I am under the impression that many of the current words used have both a native or an international counterpart.

For example:

  1. 扉 (とびら) vs ドア
  2. 全て (すべて) vs 全部
  3. いちご vs ストロベリー

.. and the list goes on.

I am actually curious about how these words are used in a sentence. For example, I hear in trains that 扉 (とびら) or ドア are both used interchangeably. The same is true for いちご and ストロベリー.

I am unsure about 全て (すべて) and 全部. Are they used interchangeably? Or should there be a proper context when a "native" Japanese word must be used vs a Chinese/imported one.

  • I don't think ドーア is a word, it should be ドア. Also ストロベリ should be ストロベリー...
    – Earthliŋ
    Nov 19, 2015 at 8:36
  • 4
    漢語 (Sino-Japanese vocabulary) are often considered separately from 外来語 (recent loanwords) because the former were borrowed so long ago and are somewhat "nativized". Of course, both types are loans, but I think for your question it might be better to separate them out.
    – user1478
    Nov 19, 2015 at 8:40
  • I think we've had the sino-Japanese one before...
    – virmaior
    Nov 19, 2015 at 8:42
  • For 扉 and ドア, I am pretty sure that, whileドア is used for real doors most of the time (e.g., 自動ドア), 扉 is usually used for metaphorical doors. For example, as in the name of the song 未来への扉. 未来へのドア will sound quite strange in this case.
    – xuq01
    Apr 16, 2017 at 3:54

2 Answers 2


The simplest answer is that there is no complete rule to explain when to use what. Some imports both of the Sino-Japanese variety and the modern variety have completely overrun their Japanese equivalents or potential equivalents. バイト or アルバイト is the word for part-time jobs in Japan. [通]{つう}じる is the most natural way to say something was conveyed.

At the same time, there are some rough rules to go by. First off, a generalized word for foreign words is [外来語]{がいらいご}. Then, [漢語]{かんご} (Chinese import words) will have a higher tendency to come across as academic/formal (not formal as in polite) in contrast to a native Japanese word [和語]{わご} or [大和言葉]{やまとことば} which might tend to sound more colloquial or theoretically be taught to children in advance of the imported words.

Other foreign imports exist because they were imported simultaneously with the concept like レポート. My sense is that if we add recent カタカナ言葉 then we will discover that these words sound trendier.

For some of these, what I do as a fellow non-native speaker is use a google image search. In two of your three cases, it confirmed my suspicions:

  1. 扉 gets you much more ornate looking doors than ドア
  2. いちご (preferred over 苺 ) is the fruit vs. ストロベリー the flavor ...

For 全て / すべて, one thing to notice is that it can be both noun and adverb.


Excellent answer. Just one comment regarding 外来語. It's often the abbreviated version of the word that's most frequently used. It's also a generation thing, so younger people tend to use more 外来語. and more frequently the abbreviated version.

  • マクドナルド becomes マック "mc donalds"
  • リュックサック becomes リュック "rucksack/backpack"

This can be frustrating for language learners, since the words often get abbreviated to the point where they no longer share any resemblance to their foreign counter-part, and pretty much becomes 和製語.

One example is the word [NG]{エヌジー} which means "No Good". It's often used in Japanese TV-shows, and has been changed to the point where it retains it's original meaning, but the way it's written and pronounced has no resemblance to the original loan-words (ノー and グッド).

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