I am confused with the usage of 午前中 and あさ. When should they be used properly?




If you mean "morning", I think they're often interchangeable. The native Japanese 朝 is more common, and if I search the Balanced Corpus of Contemporary Written Japanese (BCCWJ) for your particular phrase, we find about a five-to-one ratio in favor of 朝:

   明日の朝に     50 results
   明日の午前中に   10 results

In general, I would say there's no difference in meaning. Both typically refer to "morning", which is most commonly the period of time after the sun rises. When I look up 朝 in dictionaries, they're ambiguous about when it ends—for example, 明鏡国語辞典 says it can refer to either a short while after the sun rises, or it can extend all the way to roughly noon:


Literally speaking, you might expect 午前中 to refer more properly to the twelve hours from midnight to noon, so that would be a difference in meaning. And in certain contexts such as weather forecasts, it has exactly that meaning, while 朝 is more restricted, so they aren't always strict synonyms. But in many contexts, I think 午前中 refers to roughly the same span of time as 朝.

Sometimes 朝 might be conceptualized more like a point in time, while 午前中 is always a span of time thanks to 中. So 朝ずっと is a little unusual, but 朝からずっと "ever since this morning" is fine; and 午前中ずっと "all morning" is fine, while 午前中からずっと is silly:

   朝ずっと      1 result
   午前中ずっと    11 results
   朝からずっと    28 results
   午前中からずっと  0 results

I think Eiríkr Útlendi is correct that the Sino-Japanese 午前中 belongs to a slightly more formal register, but it's a common phrase and I think you can use it in casual conversation if you like.

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    Yes~ if you say 明日の朝に銀行で口座を開きます I'll think you'll go to the bank by around 10am or maybe by 10:30am, and if you say 明日の午前中に銀行で口座を開きます then I'll think you'll go by noon. – user1016 May 17 '14 at 2:54

They mean more or less the same thing. In terms of more subtle nuances, note that 朝【あさ】 is the native Japanese word, while 午前中【ごぜんちゅう】 is derived from Chinese. The Japanese language has many of these native / Sinic pairs that mean mostly the same thing, a bit like how English has many pairs of terms that mean mostly the same thing, where one term in the pair originally came from Anglo-Saxon or other Germanic roots, while the other term in the pair originally came from Latin or Greek roots. Just as in English, where the term that was originally from Latin or Greek often comes across as slightly "fancier" or more formal, it's usually the same in Japanese, where the Sinic term is often considered to be a higher register.

So whether to say 朝に or 午前中に in your sample sentence is really a matter of social context and stylistic word choice.

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