Take the 2-minute tour ×
Japanese Language Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for students, teachers, and linguists wanting to discuss the finer points of the Japanese language. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Is there any difference in meaning between 小さな and 小さい / 大きな and 大きい? I know that they have different syntactical rules, but semantically is there any difference? I was once told that 大きな was more appropriate for non-physical things, e.g. 大きな声.

share|improve this question
Possible dupe: japanese.stackexchange.com/questions/6675/… –  virmaior May 28 at 5:09

1 Answer 1

up vote 3 down vote accepted

Shogakukan's Ruigo Reikai Thesaurus Dictionary has this to say about differences in meaning and usage:

「大きい」は、「夢が大きい」「大きく夢みる」のように述語として、また 連用修飾語としても使うが、「大きな」は「大きな…(名詞)」という言い方でしか使わない。
Ōkii is used as both predicate and as a continuative modifier as in yume ga ōkii, ōkiku yume miru, but ōkina is only used in the format of ōkina...(noun).

When modifying a noun to mean that a thing's degree or relevant scope is large, ōkina is used more often when the noun is abstract, such as a "problem" or "effect".

There's also a table indicating different valid and invalid constructions, which I've clumsily recreated below. The - indicates an invalid use, while the △ indicates an acceptable but less-common use.

            ~声 | 声が~ | ~問題に発展する | ~影響がある | ~拍手で迎えられる
大きい     〇 |    〇     |               △            |           △         |                〇
大きな     〇 |    -     |               〇           |           〇         |                〇

As shown above, both 大きい声 and 大きな声 would be equally valid. The person who told you that 大きな should be used more for non-physical things might have used the wrong word; given the description above, the distinction appears to be abstract vs. concrete, rather than physical vs. non-physical.

Grammatically, 小さい and 小さな have the same usage constraints as 大きい and 大きな. The thesaurus does not, however, mention any differences in abstract vs. concrete between 小さい and 小さな.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.