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I came across this question, and found the same meaning in the dictionary for both options

(a-危ない) or (b-危うい) ですから 下がってください

however the answer booklet says it is (a-危ない), what is the difference?

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2 Answers 2

up vote 3 down vote accepted

They have the same meaning of "dangerous", but 危うい is used more in the written language (文語), whereas 危ない is used more in the spoken language (口語).

Here's a Chiebukuro question asking about this.

大辞林 has a note in the entry for 危ない

〔中世以降,「あやうい」に代わって用いられるようになった。現代では「あやうい」は文章語的に用いられ,死や滅亡など最悪の事態が差し迫っている意に用いる。それに対して「あぶない」は生命・身体などを損ないかねないような,好ましくない事態が起こりそうであることをいう〕

(Warning: possibly inaccurate translation ahead). Basically it says that 危ない has replaced 危うい in modern times. Nowadays, the usage of 危うい is literary-like, and expresses the urgency/imminence of a worst case scenario like death or decimation. In contrast with that, 危ない expresses that something bad is going to happen, regardless of whether it involves bodily harm (threat to life) or not.

Additionally, in 語源's entry on 危ない, it mentions that

元々は、類義語である「危うい」が文語的表現で、「危ない」は口語的であった。

The 元々 seems to suggest that it is not the case now though, hmm...

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「危うい」 is used more often than you seem to think. –  非回答者 Jul 28 at 0:42
3  
Namely, if you look in BCCWJ, 危うい has 172 hits of things published after 1990. Not nearly as common as 危ない, but still quite common if you compare it to other things in the corpus (e.g., 寒がり gets 77 hits). –  Darius Jahandarie Jul 28 at 1:05
    
@DariusJahandarie Great corpus, thanks for that. Side question: what's the modern-equivalent of 寒がり? –  3 to 5 business days Jul 28 at 6:33
    
寒がり is modern. I just typed some random words in and that was the first that had low enough hits for me to make my point. :) –  Darius Jahandarie Jul 28 at 15:55

危ない is "dangerous" while 危うい is "vulnerable" or "not reliable".

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