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my dictionary shows both 随分 and なかなか (with positive verb) as "very/considerably"

I was wondering is it true that 随分 is of a higher degree than なかなか?

Like あんたなかなか勇敢だな。= 75%

and あんた随分勇敢だな。 = 85%?

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1 Answer 1

up vote 8 down vote accepted

Yes. なかなか means mildly, moderately. The origin is 中中, 'middle-middle'. It is lower in degree than 随分.


Below is slightly technical.

Elaborating on rintaun's point, なかなか has another usage: used with a negative expression. There are words that can be only used within negative environments (and some other environments, subsumed under what are technically called downward entailment environments).

決して 食べない [Japanese example]
全然 食べない [Japanese example]
おかず しか 食べない [Japanese example]
He does not study at all [English example]
I am not paying a red cent [English example]

Sometimes, a word can be used either under this usage or under a different usage:

He cannot eat any-thing. [Negative usage]
He can eat any-thing. [Different usage]

Depending on the usage, the scale differs. なかなか is an instance of such word. It has a usage that requires a negative environment.

彼は なかなか 食べない [Negative usage]
彼は なかなか よく食べる [Different usage]

In this negative usage, the degree of なかなか is stronger.

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actually instead of 勇敢 i wanted to use 勇ましい because i thought 勇敢 was ungrammatical.. is it more common to say あんたなかなか勇敢だな or あんたなかなか勇ましいだな ? –  Pacerier Jul 26 '11 at 21:12
    
I feel like なかなか has more affinity with negative expressions, and ずいぶん with positive. I haven't really investigated this relationship though, just speaking from intuition. –  rintaun Jul 26 '11 at 21:15
    
@Pacerier あんたなかなか勇敢だな is fine. あんたなかなか勇ましいだな is wrong. It should be あんたなかなか勇ましいな. They sound almost the same. –  user458 Jul 26 '11 at 23:10
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I'm just nitpicking now, but the modern colloquial usage of ぜんぜん in positive environments may be worth noting as well (e.g. ぜんぜん大丈夫 as "just fine"). –  rintaun Jul 26 '11 at 23:35
1  
@rintaun I knew someone is going to say that. But that is really controversial. I personally hate it. It sounds like either you are trying to look young, or are uneducated. Probably attracting the reader's attention to your comment is sufficient, so I will just upvote your comment. –  user458 Jul 26 '11 at 23:41

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