Any question that does not deal specifically with grammar or pronunciation. Includes questions about prefixes, suffixes, compound words, loanwords, dialectal differences, pragmatic usage, etc. In other words, phenomena that occurs at the level of the word.

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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, ...
6
votes
1answer
930 views

How is the “のです” working here?

目立つ事を恐れ、一緒でなければいけないという日本人が確実に減ってきているのです。 The strong feelings that Japanese have of being afraid of standing out and everybody having to do things together are starting to become less ...
5
votes
1answer
319 views

Fun with synonyms - “to grab/catch/capture”

Here's a question for you experts. I've actually asked this to my Japanese friends, but I want to see how you guys answer too. Explain the differences in the following verbs and which one(s) appear ...
10
votes
1answer
496 views

How to use ~に同意する to agree or disagree with a person?

A couple of times I've tried to say "I agree with..." or "he agrees with..." but I don't know whether I'm using 同意{どうい}する correctly. In what ways should に同意{どうい}している be used? Also, which particles ...
5
votes
2answers
295 views

Is the grammar of 心の冷たい人 idiomatic?

The phrase 心の冷たい人 (which is given by Japanese-English dictionary on OS X) looks wrong to me, but given that it's an example in a respected dictionary and confirmed by tens of thousands of Google hits, ...
12
votes
2answers
359 views

Nuances between the different kanji spellings of あける:明ける vs. 開ける vs. 空ける

開ける, 明ける and 空ける are all read as あける. From their kanji, it is obvious that 開ける has to do more with opening (a door etc), 明ける with dawning and 空ける with emptying... However, JMDict gives the exact ...
9
votes
3answers
2k views

Is “あらら” (arara) a word or just a “vocal noise”?

A friend just wrote this as a comment on a photo of mine on Facebook. Is it an actual word or is it what I call a "vocal noise"? By "vocal noise" I mean those things which convey some meaning but ...
7
votes
1answer
254 views

Words with metathesis

What common Japanese words underwent metathesis (transposition of sounds)? Examples. 新{あたら}しい < あらたしい 秋葉原 {あきはばら} < あきばはら
6
votes
4answers
376 views

does anyone know of any o-words or go-words which are absolutely neutral?

Does anyone know of any o-words or go-words which are absolutely neutral (have no nuances of being polite / courteous / respectful / womanly / cute etc etc)? The only ones I'm aware of currently is ...
12
votes
4answers
670 views

Am I coming or going? 戻ってくる vs 戻っていく

A little while ago I was in a shop, and about 5 minutes after I left, they phoned me to tell me I had left my USB stick there. I said I would head back and pick it up. I used 戻{もど}って行{い}く to mean ...
9
votes
2answers
459 views

Differences between the many words for dinner

According to my dictionary, the following words all mean the same thing: "Dinner": [夜]{よる}ご[飯]{はん}, [晩]{ばん}ご[飯]{はん}, [晩飯]{ばんめし}, [晩食]{ばんしょく}, [夕]{ゆう}ご[飯]{はん}, [夕飯]{ゆうはん(ゆうめし)}, [夕食]{ゆうしょく} A similar ...
4
votes
3answers
296 views

What makes に基づいて instead of に応じて the correct choice for this question?

I'm working on some example questions from my grammar textbook. One of them I listed below:  税金はこの表(  )計算されています。  ア)につれて イ)に応じて ウ)に比べて エ)に基づいて I'm unsure why 「に基づいて」is the only correct ...
13
votes
3answers
889 views

Historical differences between colors that are i-adjectives and those that are simply nouns

EDIT: Started a bounty with hope of getting more definitive and elaborate answers, e.g. timeline of when color names started being used in Japan. In Japanese language, there are colors that are ...
3
votes
2answers
3k views

How can I improve my Japanese vocabulary, grammar, and listening skills? [closed]

I consider myself at a lower intermediate level. I want to improve my Japanese vocabulary and grammar in order to expand my reading and speaking skills. I know enough Japanese to get around and have a ...
14
votes
8answers
4k views

Are there any Japanese words as versatile as “fuck” in English?

