I've thought for a while that there was something a little "strange" about the way はず is used in Japanese, and I recently thought of a way of explaining it that I've not seen elsewhere.

Half of this post might be better split into an answer instead... (if someone with power to do that thinks it's a good idea and has an idea for how to split it, then...)

As it stands, for answers I'm looking for second opinions, further sources or discussion, and suggestions for how to translate these kinds of sentences.

So, my thoughts on はず

はず is a strange creature that seems to express both conviction and doubt simultaneously.

Daijirin says of た + はず:

④ (矢の筈は,弓の弦と当然合致するということから)連体修飾語を受けて,形式名詞的に用いられる。
㋒ 不審な物事や納得のいかない事柄を,何らかの事情を根拠にして納得する意を表す。 「寒い-だ,窓が開いている」
㋓ (「たはずだ」の形で)事柄についての確信・確認の意を表す。その確信していた事柄と事実とが違っていることを不信に思う気持ちを込めていう。 「君にたのんだ-だ」

It doesn't have anything similar for non-た uses, but Daijisen offers something:

4 《矢筈と弦とがよく合うところから》 当然そうなるべき道理であることを示す。また、その確信をもっていることを示す。「君はそれを知っている―だ」「来ない―はない」

(I believe this can take the same nuance as Daijirin's ④㋓.)

According to the dictionary, both conviction and doubt are thrown onto the statement preceding はず.

However, I can't help feeling as if はず is often used in ways that conflict with this definition. In many cases, it seems as if the speaker does not hold the fact before はず in any doubt, but rather, はず expresses an observation that the (often unstated) implications of the fact don't hold (due to some unexpected situation?). Here are some examples where I felt this way:



(note, the second はず is not under discussion -- I think it is a different sense of はず showing what "should naturally be")

This is narration, and the setting is outside at night, so the narrator, whose role is to describe the scene, should certainly know whether it is clear out or not; if it's from the perspective of the character in the scene, then they can physically see whether there are clouds or not, so either way there should be no doubt that it is clear. It seems strange that the speaker "doubts" this. What is meant seems less like "it should be clear out", i.e.:

I believe that tonight's sky is clear. (Conviction)
But I wonder if it is really? (Doubt)

and more like

I believe firmly that tonight's sky is clear. (Conviction)
( This should imply that I can see the stars.
Yet I can't. ) (Unstated implication [although it is made explicit in sentence 2])
Isn't that odd? Something is wrong. (Observation of unusual contradiction)

Note that in this situation, the speaker is not only aware of the weather, but also aware of the reason why the stars are not visible, and that is not because the sky's not clear, but because of the lights. So はず really does seem like just an observation that things are "odd", and not a doubt about the core fact that the sky is clear.



In this example, the speaker has been serving as a servant in this house for ten years and is well aware of the location of the kitchen within the house as it relates to their current position. There should not be any doubt that the kitchen is where it is. What is meant seems less like "From the kitchen, which should be far away", i.e.:

I believe that the kitchen is far away. (Conviction)
But I wonder if it is really? (Doubt)

and more like

I believe firmly that the kitchen is far away. (Conviction)
( This should imply that smell from the kitchen cannot reach me.
Yet it does. ) (Unstated implication)
Isn't that odd? Something is wrong. (Observation of unusual contradiction)

I thought I told you to cancel that order.
(from 英辞郎 on the WEB)


I believe I told you to cancel.
But did I? My memory isn't so clear.


I firmly believe I told you to cancel.
( This should imply that you would cancel.
You didn't cancel. ) (Unstated implication)
What's going on here, mister? Care to explain my contradiction?

My questions

Are there any problems with the above interpretation? Am I right that はず can be used "without doubting the core fact"?

Are there any published examples demonstrating this usage, or any papers discussing it?

How would you translate the first two examples, 離れているはずの厨房 when the speaker knows and doesn't doubt that the kitchen is far away, and 今夜は晴れのはず when the speaker knows and doesn't doubt that it is clear out?

Maybe "The kitchen, which [should be/I thought was] far away" is actually different enough from the intent of the Japanese to be a translation error, and there is too great an attachment to "はず=should". Are such phrases as "should" and "thought" which express doubt really always appropriate for translating such instances of はず, or are there some better alternatives? Maybe there's some overlap with English (example 3 makes me think so)... it's not a complete overlap, though, right?

  • Just a thought. Perhaps a newer dictionary helps in this case. The 新明解国語辞典 says this about hazu 「今までの事情から言って△当然そうなるであろう(大いに期待される)ことを表わす。」 and lists these examples 「彼なら及第する—だ〔=及第すべき大きな理由が有る。及第しないということはまず考えられない。及第するのももっともだ〕/そんな—は無い〔=そんな(不可解な)事は△道理から言って考えられない(有り得ない)〕/あす出発の—〔=予定〕/それくらいの事は君だって知っている—だ〔=知っていて当然だ。知っていなければならない〕So you could interpret eg your second example as "from the kitchen I know to be far away I can smell a delicious scent" The contrast comes from the context: "and usually, these two things cannot occur simultaneously", which is pretty much what you said.
    – blutorange
    Nov 20, 2014 at 7:33

1 Answer 1


In this context, "離れているはずの厨房" should be "The kitchen, which I thought was far away". Because, In this case, "はず" enphases hungry feeling.

"今夜は晴れのはず" / "I believe that tonight's sky is clear." is good. he is expecting clear sky, but, Its not in fact.

In many cases, "はず" includes feeling of expectation.

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