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I noticed that 「もう」 can mean both "already" and "additional", such as the following sentence:

もう二本飲みましたよ。

Can mean either one of:

  1. I already drank two glasses.
  2. I drank additional two glasses.

How can I differentiate between the two meanings?

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3 Answers 3

up vote 8 down vote accepted

I guess that the most reliable way is decide from the context. But at least in the Tokyo dialect and other dialects with the same accent pattern, they have different accents.

  • I think that もう meaning “already” is pronounced as HL (where H is high and L is low). Therefore もうにほん becomes HLHLL.
  • もう meaning “additional” is pronounced as LH. Therefore もうにほん becomes LHHLL. This can be confirmed by the Daijirin dictionary. This meaning is shown as 1-[3], and the small “0” at the beginning of this meaning means that the “standard” accent is LH.
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I think the OP's grammar in the second example is off. Thx for the looking up the pronunciation guide. –  crunchyt Jun 4 '11 at 5:34
    
@crunchyt, When someone suggest you another(3rd) bottle, after you drank two additional bottles than original plan, he may use "もう二本飲みましたよ", which is valid, IMHO. –  YOU Jun 4 '11 at 5:40
    
thanks for the pronunciation hints, I've never realized till now but it's true! :) –  Uberto Jun 4 '11 at 9:29
    
Seeing istrasci’s answer, I realized that I had misread the question. I thought that the question was about how to distinguish the two meanings, not how to differentiate between them. –  Tsuyoshi Ito Jun 5 '11 at 2:33
    
Thanks for the answer. So it's from the accent. Now that you mentioned it I think I remember hearing the two different accents of もう in some anime I watched (although the characters did not actually say the two example sentences ...) –  Lukman Jun 5 '11 at 14:51

If you really want to distinguish them, you can emphasize the "already" one with すでに (既に).

もう既に2本飲みました。

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What's the difference between すでに and もう? –  Pacerier Dec 27 '13 at 9:12

I can see what you're thinking, but the second English meaning does not arise from the Japanese sentence provided.

もう二本飲みましたよ。 Yep, this means "I already drank two glasses"

もう二本飲みますよ。 In present/future tense it means "I will drink two additional glasses"

But by saying もう二本飲みました, it does not become "I drank two additional glasses". To say that you might say 追加として二本飲みました.

Regarding pronunciation guides, from experience this can be less reliable than context, since even native speakers regularly mix them up.

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Well, もう二本飲みました can mean “I drank two more bottles,” depending on the context. For example, if a doctor asked me how much beer I drank last week, I could answer 月曜に中瓶で一本飲んで、水曜にもう二本飲みました。 (I drank one middle-sized bottle on Monday, and two more on Wednesday.) –  Tsuyoshi Ito Jun 4 '11 at 5:48
    
True, thus is the limitation of a single sentence example out of context. :D –  crunchyt Jun 20 '11 at 1:22

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