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When I asked Japanese about the opposite of 同じ, they always answer 違う. For me, it sounds strange that 同じ which is a noun has an antonym 違う which is a verb.

Is there a pair of adjectives in Japanese that convey the same meaning as the pair of "same-different" in English?

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First, 同じ is not a noun; 同じ by itself cannot serve as a subject or the object of a transitive verb. For example, 同じが言える and 同じを見る are ungrammatical.

According to one dictionary, 同じ is a special 形容動詞 (≒na-adjective), which doesn't require な when it directly modifies a regular noun (see the third example below).

同じ is grammatically special, and there seems to be no antonym that works exactly in the same way as 同じ.

That said, assuming 同じ is a kind of 形容動詞, one closer word which is an antonym of 同じ is 別【べつ】.

  • AとBは同じだ。 / AとBは別だ。 / AとBは違う。
  • AとBは同じです。 / AとBは別です。 / AとBは違います。
  • 同じ話をします。 / 別な(の)話をします。 / 違う話をします。
  • 同じなので難しい。 / 別なので難しい。 / 違うので難しい。
  • 同じであれば嬉しい。 / 別であれば嬉しい。 / 違うであれば嬉しい。
  • 同じだろう。 / 別だろう。 / 違うだろう。
  • 同じだった。 / 別だった。 / 違った。

So, 別 is grammatically a bit closer to 同じ, isn't it? :-)

Aside from the word class, there is a small but important difference in meaning between 別 and 違う. But it's very difficult to explain... Anyway, here's an article about this topic in Japanese. In a word, I feel 別 is closer to another while 違う is closer to different (and it also means incorrect).

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