Pretending Not to Know – ふり

Have you ever come across the word ふり before? It’s used in a variety of situations to show pretense or false behaviour. Today’s phrase we’ll focus on then is 知らんぷり – pretending not to know something. You’ll also learn about the mysterious ん slotted in there!


こまります! じてんしゃ おきざり、 しらんぷり

First up then, the big word in red – 困ります. To be troubled or inconvenienced by something. In this notice, the emphasis is on the inconvenience, specifically everyone’s inconvenience. The term can sometimes be tricky to interpret as, like many words, there is no one direct translation that fits every sentence. The best thing to do when trying to figure out how best to say the same thing in English is to focus on the feeling of being troubled or inconvenienced. Imagine the same situation happening in an English-speaking country and how you would express those same feelings in a natural way. Consider:


みちが わからなくて こまった。

‘I was troubled because I didn’t know the roads’ would certainly get the message across, but it doesn’t sound very smart. Instead we could say ‘I was at a loss for which way to go’ or simply ‘I was lost’. Another similar phrase:



Would be ‘that’s troubling (for me)’, but it doesn’t sound very natural. This single word is often uttered when somebody is thinking or dwelling on a matter in Japanese – to a certain extent, they are suffering. The extended な (a male equivalent of the particle ね) is used to add emphasis in spoken Japanese. ‘What should we do..?’ or perhaps even just a sigh like ‘Ahh…’ would suffice.

Anyway, back to the sign.

自転車 is ‘bicycle’ and the verb 置く ‘to put’. 置く is combined with 去る – ‘to leave’ or ‘to depart’ making ‘put and leave’ or simply ‘abandoning something’. In this case we understand it means leaving bicycles in such a way that it causes inconvenience. It seems that the notice is trying to kill two birds with one stone, because it isn’t only talking about truly abandoned bicycles, but also bicycles that are temporarily left in places where they shoudn’t be parked.

知らんぷり then is made up of 知る – ‘to know’ and ふり – ‘pretend’. A couple of interesting changes are happening here though, mainly for added emphasis and to make it easier to pronounce.

Firstly ん is used in place of ない – the negative form of the verb. This happens quite often in regional dialects and slang speech and has something of a curt sound to it: 図書館はどこにあるか知ってる? –知らん! (Do you know where the library is? –Nope!) Best to take care when using it and the tone of your voice.

Secondly, ふり becomes ぷり in this case because 知らんぷり is more of a fixed expression (although it is based on the standard usage of ふり). You might think of 知らんぷり as ‘feigned ignorance’, a shortened form of 知らないふりをする – to pretend not to know. A similar phrase 知らん顔 (しらんかお) – an unconcerned face – is used to express the same thing.

A few more examples for reference:

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10 Responses to Gakuu. Studying with Real Japanese

  1. Sabrina September 29, 2010 at 5:48 pm #

    This is pretty cool! Right now I’m studying on Textfugu which is great! I belive Gakuu can be really helpul too. What I like most is that its for pre-intermediate to advanced level students. So you can’t say its the same thing over and over again… students can actually improve their knowledge here. Thank you very much for creating this site. Have a nice day :)

    • Gakuranman September 30, 2010 at 1:09 am #

      Hi Sabrina! Thank you for your comment :).

      That’s definitely our aim. I love Textfugu for beginners and really getting students a solid grounding in the language, but afterwards (and even while) studying the basics, it can really help to encounter raw Japanese material. You don’t have to understand everything at first, but feeling challenged and picking up little bits here and there that are extra to your learning the basics helps expand your mind. Let me know if you have any more questions! More demonstration material will be up soon! We are currently having a special launch sale price for early adopters, so check out the pricing page if interested :).

      • Sabrina September 30, 2010 at 5:14 pm #

        Thanks for your reply. :) Unfortunately I’m even still miles away from the intermediate level. But I’ll definetly return to Gakuu when I get to this point. Anyway, I’m looking forward to the extra demonstration material. :) Keep up the good work.

        • Gakuranman October 1, 2010 at 12:21 am #

          Sure thing :). Let me know if you have any other questions or suggestions for things you’d like to see on Gakuu!

  2. missingno15 October 1, 2010 at 7:31 pm #

    When I looked at this, I first thought to myself, “aw hell no, gakuranman is doing the same thing as koichi…even the website layout is similar”. But then I realized “it’s aimed at pre-intermediate to advanced level students” which is perfect for my situation right now because I now really want to excel way past beginner. So basically, Gakuu really complements Textfugu. Can’t wait for more lessons to see how this is gonna be like so I can decide if its worth getting.

    • Gakuranman October 1, 2010 at 7:37 pm #

      Hey there! Thanks for dropping by :). No way – Koichi and I are buds. I’ve always loved teaching the more advanced stuff so it worked out perfectly. I’ll be adding more stuff in the coming days, so please stay tuned!

      • Lee Aloy October 23, 2016 at 5:20 am #


        I am sorry to ask this silly question. Are you Japanese?
        am hoping to find a Japanese friends here please shot me an email:

        • Michael January 6, 2017 at 1:24 pm #

          Not Japanese myself, but living here over 10 years now :).

  3. DumbOtaku (percent20) October 3, 2010 at 12:58 am #

    This is really cool. I am glad to see more online content going beyond just teaching hirigana and katakana. That is what I try to do on my blog, but with to little consistency. Glad to see an expert do it, btw already a signed-up paid member now. :)

    • Gakuranman October 3, 2010 at 2:24 pm #

      Glad to have you man! Look forward to hearing any suggestions you have for the site and future lessons :)

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