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What's the difference between 「この辺{へん}」 and 「この辺{あた}り」?

I used to always read 「この辺{へん}」as 「この辺{あたり}」 as I thought it would be confused with 「変{へん}」 but it apparently is different.

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I think that この[辺]{へん} and このあたり are almost synonymous because I cannot think of an example where one can be used but the other cannot. –  Tsuyoshi Ito Nov 11 '11 at 3:25
    
@TsuyoshiIto Perhaps you should make your comment an answer as well considering the many "great comment" votes your comment received. –  Flaw Nov 12 '11 at 16:34
    
@Flaw: My comment is just my personal impression, and I do not think that it is a good answer. (I interpret the up-votes as “good comment,” which can be different from “good answer.”) If anyone has a good source to back up the claim that この辺 and このあたり are almost synonymous, then he/she should post it as an answer. –  Tsuyoshi Ito Nov 12 '11 at 22:43

1 Answer 1

up vote 4 down vote accepted

この辺 is slightly more colloquial.

In speech, would I be comfortable saying この辺 to…?

  • the emperor: absolutely not
  • the CEO of a major corporation: maybe
  • a teacher: yes
  • a random stranger: yes

So, admittedly, この辺 would only be impolite/unprofessional in a few extreme situations, as long as it’s not in writing.

In formal writing (like newspapers), you would most likely opt for この辺り, unless inside a quotation, interview, or perhaps an editorial. But even in emails, I would recommend using この辺り to anyone you wouldn’t joke around with, such as a new customer or a complete stranger. Sure, some people may not care at all, but better be polite than not.

On the flip side, there are times when この辺り is less likely to be used, such as by…

  • a bully/gangster to his victim, e.g. 「今日はこの辺にしといてやるよ!」
  • children in general, e.g. 「さっきまでこの辺にいたよ」

Other than this, I agree that they are near synonymous, although in specific cases one may feel more natural than the other. But all these distinctions seem to be more about rhythmic flow than semantics, owing to how へん sounds more abrupt/hasty or concise, while あたり sounds softer and more delicate.

Another possible explanation for this perceived difference is the fact that 〜辺り can be used properly in many more grammatical contexts than 〜辺. As you may know, in proper usage 〜辺 is generally restricted to demonstratives such as この〜, その〜, and あの〜. So for example, 「ロビーの辺でお待ちください」 (as opposed to 「ロビーの辺りでお待ちください」) is unequivocally weird and impolite. Therefore, while 「この辺でお待ちください」 is not in itself grammatically incorrect, may seem less polite than 「この辺りで〜」.

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