The differences between two or more words or phrases and how to select the best one for a given situation.

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16
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3answers
653 views

Blue blistering barnacles, what is Captain Haddock saying?

For those who might not be familiar with the series Tintin (soon to be in a major motion picture, by the way), there is a character named Captain Haddock who is famous for shouting out colourful ...
13
votes
1answer
252 views

Why did の disappear from 山手, but in 御茶ノ水 it's in katakana?

I realize that very likely the answer to this question is likely to be something along the lines of "that's just the way it is", but I thought it worth asking to see if there were some insights that ...
13
votes
3answers
9k views

What's the difference between “さけ” (sake) and “しゃけ” (shake)?

Today I saw onigiri claiming to contain "しゃけ" (shake). When I asked my friend what that was, she said it was the same as "さけ" (sake), "salmon". So are these two just different readings of a kanji, ...
12
votes
3answers
577 views

What's bugging the Japanese language?

In my JLPT workbook, it has a section which gives a list of idioms that use [虫]{むし}. 仕事{しごと}の虫 (worker bee) 点取{てんとり}虫 (derogatory term for a student who tries too hard) 虫がいい (selfish) ...
12
votes
2answers
765 views

What is the proper use of だろう, is it “masculine”, and how is it different from と思 【おも】う?

Like a lot of foreign guys, some Japanese I picked up from imitating the women I spoke to. Certain affectations made me sound unwittingly effeminate in the early days when I had less grasp on the ...
12
votes
3answers
746 views

What is the difference between 「ほど」 {hodo} and 「ぐらい」 {gurai}?

As in the question title, what is the difference between the two sentences below? 一時間ほどかかります。 ichijikan hodo kakarimasu. 一時間ぐらいかかります。 ichijikan gurai kakarimasu. How do we choose to ...
11
votes
3answers
322 views

When is it appropriate to refer to yourself by これ?

I have occasionally heard and read instances, where a person has referred to themselves as これ. My Japanese dictionary also lists "Me, I." as a definition of これ. Now, this obviously isn't used as ...
10
votes
3answers
218 views

What is the sense of 気配がする (けはいがする) versus 気がする?

I'm (trying) to read a Japanese spy novel at the moment. It could just be the author's style, but I see lots of sentences end in 〜気配がする。 The more I read, the more I wonder - is there any difference ...
10
votes
3answers
304 views

Are there differences in nuance and usage of [内]{ない}[緒]{しょ}, [秘]{ひ}[密]{みつ}, [隠]{かく}し[事]{ごと} and [秘]{ひ}め[事]{ごと}?

They all carry the meaning of "secret" in English, but are there differences in nuance and usage of each of them: [内]{ない}[緒]{しょ} [秘]{ひ}[密]{みつ} [隠]{かく}し[事]{ごと} [秘]{ひ}め[事]{ごと} ...
9
votes
3answers
389 views

Difference between (遊び)方 and (遊ぶ)方法

I'm struggling to understand the difference between the verb suffix ~方【かた】 and the noun 方法【ほうほう】. As an example, the difference between 遊び方 (which seems to mean something like "manner in which someone ...
9
votes
3answers
413 views

When is the correct situation to use 案外 or 意外?

I think this is a question I should have asked a long time ago.. What is the difference between 案外 and 意外? What does the correct situation look like when using either? Example with 案外: ...
9
votes
1answer
176 views

Employed by one institution but work for another

I've worked my current job for a few years, and I can't believe I've never thought of this question. I have a unique employment situation. I am employed by a university, but the work I do is for the ...
9
votes
2answers
262 views

When are ふう and よう interchangeable?

Lately ふう has been on my mind. Often it seems interchangeable with よう: これを{こんなふう/このよう}にしてください。 Please make it like this. あれを{どういうふう/どのよう}に解釈しますか。 In what way do you interpret that? ...
9
votes
1answer
361 views

what's the difference between 返事 and 答え?

both have the similar English of "answer," but when do you use one over the other?
9
votes
3answers
13k views

Using 「なるほど」 {naruhodo} and 「やっぱり」 {yappari} in the same situation

I know, since they are of different word classes, 「なるほど」 {naruhodo} and  「やっぱり」 {yappari} may not be used interchangeably within the same sentence but can they be used within the same situation ...
8
votes
1answer
270 views

When is イングランド used and when is イギリス used?

