules. :) Jul 6, 2011 at 15:39

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