14
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 ...
14
votes
5answers
832 views

In modern usage how do Japanese natives regard the differences between 外人, 外国人 and 外人さん?

As a near native speaker of Japanese, I find it annoying to be called 外人 since it seems to imply that I "know nothing about Japan" (outsider). I much prefer 外国人. In modern usage, how do native ...
14
votes
5answers
2k views

Is すごい slang or just informal?

Regarding すごい: What is the right way to spell it? Is it vulgar, or is it slang like the English "cool"?, or informal or colloquial? Is it archaic? If it is slang, does it have a non-slang meaning? ...
14
votes
2answers
1k views

Meaning of 情弱乙 ?

I see 情弱乙 being used (as an interjection?) on many websites, but I can't find it in any dictionary, even online dictionaries. I guess the pronunciation is じょうじゃくおつ. What does it mean? Examples: 情弱乙! ...
14
votes
2answers
948 views

What is the meaning and usage of ネタ?

For example in this phrase: 話すネタはもっていそう I translate it into "he might have some stories", but I have the impression it has many other meanings.
14
votes
5answers
374 views

What is the origin and usage of the word いい?

According to Denshi Jisho, いい and よい share the same kanji, and that both roughly mean "good". Why are there two different pronunciations despite the similarity, and what are some ways to figure out ...
14
votes
2answers
339 views

Kitten: 子猫 vs 小猫 vs 仔猫

Are there any differences (nuances or usage) when using prefix 子, 小 or 仔 for denoting young animals? Examples: Kitten: 子猫 vs 小猫 vs 仔猫 Puppy: 子犬 vs 小犬 vs 仔犬 Pony: 子馬 vs 小馬 vs 仔馬 Calf: 子牛 vs 小牛 vs 仔牛 ...
14
votes
2answers
2k views

If Vて+いる isn't a gerund, then what is it?

I always thought that a verb ending in the て form along with the いる suffix was the English equivelent of the "ing" form of a verb. Thus: see = 見{み}る, seeing = 見{み}ている do = する, doing = している ...
14
votes
1answer
663 views

Where does です come from?

I've heard various things about this construction from many different people, a few examples of which are: It's a verb meaning "to be". It's a contraction of something like でございます (de gozaimasu) or ...
14
votes
1answer
391 views

What does 窓という窓 mean?

What does 窓という窓 mean? I found it in this sentence in Harry Potter: 木の扉に寄りかかってホグワーツを見上げると、窓という窓が夕日に照らされて赤くキラキラ輝いている。
14
votes
1answer
444 views

How did 面白 end up meaning “Interesting”?

面 by itself means "face", while 白 by itself means "white". How did these two words combine together to mean "interesting"?
14
votes
2answers
815 views

Why isn't ある's negative form あらない?

ある is listed in dictionaries as having ラ行五段活用, which would suggest a negative form of あらない. However, that form does not exist. Why not?
14
votes
1answer
757 views

Is there a list of kanji ordered by usage in novels?

I have found many lists of kanji ordered by their usage in newspapers, but are there any lists that order by their usage in novels and other fictional material? This might be useful to have because ...
14
votes
3answers
278 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
7answers
5k 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 ...
14
votes
2answers
1k views

How should I start an email when requesting something from someone I don't know well?

In English, there is a certain etiquette to follow when writing a business letter. From what I've seen so far, the same seems to be true in Japanese as well. If I was making a business-related ...
14
votes
2answers
1k views

What's the difference between に and で when speaking of time of an action?

What's the difference between に and で when speaking of the time of an action? I know に is very specific about time, but I'm not sure when, or how to use で. Can で only be used in certain instances? ...
14
votes
5answers
678 views

Except for pitch, what are the differences in pronunciation between Kansaiben and Tokyoben?

I have tried to ask people this type of question on many occasions and the answer is always the same, but people are notoriously bad at evaluating their own language, so I ask here: Apart for pitch, ...
14
votes
2answers
403 views

Why is “ゼロ” more popular than “れい”?

For the number zero, [零]{れい} is a Chinese origin word that is pretty much familiarized in Japanese. Nevertheless, it seems more popular to use the Western origin word ゼロ, which probably appeared ...
14
votes
1answer
255 views

Is 花見 only for “cherry blossom” viewing?

Textbooks usually teach that 花見 / お花見 means "cherry blossom viewing". Tatoeba has a couple of examples supporting that: ヒラヒラと桜の花が舞っている。もうお花見の季節も終わりだな It looks like cherry blossom-viewing ...
14
votes
2answers
138 views

What are the nuances between these three terms for intelligence: 知恵 [ちえ], 知能 [ちのう], 知性 [ちせい] ?

In particular which one is closer to the idea of "ability to reason over things" as a quality of someone in particular? What I believe is that 知識 on the other hand is closer to "knowledge" and ...
14
votes
3answers
901 views

「~たじゃない」 expression in spoken Japanese

I noticed in an anime I watched, one of the characters said something like below: さっき食べたじゃない。 And what I think the meaning is: Didn't you just eat a few while ago? From what I have learned in ...
14
votes
2answers
346 views

Is there a specific time to pronounce 日本, にほん/にっぽん?

Are the two used completely interchangeably or are there specific situations where one might be used more than the other? For example I've never heard 日本語 said にっぽんご.
14
votes
2answers
439 views

What's the difference between 今日{きょう} and 本日{ほんじつ}?

