Phrases with fixed words used as a single unit, many of which are idioms.

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20
votes
5answers
1k views

Is it proper to thank waitstaff, cashiers, etc. for their service?

In my Japanese class we were taught that one does not need to thank a cashier when they check you out or a server when they bring you your meal, but I always feel awkward remaining silent. Was my ...
17
votes
1answer
2k views

Must do : ~なければならない vs ~なくてはいけない

What are the differences when using ~なければならない and ~なくてはいけない, or their colloquial contracted forms ~なきゃ and ~なくちゃ when saying "must do"? For example, what is the difference in the nuance and usage of ...
15
votes
10answers
3k views

What to say after someone sneezes

It's happened several times: I'll be chattering away with a friend in Japanese, and they'll sneeze, and without even thinking about it I'll revert back to English to say "bless you." Is there a set ...
15
votes
4answers
862 views

How would one convey “get over it” in Japanese?

As a foreigner in Japan, one has to get used to the fact that some Japanese will compliment you on things that are too mundane to really deserve mention. Like the fact that you can use chopsticks, eat ...
15
votes
4answers
581 views

The significance of 前 {まえ} in Japanese language and culture

I noticed that the 前 is a handy kanji character in Japanese language. It is used in many words including but not limited to: 名前 {なまえ} : Given name 手前, お前 : You 当たり前 {あたりまえ} : Natural, ...
14
votes
3answers
4k views

What to say after someone dies

What is the proper response when someone tells you, for example, that their mother has died? Relatedly, what should you do to express your sympathy? Do you send a card? flowers? bake a casserole?
13
votes
3answers
3k views

What does よろしくおねがいします mean when departing?

When on business in Japan last year, a Japanese colleague said よろしくおねがいします to me as the group were leaving after dinner. I'm aware of its usage in initial greetings, as is usually taught in ...
13
votes
1answer
319 views

Why does 「目がない」mean “something you like”?

I came across the phrase 甘いものに目がない which roughly translates to "having a sweet tooth". Then I wondered why 目がない refers to "something that you like". Is there an explanation for why "having no eyes" ...
12
votes
2answers
304 views

Usage of 「ごめんください」

In all the anime and j-drama I have watched all these years, as far as I can remember, the only scenario where the greeting 「ごめんください」 is used is when the characters are in front of an ajar or open ...
12
votes
1answer
324 views

What is that thing yelled in Japanese when starting something?

When starting some activity, I've heard something like 'Se..inou... ' (I'm not sure what are the specific words for this). The context for this word I'd think is pretty much the same as when saying ...
12
votes
1answer
577 views

At work, when is it not ok to finish an email with どうぞよろしくお願いします?

Whenever I communicate with my Japanese coworkers, I always finish my emails with どうぞよろしくお願いします。I guess in the context of an email in English it could be akin to saying "Cheers" "Regards", so I unless ...
12
votes
1answer
872 views

How should one respond to “お大事に”?

I came across a situation where I went to a volunteer class wearing a mask since I have a cough. My sensei told me "お大事に", and I did not know what to reply. In this case, should I just say "はい"? Or ...
11
votes
3answers
19k views

When is it appropriate to use お疲れ様 (otsukaresama)?

I know the general meaning of using お疲れ様です/でした to express gratitude for some work, but I'm a bit fuzzy about appropriate times to use it. I know it is a common saying when leaving for the day, and ...
11
votes
2answers
270 views

What exactly is 「だらし」?

WWWJDIC states that 「だらしない」 can be written with kanji as 「だらし無い」, which suggests that the phrase is a negative construction that uses 「無い」, unlike words like 「すくない」 and 「あぶない」. Furthermore, 「だらしが無い」 ...
11
votes
1answer
4k views

Getting your haircut in Japan

I have been living in Japan now for the last 3 months and my hair is starting to look like it needs a cut. But I have never been to a Japanese barbers before so as you can imagine I am a little ...
11
votes
1answer
534 views

Why “社会の窓” (shakai no mado)?

A few years ago I was told by a Japanese friend "社会の窓" (shakai no mado). It was explained after some giggling that this is what is said to a man who has inadvertently left his fly open, and that it ...
11
votes
2answers
266 views

Rare/Obsolete verb forms

I have noticed that some verbs have this "rare" or old form that is no longer used much (if at all). Here are some examples. おそる: おそるべき者 → One who is feared ほむ: ほむべきお方【かた】 → Seen often in my ...
10
votes
1answer
223 views

Contraction of particle の to ん before nouns in colloquial Japanese

I am familiar with contraction of の to ん before です (and variants で, だ, でした etc) but I noticed that の is also contracted before 家 in spoken set-phrases like あたしんち and おれんち. Are there any other ...
9
votes
3answers
479 views

Is there a polite saying like “May I?”