It has always been my understanding that the word for England is イギリス. But the wikipedia page for English-American says イングランド系アメリカ人. Even rikaichan has イングランド as England. Is there a difference in ...
8
votes
2answers
240 views

「悪気があっての答え」 vs 「悪気がある答え」

Hi all I was wondering what is the difference between these two sentences: 「決して悪気があっての回答ではないです。」 「決して悪気がある回答ではないです。」 I can't really make out the gist of the meaning of 「あっての」. WWWJDIC's ...
7
votes
1answer
268 views

How different is 冷やかす from 冷やす? And 散らかす from 散らす?

I've long known 冷やす as the transitive counterpart of 冷える. But thanks to one question here, I've realized that there is another version with an extra syllable in it: 冷やかす. Although 冷やかす seems to have ...
7
votes
8answers
842 views

The many ways to write {かっこいい}

Apparently there are so many ways to write {かっこいい}. Hiragana/katakana only: かっこいい カッコいい カッコイイ EDICT: 格好いい かっこ好い Other possible variants: 格好良い かっこ良い カッコ良い 格好好い 恰好いい ...
6
votes
1answer
187 views

Why sometimes people change the way they say 明日 from あした to みょうにち or あす when confirming a reservation day over the phone?

I noticed that each time I get my haircut reservation to the day after the day conversation takes place, I hear the person on the other end changing the way he or she says 明日 from あした to あす or みょうにち, ...
6
votes
3answers
679 views

The meaning of and difference between ~を中心に and ~をめぐって

What is the meaning of and difference between ~を中心に and ~をめぐって? Space ALC defines ~を中心に as "with a focus on" and ~をめぐって as "centering on", but I'm having trouble figuring out the meaning and ...
6
votes
2answers
481 views

How do you know when to use みな or みんな?

Are there any tips for deciding to write みな or みんな? If I'm not sure can I just go with 皆? Also, in speech is there a distinction made? If not, which pronunciation is more common in standard Japanese? ...
5
votes
1answer
139 views

Should I use スタート for “start a new game” or something else?

I want to say, "Are you sure you want to start a new game?" (I'm developing a game for Japanese users, and this question is asked when it finishes.) I'm not sure whether スタート is the correct word to ...
3
votes
3answers
203 views

What is the difference between 護る and 守る?

Is there any difference in meaning between 護{まも}る and 守{まも}る? When there are multiple kanji for a particular reading (like 暑{あつ}い/熱{あつ}い or 初{はじ}め/始{はじ}め), they are frequently used in different ...
3
votes
3answers
326 views

What's the difference between 治す{なおす} and 治る{なおる}?

My dictionary says they are both cure/fix, so I am wondering what the difference is and how to use them? Is it an active/passive difference, or transitive/intransitive? Or just a subtle nuance? I ...
3
votes
3answers
732 views

Is the difference between On and Kun readings greater than just the pronunciation of the character?

Here is my present state of understanding: A kanji's meaning is the same regardless of reading. A reading is a way of speaking the kanji out loud. Kun readings are always used when the kanji appears ...
15
votes
3answers
9k views

What's the difference between ようこそ and いらしゃいませ?

Both "ようこそ" (yokoso) and "いらしゃいませ" (irashaimase) seem to mean "welcome" but what are the precise circumstances under which each should be used? "いらしゃいませ" (irashaimase) is uttered in unison by all ...
13
votes
2answers
298 views

What is the difference between 日曜日【にちようび】and 日曜【にちよう】?

In all the japanese learning books, they teach you that xxxday ends with 曜日. But sometimes I get to see xxx曜 only without the "Day" Kanji. Can I shorten it when speaking too or is it only written ? ...
13
votes
1answer
255 views

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

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.
13
votes
1answer
655 views

What's the difference between 「うまく」, 「上手に」 and 「よく」?

What's the difference between 「うまく」, 「上手に」 and 「よく」, all seemingly meaning "well" in English? Someone said that I should use 「よく」 rather than 「うまく」 in the following sentence. Can anyone explain why? ...
13
votes
1answer
908 views

Honorific prefix 「ご」 vs 「お」

Some nouns take the 「ご」 prefix: ご両親 {りょうしん} ご家族 {かぞく} ご無事 {ぶじ} ご安心 {あんしん} ご丁寧 {ていねい} While many others take the 「お」 prefix: お母さん お仕事 {しごと} お月 {つき} お内 {うち} お客 {きゃく} In ...
12
votes
1answer
1k views

What do you mean, “In Japanese there are no words for ”I’m suffering“”?