I was wondering about this one recently. "Fuck" in English is famous for being applicable in a wide, wide range of circumstances (none of them formal). What word in Japanese covers a wide spectrum of ...
12
votes
4answers
452 views

What determines whether a word gets a kanji compound or katakana?

I read electronics/computing articles, and I find an incredible amount of terms are written either in kanji (almost similar to Chinese) or katakana. There are times when it's confusing as to know why. ...
12
votes
2answers
286 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 ...
9
votes
2answers
354 views

When is 酒【さけ】used to mean 日本酒【にほんしゅ】?

The fermented rice alcohol called "sake" in English is usually referred to as 日本酒【にほんしゅ】 in Japanese, while 酒【さけ】 merely means "alcohol" in general. Yet, all dictionaries list both "alcohol" and ...
8
votes
2answers
403 views

Non-distinguished animal pairs in Japanese

This is something I first noticed when I was at an aquarium in Japan (as evidenced in my examples) and continued to see ever since. There are certain pairs of animals, that while extremely similar, ...
6
votes
1answer
324 views

Understanding “よりを戻す” and “止めておこう”

I don't think us getting together tonight is such a good idea. やっぱり今夜、よりを戻すのは止めておこう。 I would like to understand this sentence better, specifically the (idiomatic?) expression, "よりを戻す." I ...
5
votes
3answers
185 views

What's the relationship between 'e' and 'wa' in some words?

Can someone explain how 'e' and 'wa' are related in some words / 音便? Presumably the 'e' was originally the obsolete ゑ since it's in the ワ行. Some examples: 上(うえ) ←→ 上着(うわ・ぎ) 声(こえ) ←→ ...
4
votes
1answer
267 views

から ending a sentence

I've seen this in a few texts now and since it's appeared with some frequency I thought to post the question here. I tried searching online but came up with no real conclusions. ありませんから or plain form ...
11
votes
1answer
1k views

Are all kanji compounds considered words?

A friend once commented to me that Japanese has a larger vocabulary than English. I said I didn't think it did, because it wasn't really accurate to call all kanji compounds "words". My friend said I ...
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?
18
votes
3answers
467 views

Use of 自分【じぶん】as a personal pronoun in direct speech

Yay, yet another first-person-pronoun question! I know that 自分 is commonly used as a personal pronoun in indirect speech, e.g.: マイクは、自分はなんと不注意なのだろうと言った。→ Mike said that he was very careless. ...
10
votes
1answer
464 views

How do 自他 triplets of related verbs work?

I thought this had been asked before (possibly by me), but I couldn't find it. I'm wondering why for certain verbs/words, instead of just a 自他 pair, there is a triplet (or possibly more) where two of ...
18
votes
2answers
529 views

Can the suffix -人 be used to express heritage?

In English, if I want to talk about my Irish heritage, I would say "I'm Irish". I have an American passport, and I've never set foot in Ireland, but I still consider myself Irish. Both sides of my ...
14
votes
2answers
375 views

Different conventions for animal meat

After reading this awesome question, I got to thinking about different animal meat. Upon researching a little, there seems to be different conventions in referring to different meats. Using 訓読み ...
10
votes
2answers
362 views

what is the difference in the usage of [成]{な}るべく and できるだけ?

Hi guys what is the difference in the usage of 成るべく and できるだけ? Don't they both mean as [x] as possible? E.g.: 1) できるだけ多くの本を読みなさい vs なるべく多くの本を読みなさい 2) できるだけ早くお願いします vs なるべく早くお願いします
7
votes
3answers
770 views

Can I help you?