Looking for a phrase that has the same meaning as "May I?" in English. One that would work in situations that would indicate I would like to try to solve a problem at hand, or receive control over ...
9
votes
1answer
225 views

What's the difference between 電光石火【でんこうせっか】 and 疾風迅雷【しっぷうじんらい】

They both seem to mean "quick as lightning". What are the nuances between them? In what sort of context would they be used? Are they interchangeable? etc.
8
votes
3answers
543 views

Difference between 気をつけて, お大事に and お元気で

What is the difference between 気をつけて, お大事に and お元気で. How and in which context are they used?
8
votes
3answers
2k views

How do you ask for “the bill” at a restaurant?

This is probably a bit of a silly question, but what do you say in Japanese when you're asking for the bill in a restaurant? Or is it unusual to say anything at all? When I was in Japan I could never ...
8
votes
3answers
345 views

Why is it お[腹]{なか}が[空]{す}いた but [腹]{はら}[減]{へ}った?

Is there any particular reason why the noun おなか goes with verb すく while the noun はら goes with the verb へる? Would it be weird if I use おなかへった or はらすいた? While on the same topic, does the 'starving' ...
8
votes
3answers
381 views

What is the difference between {出来る限り} and {出来るだけ}?

EDICT gives almost similar translation for these two expressions: 出来る限り; できる限り 【できるかぎり】 (n) as ... as one can できるだけ 《出来るだけ》 (exp) (uk) as much as one can; as much as possible; if at all ...
8
votes
3answers
300 views

Is there a set response to 『いらっしゃい!』?

So I was watching 女が階段を上る時 by Mikio Naruse late at night, and heard something that sounded familiar. Alas, I fell asleep and returned the movie before checking (yes there is still a rental store in my ...
8
votes
1answer
388 views

「かしこまる」と言う自動詞について / About the verb “kashikomaru”

皆さんこんにちは、 日本語で質問がお聞きしてみたいのですが、言葉や文法を間違えたらお許しください。 では、「かしこまりました」とは誰かに命令や注文を頼まれた場合などの返事とすることもよくありますが、「かしこまる」と言う自動詞がこの表現以外で使われる場合はありますか? "kashikomarimashita" is usually used as a response to somebody's ...
8
votes
3answers
275 views

Can のほうが be omitted when answering a question?

So when people are doing comparisons, do you use のほうが colloquially or even in text? I've seen AとBとどちらのほうが速いですか? and also AとBとどちらが速いですか? And the answers be: AのほうがBより速いです。 AはBより速いです。 Aのほうが速いです。 ...
8
votes
2answers
286 views

“Grammatically-correct” particle-less phrases/sayings

I know that within an informal/familiar setting, people often leave out particles. Whether or not this is grammatically correct I'm not positive, but for the sake of this question, I'll say that it's ...
7
votes
2answers
355 views

What is the difference between 「はじめてのX」 {hajimete no X} and 「はじめのX」 {hajime no X}?

There is a song with title {hajimete no asa} and another song with title {hajime no hi}. There is also a manga title {hajimete no aku}, and not to forget the popular boxing manga {hajime no ippo}. So ...
7
votes
2answers
135 views

Dismissing an expectation

What can be said when I need to dismiss an expectation? Here are some examples of what I mean by "expectation": I ask someone what time it is, then I remembered that I'm actually wearing a watch. ...
7
votes
2answers
457 views

Significance of the kanji 茶 in the set phrase 滅茶滅茶{めちゃめちゃ} / 目茶目茶{めちゃめちゃ}

While having fun looking up random words in my dictionary software, I found out that the phrase "めちゃめちゃ", which is often used in colloquial sentences like "めちゃめちゃかわいい" has two kanji variants: 滅茶滅茶 ...
7
votes
1answer
353 views

How to parse the proverb [艱難]{かんなん}[汝]{なんじ}を[玉]{たま}にす?

I found this particular proverb on WWWJDIC when I looked up for なんじ : [艱難]{かんなん}[汝]{なんじ}を[玉]{たま}にす. It is translated into English as: Hardship makes the man. How do we parse the proverb? I know 艱難 ...
7
votes
2answers
259 views

The role of と particle in 「二度としない」

What is the role of と particle in 「二度としない」? Is it quotative, adverbialisation, change of state or supposition? Also, what extra nuances does it contribute to the expression compared to if も is used ...
7
votes
2answers
180 views

Does バラの寝床 come directly from the English expression “bed of roses”?

