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I realize 東西南北 means all 4 directions (East, West, South and North) and 春夏秋冬 means all 4 seasons (Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter), but when should these words be used? I can imagine there might be a somewhat poetic meaning to them, but are there any commonplace usage examples?

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Usage of 東西南北

[東西南北]{とう・ざい・なん・ぼく} is commonly used in daily life. For example, when someone gets confused about which is the east / west / south / north, s/he usually says

「東西南北が[分]{わ}からない。」

When someone explicitly asks the direction, 東西南北 is used to avoid misunderstanding.

「東西南北どっち?」

A simple question 「どっち?」 could imply various choices, so people usually add explicit choices before the word どっち to create a clear question, such as

「[上下]{じょう・げ}どっち?」, 「[上下]{うえ・した}どっち」, 「[左右]{さ・ゆう}どっち?」, 「[右左]{みぎ・ひだり}どっち?」, 「[赤白]{あか・しろ}どっち?」, 「[塩]{しお}、[砂糖]{さ・とう}、どっち?」etc.

Generally, どっち is used in a two-choice question, whereas どれ is used in a multiple(more than two)-choice question. 東西南北 contains four choices, however in this case, どっち is used for it. Because どっち is a word for directions, while どれ is a word for objects or concepts which are treated as objects.

If there are four chairs and each chair is placed in each of 東西南北, someone may ask

「東西南北どれにする?」

which implies "Which chair(object) will you sit in?" This is not about directions, so どれ is the right one to use. However, if someone wonders which direction the chair should face, s/he may ask

「この[イス]{い・す}、東西南北どっち[向]{む}ける?」

This is about directions. So, どっち follows 東西南北.

When someone talks about the directions of something, a phrase 「〜の東西南北」 is commonly used.

「この[地図]{ち・ず}の東西南北

「[月]{つき}の東西南北

When someone is willing to go anywhere, s/he may say

「東西南北どこへでも[行]{い}きます。」

When an area is divided into four smaller areas in someone's thought, 東西南北 is used to describe the smaller areas.

「あの[町]{まち}には、東西南北にひとつずつ、[小学校]{しょう・がっ・こう}がある。」

 

Usage of 春夏秋冬

[春夏秋冬]{しゅん・か・しゅう・とう} is also commonly used. For example,

春夏秋冬訪れたい日本の名所

春夏秋冬 is a noun, but can be used as an adverb to mean "every season."

「あの[観光地]{かん・こう・ち}は、春夏秋冬[楽]{たの}しめる。」

A noun 春夏秋冬 meaning "every season" is commonly followed by の, and a 春夏秋冬の phrase modifies a following noun or nouns.

「春夏秋冬の[星座]{せい・ざ}」

「春夏秋冬の[景色]{け・しき}と[味覚]{み・かく}」

The synonyms of 「春夏秋冬の〜」 are 「[四季]{し・き}の〜」 and 「四季[折々]{おり・おり}の〜」.

On the other hand, 「〜の春夏秋冬」 is used to express all four seasons or all seasonal characteristics of something.

「日本の春夏秋冬を楽しむ。」(日本 can be read にほん or にっぽん)

「[人生]{じんせい}の春夏秋冬について[考]{かんが}える。」

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  • thank you so much for the explanation and the examples. it really helped me understand where to use those words – htcoelho Sep 27 '15 at 9:38

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