All of my Japanese teachers have told me that な-adjectives converted to に-ending words and い-adjectives converted to く-ending words, when followed by a verb, are 'adverbs'. However, sentences sound ridiculous when translated in keeping with this principle:

'I want to eat lunch quietly.' or
'I want to eat a quiet lunch.'

'Be quiet!' or
'Be quietly!'

汚いことをいっぱい言ったくせになんなの? 臭くなりましたか?
'What's with you saying so many damn dirty things? Are you being stinky?' or
'What's with you saying so many damn dirty things? Are you being stinkily?' (Obviously, stinkily isn't a word... but...)...

Is there any way I can accommodate my academic learning and my true-to-life experience simultaneously, or do I have to surrender one of them for the other?

Also, can you pay especially close attention to the first sentence? I'm a little sad that I haven't been able to find the words that mean 'a quiet lunch'. Alongside the first sentence in this post, 静かな場所でランチが食べたいです is a considered alternative, but it means, 'eat lunch in a quiet place'. This doesn't comprise the implied 'peace of mind' that 'a quiet lunch' retains in English.

  • You should rather use が with 食べたい, not を (because of the たい form).
    – Axioplase
    Commented Oct 11, 2011 at 6:50
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    You're making a false assumption that any adverb in language A (Japanese in this case) must map 1:1 to an adjective + "ly" in language B (English in this case). It's not a matter of whether it translates but of how you translate it idiomatically. For instance in German you can indeed use the equivalent of -ly adverbs with the equivalent of "to be". But neither what English does nor what German does dictates what japanese may do. You mention "natural" translation but you're complaining about "literal" translation. Commented Oct 18, 2011 at 13:06
  • hippie, I'm actually complaining about natural translation. People don't understand the idiomatic expression because there's no natural way to say it. The style of thinking is different, and it causes people who are foreign to one another to grate against each other. I want to say, "I'd like to have a quiet lunch," but when I say that I get, "We don't call lunches quiet. We have lunch in a quiet place." I think these two things are entirely different on an embedded level. In one language, the quiet is the necessary element. In the other, the place is. Commented Oct 18, 2011 at 13:56
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    @hippietrail Yeah, I realize that more and more, recently. Perhaps what you said entered my mind subliminally. Basically, prepositions in English can be used in various situations to mean various things, although we'd like to believe they always mean the same thing. But then, when we say "up the street", we may mean "up" metaphorically, like to a nicer hours, or "up" in elevation. And don't get me started on 'to'. So, I've been trying to understand the general feeling of particles, recently. I still often mix 'に' and ’で' up, frequently, and have trouble with 'が' and 'は'. But this helps. Commented Dec 29, 2013 at 2:11

3 Answers 3


You are making a big assumption which turns out to be false. That is, you are assuming that

  • Word W1 which belongs to part-of-speech P in language L1 will always be translated to another word W2 of the same part-of-speech P in language L2.

This turns out to be clearly false. For example, before is a preposition in English, but is a noun in Japanese. like is a verb in English, but 好き is a na-adjective in Japanese. And so on. In fact, this actually should be obvious even when thinking within one language. The sentences below roughly express the same idea:

I do not read books.
I never read books.
I read no books.

Here, the same negation is expressed with different words not, never, or no. Are you going to claim that all these words belong to the same parts of speech? You have to realize how ridiculous that idea is.

Once you are free from your myth, then, you should be able to accept the fact that an adverb in Japanese does not always translate to an adverb in English.

  • So please explain: why call 前 a noun? I think it's not a noun in English, so it's a 名詞. It's also a conjugation and an adverb in English... Commented Oct 11, 2011 at 8:15
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    @Wolfpack'08 That's my point. You didn't seem to understand my point.
    – user458
    Commented Oct 11, 2011 at 8:25
  • If that's your point, why did you, specifically, call it a noun, is what I'm wondering. Commented Oct 11, 2011 at 8:32
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    Do you mean, why did sawa use the word "noun" instead of "名詞" to describe what "前" is? (just trying to clarify)
    – Matt
    Commented Oct 11, 2011 at 11:01
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    @Wolfpack'08 can be followed by various case markers such as 前が, 前を, 前に, 前の.
    – user458
    Commented Oct 11, 2011 at 15:16

You're wrong/doubting because you don't parse/translate correctly the sentences.


is 静かに(Adv) + 食べる, i.e., eat quietly.


is 静か(N) + にする, i.e., make it quiet
or alternatively 静かに(Adv) + する, do quietly.
Actually, I think both interpretations are possible here, but I'm pretty sure the first one is the "good" one.

汚いことをいっぱい言ったくせになんなの? 臭くなりましたか?

い-Adj + naru => くなる. To become Adj
臭くなります => become stinky. Have you become stinky/dirty?

  • Very useful. Could it be possible that there's some connoted relativism? For example, "Have you become stinkier?" As "stinkier" would be an adverb? Or am I just thinking way too much into it? Here's the other issue.... Anyway, I talked with some Japanese friends and learned you can say something like 臭くで遊びました (just an example), to take away the negative association かったけど would bear. It's used in English to create a more nostalgia effect. Grammatical, however unusual, language. I learned new grammar. Yay. Commented Oct 11, 2011 at 8:27
  • Also, anything about 'a quiet lunch'? Commented Oct 11, 2011 at 8:31
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    @Wolfpack'08 err, English and Japanese are different languages. In "have you become stinkier", "stinkier" would not be an adverb, it would be the conjugation of an adjective, but it would be written the same as the adverb. English and Japanese do not match grammatically (since you cannot conjugate an adjective in English), so try not to rely on one to understand the other.
    – Axioplase
    Commented Oct 11, 2011 at 8:36
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    "静かなランチ" is a "quiet lunch", but even though I can write/say it, I'm not sure it means anything in Japanese (just like "blue idea" doesn't mean much in English, for example).
    – Axioplase
    Commented Oct 11, 2011 at 8:39
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    This is a minor point, but I do not think that “stinky” (or “stinkier”) can be used as an adverb in English. Commented Oct 11, 2011 at 12:55

As far as having a "quiet lunch" in the terms that you have it put in, wouldn't 私はひまなランチが食べたいです。 Or 私はいそがしくないランチが食べたないです。 

"I want to have a quiet lunch" or "I don't want to have a busy lunch". If translated word-for-word. Though maybe I should be using にぎやか instead of いそがしい.

  • Or 静かな場所でランチを食べたい。 Commented Dec 29, 2013 at 2:05

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