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What's the real, definite difference between 寝【ね】る and 眠【ねむ】る?

I know they both mean "sleep", but also that each carries some additional (sometimes, figurative) meanings.

Where do the meanings overlap? In what scenarios are they interchangeable?

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this website had a long and detailed explanation it did the trick for me: maggiesensei.com/2011/05/27寝るneru-vs-眠るnemuru-sleep-related-expressi‌​ons/ –  yadokari Oct 4 '11 at 19:36
Why does typing '!!' in the topic title convert it to a '?' ? –  istrasci Oct 4 '11 at 19:37
The link in yadokari’s comment should be maggiesensei.com/2011/05/27/…. –  Tsuyoshi Ito Oct 4 '11 at 19:55
@istrasci: There is some mechanism to remove multiple exclamation marks. See meta.stackexchange.com/questions/99871/…. But I do not know why two exclamation marks are converted to a question mark. –  Tsuyoshi Ito Oct 4 '11 at 20:52
@istrasci I've added it back for you ;) –  Pacerier Oct 5 '11 at 7:36

3 Answers 3

up vote 7 down vote accepted


go to bed, be in bed.
Does not imply you sleep, since you could be listening to the radio, watching TV…


to sleep, not be awake.
Physiological state.

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I think that's supposed to be 眠る. –  jkerian Oct 5 '11 at 15:49
Do you mean "Does not necessarily imply you sleep"? Because it can mean "to sleep, not be awake". –  istrasci Oct 5 '11 at 17:46
@istrasci: "not(imply(A))" is different from "imply(not(A))", so "necessarily" is redundant. –  Axioplase Oct 6 '11 at 3:56
@Axioplase - logically, touche. From a natural language standpoint, I don't think a lot of people would read it that way. –  istrasci Oct 6 '11 at 14:15
寝る sometimes does imply sleeping, just in the same way as “go to bed” sometimes implies sleeping. It depends on the context. –  Tsuyoshi Ito Oct 7 '11 at 11:22
  • 寝る 'sleep', 'lie down', 'have sexual intercourse'
  • 眠る 'fall asleep', 'remain untouched'
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寝る means sleeping. Eg. He is sleeping. 彼は寝ている。

眠る means sleepy. 眠い (adv) means sleepy. so.. we usually use "So sleepy today.." =>眠いなあ。。

Hope this help :)



1) 横になる Lie down

彼は草の上に寝ている。 He is lying on the grass.

2) Get to bed 寝る時間だ。 Time to bed.

3) Sleep ( same with 眠る) お茶を飲みすぎて寝られなかった。 Too much tea kept me awake.

4) Lie idle ( things ,etc) 銀行に寝ているお金。 Money sitting in the bank.

5) Sleep (with somebody)

Other usage: 寝ても覚めても awake or asleep



1) sleep; have a sleep.

ぐっすり眠っている。fast asleep.

2) lie buried.

3) Lie idle ( things ,etc)

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What you explained is the difference between 寝ている and 眠い, not between 寝る and 眠る. –  Tsuyoshi Ito Oct 5 '11 at 10:44
you are right. actually. it is quite difficult to explain japanese vocab in overall as each words has so many meanings :) –  kitokid Oct 5 '11 at 12:32

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