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: 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"?

1 Answer 1


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.


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