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A: この資料、もう捨てましょうか。
B: あ、ちょっと待ってください。
B: 捨てる前に、ここをコピーしてください。

(A: kono shiryou, mou sutemashou ka.
B: a, chotto matte kudasai.
B: suteru mae ni, koko o kopi--shite kudsai.)

I know that mou with a past-tense verb means already. But what does it mean with this verb tense? Or even with もう捨てますか。

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It can mean many things with present tense

  • "anymore"

    「もうしませんから許してください」

  • "soon, almost"

    「もう終わりますから、しばらくお待ちください」

  • "again, also, another, the other"

    「もう片方の靴下が見つからない」

  • or it can simply emphasize the speaker's feelings

    「これはもう疑う余地のない事実だ」

Source: http://dictionary.goo.ne.jp/leaf/jn2/218382/m0u/

Your example is actually a very good one and gets at the some classic Japanese indirectness (though every language has this type of thing).

Basically when the speaker says:

この資料、もう捨てましょうか。

They mean:

この資料、もう要らない?

But are making it more polite by making the verb about themselves instead of the person they are speaking to.

So the meaning here is actually "anymore", though obviously you can't translate it literally like that.

  • 「もう(そろそろ)寝ましょう。」の「もう」はどうなります?「もう(そろそろ)捨てましょうか。」の「もう」と似てますけど・・・ – Chocolate May 29 '15 at 14:52
  • @Unknown Could you elaborate on that in english? – dotnetN00b May 29 '15 at 15:06
  • @dotnetN00b Sorry... I tried to say: How about the もう in もう(そろそろ)寝ましょう? It looks similar to the もう in もう(そろそろ)捨てましょうか, no? – Chocolate May 29 '15 at 15:08
  • @Unknown That's an excellent question and very difficult to translate. In a sense this is kind of like 「もう(遅いから、)寝ましょう」 so the もう is "already" or "soon". But there's also an aspect of emphasizing the speaker's feelings. The speaker wants the person they are addressing to sleep (or at least thinks the person they are addressing should sleep or will sleep soon). It's very difficult to capture this meaning and nuance while at the same time the common usage of this phrase (which is very common in Japanese). In English adults will say to kids "time for bed", but between adults is much rarer. – jhenn May 29 '15 at 15:29
  • @Unknown (cont) I ran out of characters. Between adults you might just have "when were you planning on going to bed?" or "are you going to stay up much longer?" or "how long were you planning to stay up?" These are like completely different phrases, but it's the closest meaning I can think of on the spot. I'm glad I'm not a translator! – jhenn May 29 '15 at 15:35

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