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The difference between

たとえ背が高くても… [even if you should be tall]

いくら背が高くても… [no matter how tall you are]

Seems obvious to me, but “いくら” is very often also used with words that are not degreeable such as:

いくら第二王子の僕だからって、兄上の会議に乱入していい理由はない。

Obviously there is no degree to being the second prince, one either is or isn't. So to what degree does this sentence express a difference from:

たとえ第二王子の僕だからって、兄上の会議に乱入していい理由はない。

I would definitely translate the latter as something such as “I may very well be the second prince, but that still doesn't give me a reason to barge into his meeting.” but I'm not sure what to think of the first. Is it simply a case that far more things in Japanese are degreeable than in English or is the distinction largely lost when used with a non-degreeable concept?

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Generally there is always a quality that is degreeable. The quality may be implicit. In the いくら第二王子... sentence, what is implicit is that 僕 as the second prince has some right to interrupt his brother's meeting. Concretely, 僕 is more qualified to interrupt than, say, a mere servant.

The implicit quality can be totally contextual. For example,

  • いくら僕でも、この本は買えない

If the speaker is a book lover and the book costs 50000 yen. The implicit quality is book-loving-ness, and it is like however much I like books, 50000 yen for this is a bit out of my budget.

In a different context where the speaker is rich (enough to pay 50000 yen casually) and talking about a 10-million-yen book, then it is more like however rich I am..


I think たとえ背が高くても and いくら背が高くても boil down to the same thing, more or less. It says Suppose you are very tall....

A difference is that たとえもう少し背が高くても works but いくらもう少し背が高くても doesn't (really). For things like 'a little bit taller', いくら works much less naturally and this may fit better your understanding 'いくら is not used for non degreeable quality'.

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    Ahh, I see, so the example sentence has an implicit “No matter how great my standing as the second prince ...” type of nuance?
    – Zorf
    Mar 21 at 2:35
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    @Zorf Yes, that's correct.
    – sundowner
    Mar 21 at 8:59

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