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In my JLPT practise book, in a section explaining the use of いかんによっては, which roughly means "depending on", they have the following question:



A: 休{やす}みです。 B: 決{き}めましょう。

I chose the answer B, thinking it roughly meant, "We will decide depending on the course of the typhoon."

However, according to the book, the correct answer is A, which is translated as, "depending on the path it might be a holiday." (The English translations in this book are not so smooth.)

Both make logical sense to me, but, despite what the book says, I can't help but feel that B makes more sense because the path of the typhoon is uncertain, and therefor so is the decision about the seminar. Thus, "let's wait and decide."

Why is A the correct answer?

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4 Answers

up vote 5 down vote accepted

According to 新完全マスター 文法 N3:

によって:means to change state or behaviour depending on something or according to something. It expresses variety and is often used with さまざまだ and かえる.

によっては:pinpoints one outcome from a range of possible outcomes

For the sentence:

そうですね。 台風たいふう のコースいかんによっては___

A: 休やす みです。 B:  決き めましょう。

A pinpoints one outcome, B does not.

Note on いかん/いかんによって

I've got to the correct answer using N3 grammar but I should not really ignore いかん. It means "what" or "how" so in the above sentence I would say the expression equates to "depending on what [course]". The impact of adding は to いかんによって is the same as if added によって.

An alternative way to look at this is to consider いかんによって as one expression, equivalent to いかんで, which approximates to "in accordance with/is contingent upon".

The impact of adding は is the same as the difference between いかんで and いかんでは, which is perhaps easier to workout intuitively.

References: 新完全マスター文法N3, 日本語表現文型辞典

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I think all lies in "は" which makes "決めましょう" less relevant, if not invalid. Instead of "depending on", you should rather understand "As a result of".

Indeed. As a result of the course of the typhoon, it may be a holiday.

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It's correct that は is the key. But something doesn't quite make sense. 休みです doesn't mean "it may be a holiday". In fact, the は is the very thing creating the "depending on". Without it, the sentence could mean "As a result of the course of the typhoon, it will be a holiday". –  dainichi Oct 4 '12 at 14:53
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I'll make an answer (not a comment) but this is really just my take on it, not from any academic source/textbook.

I think I may have answered 決めましょう as well, but I think this may be an instances where English has hacked our brain. It sounds like we're trying to say "Let's decided (what do do) depending on the course of the typhoon", but what we're really saying is "Depending on the course of the typhoon we may or may not make a decision on whether or not to cancel the seminar."

In other words, we are (or just the teacher is) going to have to make a decision regardless of the path of the typhoon, and in English using "decide" in this context means "decide to cancel the seminar", in the Japanese it means closer to "make a decision on whether or not to cancel the seminar"...it doesn't make sense because they have to make that decision no matter what the outcome.

I hope this makes sense to people who are not in my brain. If anyone has anything to add or correct to this, please do so! :)

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As @Axioplase mentioned, the correct answer is A because of the . 〜いかんによって does indeed mean "depending on 〜", as does 〜いかんによっては. However, using the former kind of speaks on the whole of the multiple possibilities, usually indicating that there is a difference; whereas the latter enumerates and focuses on just one of the possibilities. Also note that with the latter, there is usually an implied "maybe" or "might" when translated into English that isn't explicit in the Japanese (as others have mentioned).

Here are some examples:


  • 台風のコースいかんによって市町村の風速や雨量が異なる。 → Depending on the course of the typhoon, the amount of rain and wind speed of the different cities will vary.
  • 所属する党派いかんによって人々が大統領の政策に対しての意見が違うでしょう。 → Depending on which political party they belong to, the people's opinions of the president's policy will probably differ.
  • 台風のコースいかんによって企業と施設が開いたり閉まったりする。 → Depending on the course of the typhoon, whether it's open or closed will depend on each business or facility ("businesses and facilities will be open or closed").


  • 台風のコースいかんによっては明日のゼミは休講です。 → Depending on the course of the typhoon, tomorrow's seminar might be cancelled. (One possibility of what may happen with the seminar).
  • 所属する党派いかんによっては上司が大統領の政策に同意する。 → Depending on / Because of her political affiliation, my boss might agree with the president's policy (One possibility of my boss' opinion).
  • 台風のコースいかんによっては地元の風速が50メートルにも達する。 → Depending on the course of the typhoon, local wind speeds may get up to 50 kmh. (One possibility of the local wind speeds).

It took me forever to understand this difference, but when I did, it gave me a whole new appreciation for, and outlook on は.

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Question: Is the probably/でしょう necessary in your second sentence? It might work in conversation (where it acts a "I think") but surely this is a statement of fact? I was looking another example in my textbook 「国によって習慣が違う」Can we really add でしょう to this sentence? I am not a native speaker but as a written sentence it feels less natural. –  Tim Oct 5 '12 at 2:46
Now the question of "why does the presence of は do this, and how does this link back to what we know of は?" is begging to be asked. –  Flaw Oct 5 '12 at 3:09
@DaveMG: I think that would better be a question of it's own, and that your original question "How does the use of いかんによっては in this question determine one answer over another?" HAS been answered; since it's a JLPT question, the two forms (one with and one without the は) carry two different meanings. So knowing those meanings helps you choose the correct answer on the test. –  istrasci Oct 9 '12 at 17:27
@DaveMG: Yes, I want to understand Japanese as much as possible too. But like I said before, I think that'd make a better question on its own (my opinion), because you could explore the whole "realm" of は, not just in how it relates to 〜いかんによって. –  istrasci Oct 9 '12 at 19:20
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protected by snailboat Mar 13 '13 at 17:47

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