I also see both in different examples. As in : 今日は暑い。 本日はおめでとうございます。 Both are translated as "Today", but when and how should I use either one? Can we say : 本日はあつい。 And 今日はおめでとうございます。?
14
votes
2answers
502 views

“太ってる猫” vs “太った猫”

Greetings people I saw this sentence in a textbook: 彼女は太った猫が好きじゃない。, which was translated to "She doesn't like fat cats". I was under the impression that 太ってる猫 means something like "cat that is in ...
14
votes
1answer
625 views

Voiced or unvoiced syllables in compound words

Examples first. First example: 空 {そら}. Almost all compound nouns for which 空 is the second component pronounce it as ぞら (zo ra): 青空 {あおぞら}, 夜空 {よぞら}, 星空 {ほしぞら}. There is at least one exception ...
14
votes
3answers
5k 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?
14
votes
1answer
524 views

Understanding all the words but not the meaning: What does this ad say?

This is a frequent problem that I think many Japanese learners experience. You look at some Japanese sentences, and you understand the words, and most, if not all, the grammar, and yet still, it just ...
14
votes
2answers
233 views

Most appropriate word for 'food'

I have seen many ways of saying 'food'. I am wondering if there is ever a difference in appropriateness. 食品、食べ物、~物(type+物)、飯、ご飯、etc. Most commonly, I think, is 食べ物, but I thought I'd use 食品 for an ...
14
votes
1answer
2k views

How to differentiate friend level in Japanese?

I am sometimes having difficulty differentiating friends level when explaining it to a Japanese. For example, when I am telling a story about a friend, I want to specify the level of friendship we ...
14
votes
4answers
718 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
1answer
361 views

Why is the topic marker often used in negative statements (ではない, ~とは思わない)?

What function does は provide in statements such as 本ではない or 本だとは思わない? I notice the は after と is often left out, at least if a Google search for 思わない is any indication, but there still seems to be a ...
14
votes
2answers
445 views

Exceptional compounding forms

There are a number of Japanese words which have distinct compounding forms: -a/-e alternation: 天・雨、酒、上、風、目 — many examples. -u/-i alternation: 神([神]{かむ}[集]{つど}ふ)、月([月]{つく}[読]{よみ}) -o/-i alternation: ...
14
votes
2answers
667 views

The verbs of learning: 勉強する, 習う and 学ぶ

How are the following verbs which are related to learning different to each other? 勉強する 習う 学ぶ
14
votes
2answers
389 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 ...
14
votes
1answer
356 views

Why does the narrator switch tenses here?

I'm currently reading The Tale of Peter Rabbit in Japanese, but the opening to the story is confusing me a bit. The actual text reads: ...
14
votes
2answers
438 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 ...
14
votes
1answer
275 views

General applicability of the ~ませ conjugation

I have only found the ~ませ conjugation used in the following honorific verbs: いらっしゃいませ くださいませ なさいませ Can the conjugation be applied to other honorific verbs, like おっしゃいませ or めしあがりませ? Or even common ...
14
votes
2answers
291 views

meanings of 「書{か}いてある」 and 「書かれている」

I think that these sentences might have similar meanings: 犬{いぬ}についての記事{きじ}が朝日{あさひ}新聞{しんぶん}に書いてあります。 犬についての記事が朝日新聞に書かれています。 I think that the direct translations are: There is an ...
14
votes
2answers
669 views

Rules for emphasizing by lengthening sounds

Sometimes, sounds are lengthened for emphasis. For example, see "とっても versus とても". What are the rules governing this process? Are there restrictions on where lengthening can be inserted? とっても or ...
13
votes
5answers
2k views

Is there a reason why numbers in Japanese are delimited into blocks of four?

As I understand, Japanese numbers are divided into blocks of four, so while we would think of the number 89123889 as 89,123,889, in Japan they would think of it as 8912,3889 (八千九百十二万三千八百八十九). So ...
13
votes
2answers
925 views

Meaning of ぬ added to 連用形 / masu-stem, as in 風立ちぬ

What does the ぬ at the end of 立ち specify? I can't find a verb that is just 立ちぬ, is this some kind of special form? Can this be done with other verbs as well? 風立ちぬ, for reference, is Miyazaki's new ...
13
votes
8answers
814 views

Is the word ハーフ derogatory?

Is the term ハーフ (mixed-race Japanese/other) derogatory? Can you use it in a newspaper article? Can you use it to describe your boss? If it is derogatory, what word(s) should one use instead?
13
votes
5answers
1k views

Why are there two versions of the kanji for "tsumetai'?

The screenshot below is from Kotoba for iPhone. It shows the character for "cool", as used in the word "tsumetai". However, the character in the stroke order diagram is slightly different to the ...
13
votes
4answers
660 views

Does 髭 refer to the beard or the moustache?

My dictionary lists 髭 as moustache / beard, but from the example sentences in WWWJDIC, it seems like 髭 is more often used to mean "beard" than "moustache" ? So for example, in this sentence: ...
13
votes
3answers
8k 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, ...
13
votes
3answers
657 views

Why is “Xy” pronounced as “Ki Shi” in Xylitol「キシリトール」?

Why is "Xy" pronounced as "[Ki Shi]{キ シ}" in [Xylitol]{キシリトール}? I believe "Xy" can pronounced as "Zai", which is probably a valid sound in Japanese. I would like to know its etymology too, if there ...
13
votes
3answers
1k views

What is the meaning of ~んです?

This sentence ending has started to creep up more and more in my current Japanese classes, and I'm still a bit unsure what all it can mean, how to use it, or even when I should think to use it. My ...
13
votes
3answers
29k 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 ...
13
votes
1answer
492 views

Why are points used where furigana would be normally?

Sometimes in mangas there points where you would expect normally furigana. What meaning is it supposed to have?

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