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I saw this translated in the first episode of FLCL as "It's wrong.", but checking the translation, I get "Different." Could someone clear this up?

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it can also mean "no". Like "you did that,right?" -"No, (i didn't)" – yadokari May 25 '12 at 1:32
I believe the underlying mechanism is "The situation that I think you are thinking of is different from the situation I believe I am currently experiencing" – Flaw May 25 '12 at 1:52

By saying ちがいます the speaker intends to convey:

"The situation/case/concept that I think you are thinking of is different from the situation/case/concept I believe I am currently experiencing".

This underlying meaning can be translated to a variety of English expressions not limited to "no" or "you're/(s)he's/it's/that's wrong".

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Some years ago I was dating a Japanese woman, and after an awkward episode in the relationship, she told me that things were ちがう。I was a puzzled and wondered "What is different? And from what?" I didn't understand that she meant something was wrong. – Paul Richter May 25 '12 at 7:50
Also, building on Flaw's logic, 違う is also sometimes used to mean "strange", as in 何か違う, which can be (note, not necessarily) translated as "something weird is going on", or "something ain't right". – Questioner May 26 '12 at 8:57
@PaulRichter: Your example is a good explanation of how "wrong" and "different" can overlap. She might have meant things were "different from before", or "different from her expectations", or that here feelings were different now... all of which can also be interpreted as simply being "wrong" in some sense. – Questioner May 26 '12 at 9:00

It means both, depending on context. Remember that translation between two languages is rarely one to one.

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In the context of the scene, I'm still not sure what "It's wrong" is referring to, but thank you for clearing up my confusion about the translation, Tsuyoshi Ito! – Ryan May 25 '12 at 0:27
@Ryan Tsuyoshi and dotnetNOOb hit the nail on the head, but to add something more, it can also be translated into "No!" in some contexts. – silvermaple May 25 '12 at 1:33

Based on the anime that I've seen, when a character uses ちがいます in essence what they are saying (in a nutshell) is: No, what you said is different from what I said/thought/felt, therefore it is wrong/not correct.

Normally, this is just expressed/translated as: You're wrong, He's wrong, She's wrong, or It's wrong. Depending on the context.

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The meaning does not change based on if it's in an anime or not. – oldergod May 25 '12 at 1:48
Adjusted my answer based on silvermaple's comment. – dotnetN00b May 25 '12 at 3:10
A popular expression in recent years (and thus apt to appear in anime) is 「ちがくない?」 Ignoring the fact that it's ungrammatical, nonetheless it means "That's not right, is it?". It expresses "wrong, not right" rather than "different". – Paul Richter May 25 '12 at 7:45
@Matt How is chigau -> chigakunai grammatical? What grammatical rule is being used to make that conjugation? – dotnetN00b May 25 '12 at 22:01
@dotnetN00b There's no standard Japanese path from "chigau" to "chigakunai", but that's not what those speakers are doing. The evidence suggests that they have an -i adjective "chigai" in their lexicon. Note that people also say "chigee yo!" (like "takee yo!" for "takai yo!"), "chigakatta", etc. One reason for this reanalysis might be the fact that, in this usage, the (original) verb "chigau" is more stative than dynamic -- it describes how something is rather than what something does, so in some ways it's more adjective-y. – Matt May 27 '12 at 13:23

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