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I'm a bit confused regarding the choice between the 加 and 増 kanji for any meaning related to "adding one thing to another".

I assume that, as usual, the suru-verb combination 増加する is somewhat more formal than either of the other options.

I was told that 増 was for adding more of the same thing, while 加 might be used for adding things of a different type, but examples that I have found don't seem to match with that idea. For example, my dictionary has the following at the start of an example sentence...

汽車がスピードをだんだん加えていき。。。

There's also 殖える, which seems to replace 増 in cases explicitly related to population (people, livestock, or grain), but it seems to be used for something like "net worth" as well.

There's also 足す, which I believe has a connotation similar to 足りる in meaning "add enough to suffice".

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Also 付け加える、付け足す、and 付加する. –  istrasci Jul 19 '11 at 18:32

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Words for Adding Things

Note that there are actually many more suru-verb kanji combinations that mean things similar to "adding" or "growing," so I've only covered the two mentioned here.

足す【たす】

This is used only for adding two things of the same type.

Example: なべに水を足す "Add water to the pot"

加える【くわえる】

Like 足す, this is also used for adding two things of the same type, but it is also used when adding things of different types.

Example: カレーに薬味を加える "Add condiments to the curry"

増える【ふえる】 / 増やす【ふやす】 / 増す【ます】

Unlike 加える and 足す, these do not have a meaning of "adding," per se.

  • 増す is generally used when increasing a degree, level, or extent. It can be used with を or が. When used for volume or amount, it adds a moderately formal air.

    Example: 悲しみが増す "Increase [the degree of] sadness"

  • 増やす is simply "to increase the amount," and is generally used with を.

    Example: 楽しみを増やす "Increase [the amount of] pleasure"

  • 増える is "to be increased" or "to grow" and is generally used with が. They are both used to describe volumes rather than degrees. Note:

    Example: お客さまが増えた "[The number of] customers has increased"

増加する【ぞうかする】

Much the same as 増える and 増やす, this means "to increase," much the same as the English verb. The size of the increase does not matter, but it can only be used with quantities or volumes, not degrees.

Example: 体重が五キロ増加する "Weight increased by 5kg"


I've also included istrasci's suggestions, which rather than simply meaning "to add" all mean more along the lines of "to supplement."

付け足す【つけたす】

Used to add in something after-the-fact which was insufficient or lacking.

Example: 炭を付け足す "Add charcoal (presumably to a dwindling fire)"

付け加える【つけくわえる】

Used to add in something after-the-fact which is necessary. Very similar to 付け足す.

Example: 名前をつけ加える "Add a name to the list"

付加する【ふかする】

付加 is used when adding something after-the-fact which is different than the original. Very similar to 付け加える.

Example: 条件をもう一つ付加する "Add one more condition"

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Is there any reasonable way of telling when 加える vs 足す vs 増やす is appropriate for adding more of the same thing, such as 'スピード'? Or are all of them appropriate? –  jkerian Jul 20 '11 at 14:48
    
@jkerian There may be, but if there is, I'm afraid I don't know how to articulate it. Sorry! –  rintaun Jul 20 '11 at 16:27
    
I've received some advice from a native speaker who feels that 増やす implies less direct control over the "increasing" than 加える, and is thus more appropriate for investments and situations which lack direct control. An example he gave was laboratory/pet mice. If you breed them, it might be 増やす, if you buy them and add to the cage, it would be 加える. –  jkerian Jul 21 '11 at 15:58

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