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I've never really fully grasped the meaning of [一]{いち}[応]{おう} since it seems to have no good English equivalent. What is the meaning, usage, and nuances of 一応?

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一往【いちおう】 looks way cooler. –  istrasci Oct 31 '11 at 14:36

3 Answers 3

up vote 6 down vote accepted

A word that might help you to understand 一応 is tentative, in both senses:

  1. temporary, subject to change (tentative name, tentative plan)
  2. done while unsure (tentative step, tentative statement)

I'll post the Japanese example sentences from ニューセンチュリー和英辞典 and relate them to that word.

...と結論を下しても一応さしつかえはないだろう
(Even if we conclude X, it shouldn't give us problems, tentatively speaking.)

一応そこへ行ってみよう
(Let's just tentatively go there and see what happens, though we might not find what we want.)

一応その書類に目を通しておこう
(I'll tentatively give those documents a look over and see if I find any errors, though I'm not entirely sure it's necessary.) or
(I'll give those documents a look over, tentatively/temporarily, at least until I find something else to do.)

一応この本で間に合う
(This book will do, tentatively/temporarily, at least until I get a better book.)

私たちは一応合意に達した
(We reached an agreement, tentatively, although I'm not certain we agree on everything or that we will continue to see eye-to-eye.)

君の言うことは一応もっともだ
(Your argument holds water, tentatively, although I'm not certain you've entirely turned me around to your point of view yet.)

I don't intend to suggest that "tentative" is a natural translation for all circumstances. This is just to help you get an idea. There are many ways of actually translating it -- for instance, in my second sentence, I used "just", and that word would probably have sufficed on its own.

Other possible translations depending on the context include "for the time being", "some kind of a", "seems to be", and other words that indicate uncertainty or temporariness.

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I think sawa's answer is correct, but it might mean other things as well in different contexts. Looking at Space ALC it seems to also mean, especially at the start of a sentence:

  • Pretty much (agree etc)
  • At least...(something can be fulfilled or satisfied)
  • At any rate...
  • A fair amount of...(success/agreement etc when used as 一応の)
  • For the time being...

I think "it [won't/doesn't] [fit/suit/work with] something but X will happen anyway" might also work in some contexts. For example, I think "It doesn't really suit him, but he's doing X anyway" might work.

Another way of translating this might be "I guess...", "kind of..." or "sort of..." e.g. "I kind of agree with him I guess", "there's a settlement of sorts", "I guess I'll go along with it.".

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@DaveMG To be absolutely correct in many (most?) contexts, I think it sometimes might pay to add "for the time being" to the end as in "At least I can get this done for the time being". I'm not sure it means "tentatively" in all contexts though. –  user797 Oct 30 '11 at 3:38

一応 means "anyway". In an affirmative context, it will mean: "I think it will not work, but I will do ... anyway". In negative context, it will mean "I think it is not necessary, but I will do ... just in case."

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