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Google translates it as "you care" and my guide says it is used to say "I'll be careful." From the structure I can figure out that き means something like care and つけます would be something like "be." Please help.

  • 気 is used in a lot of expressions that do not make sense if the words are looked up individually. 気がつく、気の毒、気を配る、気が利く、気を遣う etc. If you see that kanji, try to look up the whole phrase first. – oals Jun 2 '16 at 9:23
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You appear unskilled at Japanese, so allow me to break it down. 気{き}を付{つ}ける is to be taken as a single phrase. Literally you could say it means 'attach your mind', i.e. be mindful. In Japanese, pronouns such as I, you, and she may omitted if they are easily divined by context. Finally ます is attached to verbs to make them more polite, in this case replacing る. All in all 気を付けます is a courteous way of saying 'I will be careful' or 'I will take care.'

  • To your statement "you appear unskilled," I say "spot on." Also I want to warn the community that I'm about to post a lot of such questions here. I have memorized most of the phrases but I just need to know how they take such meanings. My dictionary showed multiple possibilities for き, which is what confused me. Well thanks to you, き を つけます is taken care of. – vickyace Jun 1 '16 at 17:47
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    As a tips. Most grammar cannot be understandable with dictionary. Use a dictionary only to find nouns/kanji meaning. Don't use automatic translator since it will be mess... Use it just as a dictionary. With Japanese, most translations you found will not be a literal translation that you can learn word by word. It's more like taking context of japanese sentence and create english sentence that have the same meaning and context. – Alice28 Jun 1 '16 at 19:09
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    @vickyace Find yourself a grammar book and read through it. A language is more than vocabulary and stock phrases - memorising phrases and then using a dictionary won't get you very far. – Sjiveru Jun 1 '16 at 20:43
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気を付ける literally means (I) attach feelings (to something). It means that you will do something with much thought. Therefore not being careless...

Using this context, we can translate it naturally as I will be careful.

It's like English metaphors of 'You are the bee knees!" or "A piece of cake!"

  • How do you "attach feelings to something" to have it translate as "be carfull" in English. If I were to say to someone "attach feelings to crossing the road", would that translate as "be careful crossing the road" ? – KyloRen Jun 1 '16 at 21:54
  • It's a methapor, therefore i write it as the literal translation.Using the context, careful is the natural translation in english according to the usage. When you you attach feelings to what you do, it means that you do it with a lot of though. For example being careless means that you don't think too much when doing things and might end up doing it not as good as if you put a lot of thought in it. When you cross the street you will need to be awared, putting more effort into looking here and there. It's like English's "piece of cake" which means easy to do or "bee knees" as very admired/good. – Alice28 Jun 2 '16 at 3:40
  • Which is exactly the reason that an expression like this can't be literally translated and a metaphor is not a literal translation. It is either "be careful" or an explanation of what the context of the phrase means. ie, maybe a bit over the top, but your example of "piece of cake" literally translated in Japanese "ケーキのひと切れ" when we all know that it is "朝飯前". Now this translated into Japanese makes sense "attach feelings" does not. My opinion is that some expressions just can't be literally translated. Just a thought. – KyloRen Jun 2 '16 at 3:54
  • Ofcourse,it cannot be literally translate. I only try to explain the metaphor so there's a bit logic as to why 気を付ける means careful. Regarding translating 'a piece of cake' into antoher language i though it will be better if we use a more simple word such as 'かんたんです!' since not all methapor exist in every place. – Alice28 Jun 2 '16 at 4:00
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Put plainly ,just translates as,

  • 気{き}をつける
  • I will be careful

Some things just can't be literally translated in Japanese to English. So there is no way to really break it down like you would like to.

「気{き}」 on its own has a broad amount of meanings and when used with other Kanji or in conjunction with a phrase can take on quite a few meanings.

ie,

  • 空気{くうき} = air
  • 大気{たいき} = atmosphere
  • 気{き}が大{おお}きい = generous
  • 気{き}の強{つよ}い = strong willed
  • 気{き}を落{お}とす = lose heart
  • 気{き}を落{お}ち着{つ}ける = calm oneself

As you can see in the last 4 examples, they are similar expressions to 「気{き}をつける」That the whole phrase make the meaning. There are a lot of Japanese expressions like this using many different Kanji and meanings.

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Somehow a one track answer seemed to slip into this. I am not at all an expert in Japanese - far from it. However, I have 600-1000 Japanese students per year come stay at my host family homes. In my experience and you can take it to the bank, this phrase is more commonly used to tell another person to be careful. It may be used as I will be careful, but that is not it's normal and typical use. A mother would be telling her child be careful when they're riding a bike, or potentially doing something dangerous like cutting a carrot.

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