Hello I'm not sure I have understood well the nuances so I have a few questions:

What is the difference between the sentences below:



I also saw on a site that でさえ is the same as さえ in a sentence like 子供さえわかる. But isn't で the 連用形 of だ? I would translate the sentence as below:

これは子供でさえわかるだろう : Even if you are a kid you should be able to understand this.

これは子供さえわかるだろう : Even a kid should be able to understand this.

And my last question might have nothing to do but I saw a translation for 「日本語さえ話せない」 which is "you can't even speak Japanese", can I express the same thing by saying 「日本語話せない」? Or does this sentence only mean "you cannot speak Japanese either"?


The first pair is easily understood if you take notice where さえ attaches to.

When you don't know what piece you should capture, I can only say ビショップさえ取ればいいよ; if you don't know what action you should do to the Bishop (e.g. if you take it, your piece would be eaten too, so which is more favorable?), I can only say ビショップを取りさえすればいいよ.

If your question is only "What should I do in this position?", then both will do.

I also saw on a site that でさえ is the same as さえ in a sentence like 子供さえわかる.

Really? They're very different. Since さえ is a 取り立て助詞 "focus particle(?)" that isn't a primary particle, it generally can only come after another case particle (格助詞). What you see as if さえ comes right after a noun is actually either さえ or さえ, but the two (and only they) are usually eaten by 取り立て助詞.

子供さえわかる ← 子供わかる "understand children" (or could be "children understand")

子供にさえわかる ← 子供わかる "children can understand" (lit. "be understandable to children")

So, the stumbling block here is, in fact, で.

子供でさえわかる ← 子供わかる "understand within children / as much as a child can"

This is a case particle, and not a paradigm of copula だ. It's rarely used alone in this sense, though it does exist:


But instead it typically appears with 取り立て助詞, such as では, でも, ですら or でさえ.

日本語さえ話せない and 日本語も話せない can describe the same situation in most of times, but there is a clear distinction; も comes from "also" thus means it's a deviation from criterion, while さえ implies that itself is a criterion. That is:

It doesn't matter if we're heard, as long as (=if only it's met that) they don't speak Japanese.

  • ご回答ありがとうございます 参考になります
    – Tchang
    Apr 8 '16 at 18:54

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