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

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46
votes
8answers
2k views

What is the こと in sentences such as あなたのことが好きだ?

There were a lot of great answers here. I gave the checkmark to ento's answer because I felt it most completely explained all aspects of this use of こと. But many of the other answers are excellent, so ...
41
votes
9answers
1k views

How should I choose between [知]{し}る and わかる?

Both 知る and わかる get used for "know", "understand", "learn", "find out", and various other concepts. How do you know which to use when? Are there any rules to help you decide? Additionally, both of ...
33
votes
4answers
4k views

Is じゃないです equally correct as じゃありません?

Text books normally teach that the negative of です is じゃありません. However it seems very common to hear native Japanese use じゃないです. Is this slang or somehow less correct than じゃありません? Would it be marked ...
27
votes
5answers
5k views

Usage of すみません (sumimasen) versus ごめんなさい (gomen'nasai)

There are several situations in which one of these words (phrases?) should be used but there's not usually a 1:1 mapping between any two languages. Get somebody's permission. English: "excuse me", ...
26
votes
3answers
1k views

How indistinguishable is blue from green really?

青 ao seems to be used very much interchangeably for both blue and green. Why is that so, and how does 緑 midori play into this?
26
votes
3answers
531 views

Do 以上 and 以下 include the number preceding them?

I was having a discussion with a colleague and we couldn't recall how they both worked. Does 一人以上 mean a) 1 or more persons or b) more than one person?
25
votes
7answers
3k views

Difference between negative forms {-ず} and {-ぬ}

{-ず} and {-ぬ} are two alternatives to the negative form {-ない} / {-ません}. But I noticed that depending on the word, it's either {-ず} or {-ぬ}, although it seems like some words can take both suffixes. ...
24
votes
5answers
638 views

When do you use 下さい as opposed to ください

I've noticed that there seems to be different usage for 下さい and ください. Is this purely a personal preferences or is there an actual difference their usage? This was actually a question the Japanese ...
24
votes
2answers
2k views

What's the difference between なぜ、どうして and なんで when meaning 'why'?

I've been meaning to ask this for a while. What is the difference between these 3 words. I was taught they all mean "why", but obviously, being different words they convey different nuance and would ...
23
votes
3answers
2k views

Usage of たくさん vs. 多い

When do we use たくさん and when do we use 多い? I found both modifiers are used within similar sentences, for example: 人が多かったです 人がたくさんいました I had this impression that 多い is used with countable nouns ...
23
votes
4answers
5k views

How to choose between “よん” (yon) vs “し” (shi) for “四” (4) and “しち” (shichi) vs “なな” (nana) for “七” (7)?

Two numbers in Japanese have two pronunciation alternatives. 四 / 4 can be pronounced either "よん" (yon) or "し" (shi) 七 / 7 can be pronounced either "しち" (shichi) or "なな" (nana) I know that "し" ...
21
votes
4answers
11k views

When to use ください (kudasai) or お願いします (onegaishimasu) in requests?

When asking for something I seem to hear sentences end in both ください (kudasai) and お願いします (onegaishimasu). Is there a difference and how do I know when to use which?
21
votes
3answers
2k views

Difference between -ていく and -てくる

Can someone explain the differences between v-ていく and v-てくる for me. I know that they both express some kind of ongoing action (like a place getting crowded). For example, what's the difference between ...
21
votes
2answers
725 views

What is the difference in nuance between 間違う and 間違える?

I've heard from a Japanese native speaker friend of mine that both 間違う and 間違える are correct usage, but he wasn't able to explain the difference in nuance between them. Is there a difference, and if ...
19
votes
3answers
3k views

The many ways to say “and” in Japanese

In English, we just have one word for the conjunction and which works just fine for many categories, but in Japanese, there are separate words: と joins nouns together in a closed list や joins nouns ...
19
votes
4answers
1k views

Are there words so bad that they aren't allowed on television?