I came across this phrase in a Haruki Murakami short story, and I was wondering if this is just a literal translation of the English phrase? I tried googling the Japanese phrase, but I could only ...
7
votes
1answer
225 views

What's the difference between 心, 念, and 意?

I can say that after much research on this, I'm more thoroughly confused than before I started. I'm talking mostly about when they are used as suffixes, but the concept applies when they stand alone, ...
7
votes
1answer
126 views

Understanding the particle や in the phrase “今や”

(Moved from Insertion of "y" sound between vowels since it appeared to be unrelated.) In the following quote: 私の世界へようこそ。 *今や*この世界をコントロールできる唯一の人間だ。 What is the function of the particle ...
7
votes
2answers
758 views

Expressing the “after [verb]-ing”, using 後で, -てから, 後に, 後から?

It's my understanding that when telling what you did after an action can be said using: た後で てから た後に For instance, さおとめさんが泳いでから私たちはお祭りで会いました。 さおとめさんが泳いだ後{あと}で私たちはお祭りで会いました。 ...
7
votes
1answer
211 views

Is it OK to keep saying ありがとう

I was asking a Japanese person for some help and noticed that I kept saying ありがとうございます over and over as they helped me more. Culturally, is it OK to keep saying it multiple times in Japanese? Would it ...
7
votes
1answer
384 views

translation for “It serves as a good reminder for me”?

After I've say watched a film with some friends (or read a fable or something) and learned something from it, i want to say "It [the teachings of this fable/film] serves as a good reminder for me". ...
7
votes
1answer
125 views

The expressions 後へ引く and 後を引く

What is the logic behind the similar sounding expressions 後へ引く and 後を引く? Are they idioms? Apple dictionary lists these examples: 後へ引く もう後へは引けない 'It's too late to turn back now.' 'We're in ...
7
votes
1answer
146 views

Usage and nuance of あまりに vs あまりにも

WWWJDIC lists both あまりに and あまりにも to mean "too much; excessively; too" but are they exactly the same in term of usage and nuance? あまりに 《余りに》 (adv) (uk) too much; excessively; too Ex: ...
6
votes
1answer
190 views

Where's the missing い in ありがた迷惑【ありがた めいわく】?

One of the most useful turns of phrase in Japanese is ありがた迷惑【ありがた めいわく】, which is that of being helpful in a way that is not helpful. It can cover situations where one is being helpful to ...
6
votes
2answers
208 views

What's the meaning of すます in 耳をすませば?

What's the meaning of すます in 耳をすませば? How would you translate this?
6
votes
1answer
167 views

What does 勝つべくして勝った mean?

I came across this phrase while looking at the meaning for べく: 勝つべくして勝った It seems to be a set phrase, but I'm not 100% on the meaning. To win in order to win? To try really hard to win? To be ...
6
votes
2answers
130 views

Why is there 丼 {どんぶり} in 丼勘定 {どんぶりかんじょう}?

How does 丼勘定 {どんぶりかんじょう} (sloppy accounting) related to 丼 {どんぶり} (bowl of rice with toppings)? I mean, why どんぶり of all foods and things? Was there special history for the origin of this set phrase?
6
votes
1answer
3k views

What is the difference between お元気に、お元気で、気をつけて? [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: Difference between 気をつけて, お大事に and お元気で I want to say hello to a friend long time no see, and end my message with "take care". All お元気に、お元気で、気をつけて mean "take care", so ...
6
votes
2answers
330 views

When is it appropriate to use ごくろうさま?

I've seen お疲れさま and ご[苦労]{くろう}さま used to say "Thank you" after some had done work of some type. After reading the お疲れさま thread, I realize that the two are not interchangeable. So when do you use ...
6
votes
2answers
181 views

Anti-causal/Non-causal relationship

How do I form a sentence of these patterns "X does not arise from Y", "X not due to Y", "X not because of Y", "There are other reasons for X". Since obviously I cannot simply slap ない onto から or ので to ...
6
votes
1answer
161 views

Does もあれば have set phrases?

I came across a sentence using もあれば where there wasn't a conditional. あれば got translated as sometimes: 名詞から動詞が派生していることもあれば、その逆のこともある。 Sometimes a verb is derived from a noun and sometimes it is ...
6
votes
1answer
160 views

Can I say 行ってきます if I don't plan to come back?

When can I safely say 「行ってきます」when leaving home or another place? How loosely can this phrase be used? Can you use it even if you don't plan to come back until a day/week/month later? If it is going ...