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Lesson Transcript

Hi everybody! Hiroko here. Welcome to Ask a Teacher, where I’ll answer some of your most common Japanese questions.
The question for this lesson is... Do 思い出します(omoidashimasu) and 覚えています(oboete imasu) mean the same thing?
Both sentences can translate as, “I remember (something).” So, can you say both?
Let’s go over the differences so you can understand how to say “I remember” in Japanese correctly.
Imagine that your mind is a box and when you remember a thought, you take it out of the box. This imagery is reflected in the phrase 思い出します(omoidashimasu). This is actually a compound verb, made up of 思います(omoimasu), “to think,” and 出します(dashimasu), “to take something out.” That’s why when you say you’ve just remembered something, you use 思い出します(omoidashimasu) in the past tense, 思い出しました(omoidashimashita). Essentially, you brought the thought out of the box of your mind.
If something has been on your mind for a long time or is something that stands out clearly in your memory, it’s better to use 覚えています (oboete imasu). This is the -te form of the verb 覚えます(oboemasu), literally meaning, “to retain in the memory,” combined with います(imasu); the state of continuing.
So, there are two ways to say “I remember” in Japanese, which are 思い出しました(omoidashimashita) and 覚えています(oboete imasu)。
Let’s go through some examples so you can learn how to use 思い出します(omoidashimasu) and 覚えています(oboete imasu) correctly.
Let’s first do an example with 思い出します(omoidashimasu)--
やっとパスワードを思い出しました。(Yatto pasuwādo o omoidashimashita.)
“I finally remember(ed)/recalled the password (now.)” In this sentence, the person has just been able to bring that thought to his or her brain, therefore we use the past tense, 思い出しました(omoidashimashita). This is keeping with the idea that the thought has been taken out of the box of your mind.
Now, let’s do an example with 覚えています(oboete imasu)--
A: この単語の意味を覚えていますか。(Kono tango no imi o oboete imasu ka.)
B: はい、覚えています。(Hai, oboete imasu.)
A: “Do you remember the meaning of this word?”
B: “Yes, I do (remember).”
Here, Person A is asking whether or not Person B has retained the meaning of this word in his or her memory. So we use 覚えています(oboete imasu).
A good tip for sounding like a native is using 思い出した (omoidashita) when you’ve just remember something. Like that “Ah!” moment when you’ve realized something you’ve forgotten. For example--
思い出した!今日はテストがあるんだった。(Omoidashita! Kyō wa tesuto ga aru n datta.)
This means “I remembered now! Today we have a test.”
How was this lesson? Pretty interesting, right?
Do you have any more questions? Leave them in the comments below and I’ll try to answer them!
またね![mata ne!] See you!