Warning: We're all adults here, but just in case, this question may contain words, in both Japanese and English, that some may not like to read. A long time ago, when I was working with a translator, ...
19
votes
4answers
932 views

Differences between 度 and 回 when counting occurrences

What are the differences between using 度 and 回 when used to count number of occurrences? For example: そんなことは一度もしたことがない そんなことは一回もしたことがない Are there any restrictions on what kind of actions referred ...
19
votes
2answers
556 views

What's the difference between “家” (ya), “屋” (ya), and “や” (ya) as used in the names of shops/stores/restaurants?

As a gyudon addict I have noticed that the names of the three major national restaurant chains all end in "ya" but they used two different characters: "吉野家" (Yoshinoya) "松屋" (Matsuya) "すき家" (Sukiya) ...
19
votes
3answers
446 views

Is there a rule for when to use くらい vs ぐらい?

I see phrases like 200人ぐらい, 半々ぐらい, and 何分くらい, which seem to indicate that くらい and ぐらい are synonymous, if not interchangeable. Is there any kind of rule for deciding which to use, or is it a stylistic ...
18
votes
1answer
689 views

What is the difference between いえ and うち?

I am trying to understand the difference between using いえ and うち. I originally drew the conclusion that うち is used for your own house and いえ for others' houses, but my Japanese teacher said that this ...
18
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 ...
18
votes
3answers
3k views

What is the difference between 大事 (daiji) and 大切 (taisetsu)?

These are two words that seem like they are basically interchangeable at most levels, as they generally are. The difference between them appears to be small, but what is the difference, if one exists? ...
17
votes
4answers
931 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 ...
16
votes
7answers
2k views

Does the Japanese language only have negative terms for flirting?

I am looking for terms in the Japanese language which can describe the act of flirting in a positive light. This probably requires inventing terms to close a lexical gap, because as far as I know, all ...
16
votes
2answers
499 views

What's the difference between 女性 and 女の人?

As far as I'm aware, both words translate into English as "woman". What's the difference in meaning between 女性 and 女の人?
16
votes
5answers
2k views

What is an appropriate response to お疲{つか}れ様{さま}です in non-work situations?

Often times at the gym, when I'm on my way out, covered in sweat, one of the staff will say お疲{つか}れ様{さま}です ("you've worked hard"...?). Usually at work situations, I've often found that saying some ...
16
votes
2answers
513 views

When writing for general public, is there a general guideline for selecting kanji?

After reading numerous publications, I've spotted a trend or custom on determining whether kanji is or is not used for certain words. The most obvious ones are: こと・事 …が実は犯人だったということがわかる。 ...
16
votes
4answers
1k views

Since Japanese already had several words for rice why was “ライス” (raisu) borrowed from English?

Last night I had dinner in a ramen restaurant in northern Japan and was surprised to read the katakana "ライス" (raisu) on the menu. This is obviously the English word "rice" borrowed. But what kind of ...
16
votes
4answers
465 views

Appropriate ただいま-like greeting for a neighbor?

I frequently pass by an elderly neighbor who lives in the same apartment when coming home from a dog walk. He's kind of an in-house carpenter for the building and is frequently seen around the garage. ...
16
votes
3answers
1k views

What is the difference between その and あの?

Superficially, I get the sense that あの is for something far away from both speaker and listener, and その is for something closer to the listener than speaker. However, I seem to get in trouble when ...
16
votes
6answers
545 views

How can I differentiate agreement with the person and agreement with the idea?

A zillion years ago, before I came to Japan, I took a short introductory course on Japanese. In it, they showed a video of a business meeting where an American businessman is speaking to a Japanese ...
15
votes
6answers
962 views

How should I select what first-person pronoun to use?

I've always had trouble choosing which first person pronoun to use - 私 (watashi), 僕 (boku), or 俺 (おれ). What kind of factors should I keep in mind when choosing between these? Is it common to vary ...
15
votes
3answers
542 views

Love in the air: 愛x恋 {あい vs こい}

From WWWJDIC: 愛 【あい】 (n,n-suf) (See 愛する) love; affection; 恋 【こい】 (n) love; tender passion; My understanding on affection, love and tender passion is like the following: affection < ...
15
votes
3answers
596 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 ...
15
votes
4answers
696 views

“Seemingly cute” - かわいい + 〜そう

The 〜そう form means "seemingly 〜" and is usually conjecture made based on first-hand information. This usually means seeing something or hearing about something and making a conjecture, e.g., おいしそう ...
15
votes
2answers
652 views

What's the difference between the kanji forms for わかる?

