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Hi guys what is the difference in the usage of 成るべく and できるだけ?

Don't they both mean as [x] as possible?

E.g.:

1) できるだけ多くの本を読みなさい vs なるべく多くの本を読みなさい

2) できるだけ早くお願いします vs なるべく早くお願いします

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(1) There is a page (in Japanese) which attempts to explain the difference, but I cannot understand their explanation. 「なるべく」と「できるだけ」はどう違う? (2) 成るべく is usually written in hiragana as なるべく. –  Tsuyoshi Ito Jun 28 '11 at 15:59
    
@Tsuyoshi: I was looking at the same page, but I'm not too sure about their explanation. Some things in the 日本語Q&A are a little fishy. –  Derek Schaab Jun 28 '11 at 16:09
    
The difference between なるべく and できるだけ is definitely subtle, and I cannot think of a case where I can use one and not the other. –  Tsuyoshi Ito Jun 28 '11 at 16:29
    
@Tsuyoshi ok i've edited the なるべく into hiragana –  Pacerier Jun 28 '11 at 16:41
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Isn't it the case that なるべく is a more formal version of できるだけ? I have a feeling that the former sounds like a word you would hear in a public announcement or something. –  Lukman Jun 28 '11 at 17:12

2 Answers 2

up vote 6 down vote accepted

I think スコット's answer isn't that off the mark.

If you take なるべく and できるだけ word for word, they become:

成る《なる》 become + 可し 《べし》 must: something must become so-and-so

できる is capable + だけ amount: you do so-and-so as best as you can

See how the subjects are different. なるべく just says that some state should be reached, while できるだけ demands you to make maximum effort in achieving the goal.

This difference isn't much noticeable when used in first person, because the speaker is the one who needs to take action.

However, under an imperative context, できるだけ gets all the more demanding for requiring the other person's effort. So なるべく sounds softer and more appropriate when you're not in a position to demand effort from the listener.

This is how I visualize these two adverbs.

Again, the difference in nuance between the two is very subtle, and they're interchangeable most of the time, if not always.

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なるべく = as ~ as possible;

なるべく早く: as fast as possible なるべく傷つけず: avoiding injury as much as possible

It needs a verb or adverb to be a complete phrase...

できるだけ = If I (you) can or as much as possible

できるだけ日本に住みたい。

Both are common in conversation.

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I think that we can also say なるべく日本に住みたい without changing the meaning, so I fail to see how this answers the question. –  Tsuyoshi Ito Jun 29 '11 at 5:01
    
@Tsuyoshi San, you are right. I didn't think of that. An explanation I found explains it thusly: なるべく implies frequency or rate, as well as "as ~ as possible" [できるだけ[小さく切った]]紙片を貼り付けてください。 [なるべく[小さく切った]]紙片を貼り付けてください。 [なるべく[小さく切った紙片を貼り付けて]]ください。 So in example one and two the meaning is "the smallest scraps" with なるべく modifying 紙片, なるべく can also imply "please affix as many small scraps." どう思いますか。 Is that better? –  スコット Jun 29 '11 at 13:20
    
(1) I found the same page (see my comment on the question), but I cannot agree with the page. I agree that なるべく小さく切った紙片を貼り付けてください can have two interpretations, but I think that the same applies to できるだけ小さく切った紙片を貼り付けてください, so I do not think that it explains the difference between なるべく and できるだけ. (2) By the way, the author of the page does not state that なるべく小さく切った紙片を貼り付けてください can mean “please affix as many small scraps as possible.” He/she states that it can mean “please affix a small scrap as long as it is possible.” –  Tsuyoshi Ito Jun 29 '11 at 13:37

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