I have the following sentence: [仕事]{しごと}で[気]{き}を[遣]{つか}うことが[多]{おお}い. Which directly translates to: at work you use your 気 often. Some other translations of ki wo tsukau include, paying attention to others, caring about something, to attend to, to fuss about, to take into consideration.

My question is what is the nuance of this き. Is it a good thing or is it a bad thing. Imagine you have to agree or disagree with the statement. What is the suggested meaning implied by these responses.

I've read in other works where 気を遣う is not really a good thing, like it is taking away at the core of your energy and you couldn't maintain some situation, essentially because that situation is using your き. However, in the translations above it also seems like the statement is saying, you often care about your work. The significance here is that ones response of agreeing or disagreeing to the sentence, has almost exact opposite meanings depending on the interpretation of the sentence. I feel the key to understanding the sentence is in the nuance...


Finally, I would be happy if someone could edit/add tags so I can better understand what this question should be tagged as, thanks.

1 Answer 1


気を使う is an idiom, so take the whole thing as a unit. It means something along the lines of 'make accommodations for someone', i.e. to go out of your way to avoid saying/doing things that might negatively affect someone (especially emotionally). Whether this is a good thing or a bad thing depends on your perspective - it can be a pain to have to accommodate other people all the time, but that doesn't mean it's not a nice thing to do.

As a note, in most (if not all) cases in modern Japanese, 気 is used as part of idioms rather than as a word on its own. Don't think of 気 as a separate word meaning 'energy', think instead of 気を使う as a single verbal unit (albeit one that can't take an object, since it technically already has one). These days 気を使う means as much 'use ki/energy' as 'shoot someone an email' means 'fire an email out of a cannon at someone'.

  • Thank you for the response. In a casual conversation with friends, if someone asked you, 仕事で気を使うことが多いですか?Would you take that as them asking you, if the job is a pain in the butt / annoying( in a bad way)? or Would you take it as, do you care about your work (in a good way)?
    – mwjohnson
    Oct 7, 2013 at 2:04
  • 1
    It's definitely not 'do you care about your work', it really means 'do you go out of your way for people at work a lot'. As a question, it actually sounds to my ears entirely neutral - it's mostly just asking for a factual response, and is pretty much devoid of emotional content.
    – Sjiveru
    Oct 7, 2013 at 19:23

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