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Please consider these two sentences (彼女 is a woman):

  1. 彼女はきれいです。
  2. 彼女は美しいです。

My sense is that #1 and #2 have the same meaning. Pronouncing きれい is easier, so I have just always said #1. And, I don't think that I've heard "美しい" spoken much, if ever.

What is the difference between #1 and #2?
Regardless of the difference, native speakers still don't say 美しい very much? きれい is what "sounds natural"?

  • Why do you think pronouncing きれい is easier? – istrasci Oct 3 '14 at 17:44
  • @istrasci "きれい" is just 2 syllables; "美しい" requires making the "uh" sound 3 times in a row. So, my pronunciation of "美しい" is just clumsy. – user312440 Oct 3 '14 at 18:26
  • @snailboat I guess I made a typo. I think both should be "は". Whatever the case, both 助詞 should be the same I think. – user312440 Oct 3 '14 at 22:18
  • The only place J-speakers might say 「彼女は美しいです。」 would be in the English class in junior high school where they are asked to translate "She is beautiful." It does not have to be English but it would be a foreign language class, not in the real world. – l'électeur Oct 3 '14 at 22:53
  • @istrasci The best example I have of why "美しい" is "hard to say" is in the movie "魔女の宅急便".キキ definitely says "kawai!!!" and "kirei!!!!". But, there is not chance she said "utsukushi!!!". It is just a weird sounding word for me at least. – user312440 Oct 3 '14 at 23:04
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Checking against a this corpus reveals that 「きれいです」 occurs a lot more often than 「美しいです」:

きれいです: 228
美しいです: 47

So, it seems that using 「きれい」occurs a lot more than 「美しい」 when being used in an XXX+です sentence.

From personal experience, I would almost always use 「きれい」 or 「かわいい」 when commenting on an adult female before 「美しい」.

This shouldn't be taken to mean that 「美しい」 is not a common word, or not commonly used. Referencing the same corpus:

きれい: 6792
美しい: 6364

Regarding the meaning though, if someone did say 「美しい」 (or 「美人」) I would consider her to be better looking than 「きれい」.

  • 4
    "きれいです 228, 美しいです 47" doesn't really say anything about when it refers to a woman, though. "きれいな人" and "美しい人" have both roughly the same number of hits... – Earthliŋ Oct 4 '14 at 22:01

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