The verb わかる can be written using either 分かる, 判る, or 解る - what's the semantic difference between these forms, if any?
15
votes
1answer
857 views

Why isn't a large amount of money a good enough reason to kill someone?

In my JLPT workbook, there is this example question: 適当{てきとう}な語{かたり}を選{えら}びなさい この殺人{さつじん}事件{じけん}の裏{うら}には(  )上{じょう}のトラブルがあるようだ。 A 金額{きんがく}  B 大金{たいきん}  C 金銭{きんせん}  D 基金{ききん} The answer ...
15
votes
3answers
7k 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 ...
15
votes
1answer
967 views

ひらく / とじる vs. あける / しめる

The verbs ひらく and あける both mean to open, and とじる and しめる both mean to close. I understand that ひらく and とじる are antonym pairs, as are あける and しめる, but have never been clear on the difference between ...
15
votes
3answers
354 views

What is the difference in meaning between “husband and wife” 夫婦【ふうふ】 and 夫妻【ふさい】?

I see that those two compounds mean husband and wife, as a married couple. But is there a difference in usage or context?
15
votes
3answers
712 views

Difference between 〜といい〜といい & 〜といわず〜といわず

Can somebody explain the difference between these two expressions? I have pasted the definitions and some examples from 日本語表現文型辞典 to help but they seem to come down to the same thing. (When can one ...
15
votes
2answers
407 views

Why do 適当 and いい加減 refer to both considerate and inconsiderate things?

I understand that 適当【てきとう】 can mean both "appropriate" and "whatever/vague". How do you know 適当な人を教えてください means "please inform me of the appropriate person" as opposed to "please tell me about ...
15
votes
1answer
300 views

When to read “その後” as “そのご”, “そのあと” or “そののち”?

I've recently been seeing あと as well as ご as Furigana on top of 後 in その後, but is there a difference in usage or meaning between the different readings? Looking at the Yahoo thesaurus, it seems it can ...
14
votes
6answers
5k views

Can somebody explain the various words and combinations thereof used for thanking?

To my knowledge there are three words which can be used in thanking and they seem to be usable together in some combinations: どうも (domo) どうもありがとう (domo arigato) ありがとう (arigato) ありがとうございます (arigato ...
14
votes
4answers
607 views

とっても versus とても

I've had a teacher flatly tell me that とっても is incorrect, but I do see it written here and there and I'm pretty sure I hear it as well. Is it just so informal relative to とても that I should never use ...
14
votes
3answers
363 views

What is the difference between 完了 and 終了

Both 完了 and 終了 both seem to have the connotation of finished/complete, but what is the difference if any in usage?
14
votes
5answers
1k views

What is the difference between 「はず」 {hazu} and 「わけ」 {wake}?

I know the following two sentences give implication that "not expecting me to understand (it)" but I have a feeling that they give different nuances that I just can't put my finger on: ...
14
votes
4answers
2k views

Contrasting っぽい、らしい、みたい

For example, the following 3: 女っぽい (おんなっぽい) 女らしい (おんならしい) 女みたい (おんなみたい) In what situations would you use っぽい over らしい? Does っぽい have negative connotations? Are 女らしい and 女みたい interchangeable as in ...
14
votes
3answers
270 views

Why can some words be written with or without okurigana? How do the uses differ?

What is the difference for word compounds that can exist with 送り仮名 and without and still retain the same pronunciation? As an example: 巻き貝 と 巻貝 取り引き と 取引 If I'm correct, both of these are ...
14
votes
3answers
650 views

Saying “to miss” (“I missed you over the weekend”)

What's the best way to say "to miss" in the sense of feeling a longing for something, or that something pleasant is missing? I understand there's [懐]{なつ}かしむ, but it seems to me that, like 懐かしい, is ...