In English, the word "help" can be used for any of these cases to ask somebody for help or to give a help to someone: In a store, when a clerk (store worker) says: Can I help you, sir? With ...
7
votes
2answers
210 views

Origin/etymology of こころ~ words

There are three unique words that begin with こころ~: 快い (こころよい)、 試みる (こころみる)、 志 (こころざし) What is the origin of these words in relation to "heart/spirit/mind", if any??? Or is this just something ...
10
votes
1answer
452 views

What is the meaning/usage of いざ?

Will someone please explain what this word いざ means? I've found several definitions, but I'm very unclear on what it really means and its usage. I've heard it mostly in the following ways: ...
10
votes
2answers
494 views

“Should” in Japanese

The word "should" in English has these uses when not used as a question: To express the expectation of the speaker (Probabilistic reasoning). The train should arrive in 10 minutes. To express a ...
8
votes
1answer
246 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
1answer
185 views

Difference between 創立、設立、樹立

Can anyone explain the difference between these words? They all basically mean "to set up / to found", and from what I've researched, it's all very 微妙 to me.
6
votes
2answers
269 views

Questions about ありたい

心がいつも美しくありたいです I want my heart to always be beautiful. 心がいつも美しくして欲しいです (Incorrect) 心がいつも美しくなりたいです I want my heart to always be beautiful.(?) My Japanese friend wrote the ...
5
votes
2answers
426 views

What's the difference between 触る and 触れる?

These two seem to overlap almost completely. The only thing I can really tell is that 触れる seems that it can also be used in a metaphorical sense ("touch on" something; feel; perceive). I'm ...
4
votes
1answer
505 views

The different meanings of “life”? 生気/生活/ライフ/生命/一生/人生/命

I was looking through a dictionary and came across 生活. My original question was Is this the difference between 生気/生活? 生気 would be like an idea of life. more abstract 生活 would be ...
15
votes
7answers
1k views

the different usages of つもり?

Hi all I understand that つもり means "intention" like say 夏休みにはゆっくり休むつもりです。 = I intend to rest during the summer vacation. But what does 分かっているつもりだ。 means? Well if I translate directly, it seems to be ...
11
votes
4answers
908 views

What's the difference between いいえ and English's “no”?

In "Japanese for Busy People I" page 2 (kana or romaji edition) it says that いいえ is 'virtually the same as "no"'. It sounds like there are some differences, but they want to omit mentioning them for ...
11
votes
3answers
308 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 ...
9
votes
2answers
399 views

What words are used for dolphin meat?

What words are used for dolphin meat? Searching jisho.org using "dolphin" in the English field listed several different words for dolphin, but no compounds involving meat. Neither the English nor ...
9
votes
1answer
172 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 ...
8
votes
2answers
311 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 ...
8
votes
2answers
223 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 ...
8
votes
3answers
348 views

Does うるさい have a “negative” connotation?

Is it true that when someone uses the word うるさい, it means that there is a feeling of "discontent" ? Like for example, we will take this sentence: "It will be noisy in the factory" "It will be ...
8
votes
2answers
403 views

How do we decide if 中 is ちゅう or じゅう?

How do we decide if 中 is ちゅう or じゅう ? For example, in this sentence 10人中3人はビデオを持っている which pronunciation should we use? What about this: そのピアニストの演奏中、彼らは一心に耳を傾けた。
7
votes
2answers
459 views

What is the difference between 特殊 and 特別?

I've got two questions. Firstly, what is the difference between 特殊 tokushu and 特別 tokubetsu? Secondly, is it true that all these grammar forms are correct: 特別な tokubetsu na + [noun] 特殊な tokushu na ...
6
votes
1answer
423 views

What does かの日 mean?

In my Japanese Bible, I've seen several passages that use the phrase かの日. Here are a couple. ...
5
votes
2answers
258 views

Expressing neighborhood in Japanese

Something I have often stumbled on is the expression of "neighborhood" in Japanese. For most uses I find that 近所 works well. However, this usually seems to refer to a closer proximity than one would ...