Some context: Person A and Person B both went through a trying situation dealing with Person C, someone that Person A has known for many years. They are now talking about how awful it was. Person A then thinks this:


which as far as I understand is something along the lines of: Person B has suffered 10 years less than I have. How lucky Person B is.

I was pretty surprised 人間 was the choice of word here. I would have expected 人 instead because in my experience 人間 refers to humanity or a type of person. Is this something that's done frequently?


Yes, this example sentence is natural.

人間【にんげん】 can be used, as well as 人【ひと】, when one shows their hatred against someone, or when one wants to keep a distance from someone.

  1. 私はあの人が好きです。: OK
  2. 私はあの人が嫌いです。: OK
  3. 私はあの人間が好きです。: Weird
  4. 私はあの人間が嫌いです。: OK

To me, #4 sounds even more hostile than #2.

Likewise, 「彼はそういう人です。(That's how he is.)」 can be used both positively or negatively, but 「彼はそういう人間です。」 is usually negative.

In the sentence in question, なんて幸せな人だ is also OK, but なんて幸せな人間だ sounds like Person A displays a somewhat unfriendly attitude to Person B.

I can't explain the logic behind this, but perhaps the speaker is keeping a distance from the subject by using 人間, the word that does not sound very friendly.

  • Well I think the person that Person A is saying is 幸せな is Person B. I don't think there would be a reason to be unfriendly there. The rest of this seems to make quite a bit of sense though. – Ringil Jun 21 '15 at 16:34
  • @Ringil Thanks, my mistake. If A and B are close friends, and A said this in front of B, then I think A said this probably half-jokingly/sarcastically. – naruto Jun 21 '15 at 16:36
  • As I said in my question, A thinks this. I would agree with you if he had spoken that, but since A and B are close friends it seems somewhat confusing to think that. – Ringil Jun 21 '15 at 16:58
  • Sorry, then perhaps A thought this out of strong jealousy against B? Judging from this sentence alone, I don't think A is celebrating B's luck at heart, anyway. – naruto Jun 21 '15 at 17:08
  • Or maybe A was just trying to be thinking objectively. Addressing someone out loud in front of you as 人間 is generally rude, but it may be acceptable in a monologue. – naruto Jun 21 '15 at 17:24

I'm not sure, but I guess that's only the limitation of the writer's vocabulary.

I would write the said phrase as 俺に比べて汚染度10年分も少ないなんて、なんて幸せな奴だ。

  • 3
    Limited vocabulary? Sorry, but that's nonsense. Do you think anyone (including learners and native speakers) would know 人間 and not 人? And 奴 is almost always used simply as an informal way of saying 人. – Earthliŋ Jun 21 '15 at 12:20
  • 4
    I've seen 人間 used that way multiple times by native speakers. – Chris Jun 21 '15 at 12:27
  • 2
    The question asked "why choose 人間 over 人" and you answered "limitation of the writer's vocabulary". – Earthliŋ Jun 21 '15 at 13:14
  • 2
    I still don't think "limitation of the writer's vocabulary" is relevant here at all. – Earthliŋ Jun 21 '15 at 13:20
  • 4
    I highly doubt writer vocabulary limitations are at play here... – Ringil Jun 21 '15 at 15:09

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.