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Know vs. Understand: What's the Difference?

Edited by Janet White || By Harlon Moss || Published on December 17, 2023
Knowing is being aware of or having information about something, while understanding is comprehending the meaning or reason behind that information.

Key Differences

To know something means to have factual information or awareness about it. Understanding goes deeper, implying a grasp of the significance or underlying principles of that information.
Knowing can involve memorizing facts or recognizing something. Understanding requires integrating those facts into a coherent whole, grasping how they interrelate.
You can know a concept by its definition but understanding it means being able to explain it or apply it in various contexts. Understanding often involves insight or intuition beyond just knowledge.
Knowing is often the first step, a prerequisite to understanding. One can know many facts yet not truly understand them.
In education, a student may know the formula for calculating area but understanding it involves knowing why and how it works in different geometric contexts.

Comparison Chart


Having information or awareness about something
Comprehending the meaning or reason behind information


Surface level, factual
Deeper, conceptual


Recognizing or recalling information
Applying and explaining information in various contexts


Often memorization or acquaintance
Involves insight, reasoning, and interpretation

Educational Perspective

Learning facts or data
Grasping the principles or concepts underlying facts

Know and Understand Definitions


To have knowledge or information in one's mind.
I know the capital of France.


To interpret or view something in a particular way.
I understand his perspective as logical.


To have developed a relationship with someone through meeting and spending time with them.
I know him from school.


To perceive the intended meaning of words, a language, someone, etc.
I understand Spanish.


To be aware of through observation, inquiry, or information.
I know about the history of Rome.


To infer something from information received.
I understand that the meeting is at noon.


To be absolutely certain or sure about something.
I know I locked the door.


To comprehend how something works or operates.
I understand the principles of physics.


To recognize someone or something as previously seen, heard, etc.
I know that song!


To empathize or sympathize with someone.
I understand your feelings on this matter.


To perceive directly; grasp in the mind with clarity or certainty.


To become aware of the nature and significance of; know or comprehend
She understands the difficulty involved.


To regard as true beyond doubt
I know she won't fail.


To become aware of the intended meaning of (a person or remark, for example)
We understand what they're saying.
We just disagree with it. When he began describing his eccentric theories, we could no longer understand him.


What does it mean to know something?

Knowing means being aware of or having information about something.

Can you know something without understanding it?

Yes, it's possible to know something without fully understanding it.

Is understanding more complex than knowing?

Yes, understanding is generally more complex as it involves deeper comprehension.

What does it mean to understand something?

Understanding means grasping the meaning, significance, or reason behind information.

Can understanding lead to better knowledge?

Yes, understanding can deepen and enrich one's knowledge.

Is knowing just related to facts?

Knowing often involves facts but can also include recognition and acquaintance.

Is understanding an active process?

Understanding is an active process that involves reasoning and interpretation.

Does understanding enhance problem-solving skills?

Yes, understanding enhances the ability to solve problems creatively.

Does understanding require context?

Yes, understanding often requires context and the ability to see the bigger picture.

Can you measure knowing?

Knowing can be measured through recall or recognition tests.

How do you measure understanding?

Understanding is measured by the ability to explain or apply information.

Is knowing sufficient for academic success?

While knowing is important, academic success often requires understanding.

Can you improve your understanding of a topic?

Yes, through study and application, one can improve understanding.

Do you need to know something to understand it?

Typically, basic knowledge is a prerequisite to understanding.

Is knowing a passive process?

Knowing can be passive, such as recognizing something familiar.

Why is it important to both know and understand?

Knowing provides the foundation, while understanding enables effective application and deeper insight.

Is knowing more about memorization?

Knowing often involves memorization, especially of facts.

Is it easier to know or to understand?

It is generally easier to know than to understand, as understanding requires deeper cognitive processing.

Does understanding require critical thinking?

Yes, understanding typically requires critical thinking and analysis.

How do teachers ensure students understand?

Teachers use various methods like discussion, application, and analysis.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.

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