Today I noticed this article about eating disorders in Japan, which I got to via the News on Japan site. The first line jumps out at me. Supposedly, in an interview, a 25 year old Japanese woman ...
12
votes
5answers
158 views

ユーザ or ユーザー, which is more in use or is there no difference?

ユーザ or ユーザー, which is more in use or is there no difference? I see both of them in use, but is there one that is more correct than the other or is at least the prevailing standard? a similar word is ...
12
votes
3answers
679 views

Are there any situations where かしら is considered appropriate/normal for males to use?

かしら is generally considered to be a question particle for use by females; are there any situations or dialects in which it is usable by males? I'm aware that historically, it was used by both male and ...
11
votes
1answer
379 views

Why did オレンジ replace 橙【だいだい】?

This question about colours got me thinking: Why, and how, did オレンジ come to replace 橙【だいだい】 to refer to the colour orange? It seems weird to me that a word taken from a foreign language became ...
10
votes
1answer
1k views

Does タメ語{ご} mean “casual speech”?

A debate came up on the use of タメ語{ご} in this question, and I thought it was worth its own analysis. The question is, does タメ語{ご} simply mean "casual speech", or does it mean "speech between equals". ...
10
votes
7answers
376 views

IT system renewal: Can I say 更新 for “renewal”?

I am starting a new project and have to come up with a name for it so that everybody knows what we are talking about. The project is the renewal of an IT application that I will call エックスワイゼッド. ...
9
votes
1answer
173 views

What is the difference between 恰好 and 格好?

Is there any difference between the words 格好 and 恰好? Can I actually call them different words, or is it that they are just the same word written differently? I've been told that they have exactly the ...
9
votes
1answer
648 views

When is it appropriate to refer to yourself using your name, rather than 私 (or others)?

I have heard—though not often—people refer to themselves using their first name, not by using a pronoun for "I." Does this have special connotation in Japanese? Nothing about the usage (to me) seemed ...
9
votes
1answer
254 views

What is the difference between “meshi” and “don” for the food sometimes translated as “rice bowl” in English?

I'm a big fan of the Japanese fast food gyudon (cooked thinly sliced beef strips on top of a bowl of boiled white rice) and its variants such as butadon (the same but with pork). But why do some ...
8
votes
1answer
597 views

Difference between うーん and ううん

What is the difference between うーん and ううん? In a comment on Pronunciation of ううん, paullb said that he usually sees the negative interjection ううん written as うーん. This confused me, because I thought ...
8
votes
3answers
4k 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
1answer
2k views

What's the difference between “マグロ” (maguro), “ツナ” (tsuna), and “シーチキン” (shiichikin)?

It seems that there are (at least) three words for "tuna" in Japanese: "マグロ" / "鮪" / "まぐろ" (maguro) - Seems to be the native name for the creature and used at least in sushi "ツナ" (tsuna) - Seems to ...
7
votes
2answers
146 views

What is the difference between all the weather words: 気象{きしょう}, 天気{てんき} and 天候{てんこう}?

Dictionary (at least Jisho and WWWJDIC) defines them as: 気象{きしょう} = weather, climate 天気{てんき} = weather, the elements 天候{てんこう} = weather They all have quite similar definitions, so I don't quite ...
7
votes
4answers
891 views

Have you tried XYZ before?

I English I can ask somebody if they've experienced or sampled a food or drink, or even an activity with this verb: Here try this and tell me if you like it. I tried koregusu once but I didn't like ...
7
votes
3answers
370 views

what does どことなくつかみどころがなくmean?

I came across this phrase in the sentence: 勘【かん】というものは、しょちゅう経験【けいけん】していながら、どことなくつかみどころがなく、いまの科学【かがく】ではまだその正体【しょうたい】が、明らか【あきらか】にされていない。(Soumatome N1 dokkai, p45) My best effort to translate it ...
7
votes
1answer
195 views

Can 一杯 be used to express the fullness of things without physical volumes?

According to an answer to this question, the word [一杯]{いっぱい} can be used to expess fullness; especially in relation to the capacity of whatever is containing the quantity. This, however, tends to ...
7
votes
2answers
148 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
185 views

What's the difference between じき and すぐ?

すぐ, and especially 今すぐ, is my habitual way to express "soon", or "right after this". I know that じき means more or less the same thing, and when I hear it or see it written, I get the general meaning ...
6
votes
1answer
270 views

よると or よれば? Which one is “according to”?

I read some of your post (very very helpful!) and I was wondering if you could write a post about the difference between よると and よれば. Which one is used to mean "according to"?