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Why does sometimes mean how?

is a question word in Chinese that means "which" or "how".

meaning "which" is something you'll often run into. For instance, you'll hear used when you're being asked to pick something or to identify something, as in the following question:

杯子 ? Which glass is mine?

When used to mean "which", is usually followed by a measure word + a noun.

But, when you look at the different meanings of , its other meaning is more puzzling: "how".

How does mean how?

"How" is an idiomatic meaning of , which is mainly used in this expression: 知道 How should I know? / How would I know?

知道 is usually something you'll say when someone asks you a question that you really don't know how to answer or that you simply don't want to answer. Generally speaking, this expression is regarded as a defensive or defiant way to say "I don't know"; "I have no idea".

See how means "how" in context

These two example dialogues should make the use of as "how" and the use of 知道 clearer:

in a dialogue at work

A: 知道 上周 发生 什么
Nǐ zhīdào tā shàng zhōu fāshēng shénme shìle ma?
Do you know what happened to him last week?

B: 上周 不在 办公室, 知道
Wǒ shàng zhōu bùzài bàngōngshì, wǒ nǎ zhīdào?
How should/would I know since I wasn't in the office last week ?

in a dialogue at school

A: 数学 答案 什么
Zhè dào shùxué tí de dá'àn shì shénme? What is the answer to this math exercise?

B: 知道 数学 一窍不通
Wǒnǎzhīdào? Wǒ duì shùxué yīqiàobùtōng.
How should/would I know? I know nothing about math.

Note: 一窍不通 (yī qiào bù tōng): is a Chinese idiom which means "to know nothing about", "to lack the slightest knowledge of".

So? Is everything clearer now? Do you understand how sometimes mean how? We hope you do!

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