I have the following sentence and I can't find any material pointing out the usage of this grammar.


In general, what is the usage of 「VるにはVた」?


「読むには読んだ」 means 'skimmed' a book. You quickly run through the book, but not intensively.

"VるにはVだ" means "I did it (but not intensively / seriously), if I were forced to answer if I did it, or not."

For example:

  • 英語を習うには習った、でも上手く喋れない - I learned English, but I cannot speak English well.

  • 聞くには聞いた、でも覚えていない - I heard it, but I cannot recall.

  • 言うには言った、でも約束した覚えはない - Yes I said it, but I didn't promise it.

  • 行くには行った、でもすぐ帰ってきた - I went there, but I returned soon.
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    Nice clear answer. Exactly what it is interpreted in English. Up vote for you. – KyloRen Jun 2 '16 at 0:30
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    This first part is jumping to a conclusion 「読むには読んだ」 means 'skimmed' a book. You quickly run through the book, but not intensively. That might be the case, but it could also be the case that it was a very difficult book with difficult terminology, so it was difficult to understand. You cannot assume that person skimmed the book. Another example, 読むに読んだが、内容はほとんど覚えていない. This could because they skimmed it, but it could also because they read the book many years ago and forgot the content (among other reasons). – Jesse Good Jun 3 '16 at 10:22
  • @Jess Good. It's impossible to read through the difficult book intentively. You can be intentive just at the begginig and end up skimming in essence. I challenged Emmanuel Kant's "Clitique of Reason" several times in my life, but never went through. The same with Kark Marx's "The Capital." The net result was the same as the skimming, without comprehension.YMMV. I don't want to argue minor differences. – Yoichi Oishi Jun 3 '16 at 11:27
  • Correction: Kark Marx →Karl Marx. – Yoichi Oishi Jun 4 '16 at 1:10
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    Np, I understand some people do not care about the minor differences. I have a background in translation, so I'm very critical about the small details – Jesse Good Jun 4 '16 at 4:17

「Verb/Adjective + には + Same Verb/Adjective」

is a common (informal) way to emphasize the verb/adjective.


= "I did read the book that (someone recommended), but I was unable to understand it well."

An example using an adjective:


"This pizza is indeed good, but it is not mind-blowing."

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    Not just emphasize, but in particular, contrast it, right? Even if you say 薦められた本を読むには読んだ。 by itself, I think it introduces some yet-unspecified other action which you didn't do with the book into the discourse. – Darius Jahandarie Jun 2 '16 at 1:17

According to the definition of には

3 (多く「…には…が」の形で、動詞や形容詞を繰り返して)一応その動作や状態は認めるが、それに関連して起こる動作や状態については関知したり容認したりしない意を表す。「推薦状は、書くには書くが、あまり期待しないでくれ」「涼しいには涼しいが、ちょっと冷えすぎる」

It's saying that you recognize that a particular state or action but didn't acknowledge/accept the significance of what happened due to that state/action.

So in this case: "Although I read the book you recommended, I didn't understand it"



「読むには読んだ」の解釈として、(1)ざっと読む<Yoichi Oishi>、(2)内容や用語が難しいので理解するのが難しい<Jesse Good>、(3)何年も前に読んだので内容を忘れたかもしれない<Jesse Good>が既にある。

Yoichi Oishiの 「VるにはVだ」を使った他の文例を見ると、「読むには読んだ」の解釈を含めて一貫性があるような気がし、一定の評価をする。

しかし、私には「読むには読んだ」が使われる場面を想定すると、(1)は違うような気がしてならない。一方、Jesse Goodの指摘、あるいは解釈もなかなか良いと思う。



  • 内容が簡単な本、あるいは、雑誌などにはあまり使われないように思う。
  • 自分の理解力の範囲内ではちゃんと読んだ、あるいは、自分の普段読む方法ではちゃんと読んだ。当然、ざっと読んだ訳ではない。また、理解するのが難しかった訳でも、内容を忘れた訳でもない。

一般に、読んだ本の内容の理解度は読む人の能力あるいは興味に依存する。また、ある本の内容について他人と議論することも少ない。 しかし、たまたま、ある有名な本、あるいは内容が充実した本に関して、友人(一人とは限らない)もその本を読んでいたことが分かり、その本のことが会話での話題になったとする。そのようなとき、主に次の2つの理由で、「読むには読んだ」が議論の冒頭でこの理由に該当する人から発せられるような気がする。



  • 相手の提起した論点を特に意識して読んでいないので、その論点での質の高い回答ができないことの言い訳とする。
  • 相手の提起した論点の記述は実際には覚えているが忘れたことにして、回答ができないことの言い訳とする。
  • 丁寧に読めばもっと高いレベルの発言ができるのだと、自分の持っている力量がもっと大きいことを誇示する。


The following three interpretations are already made for "読むには読んだ".
(1) 'to skim' a book or to quickly run through a book, but not intensively ー Yoichi Oishi
(2) I think it's a difficult book to understand because of difficult terminology. ー Jesse Good
(3) I may have forgotten the contents because I read it many years ago. ー Jesse Good

Looking at "読むには読んだ" and other sentences using " VるにはVだ", I would somewhat evaluate Yoichi Oishi's consistent interpretation.

However, assuming a scene where "読むには読んだ" is used, (1) doesn't seem sufficiently correct. On the other hand, what was pointed out and new interpretations proposed by Jesse Good are quite good and gave me a suggestion to think further.

Therefore, I'll propose the fourth interpretation.

The following facts can be said as the premise of "読むには読んだ".

  • It seems that this phrase is not used much for books with simple content, magazines etc.
  • I properly read the book with the ability of my understanding or I properly read it in my own way. Of course, I did not skim it. Also, I remember the content of it now even if it was difficult to understand.

In general, the degree of comprehension of the contents of the book depends on the ability or interests of the reader. And, we usually don't discuss with others on the contents of a book.

However, by chance, it is assumed that a friend (or friends) read a certain well-known book or a meaty book that you have read, and that the book became a topic in the conversation.

In such a case, "読むには読んだが" seems to be said at the beginning of the discussion from a person corresponding to one of the following two reasons.

(A) In the discussion from now on, there is a possibility that an issue that was not supposed may be raised, so a person would inform the insufficiency of understanding of the contents of the book in advance. This is an act commonly referred to as "[予]{あらかじ} め  [逃]{に}げを[打]{う}つ to get ready to escape in advance or to take measures beforehand to escape pursuit of responsibility etc.".

(B) It is common in men's world or intellectuals that the competence or the caliber of the speaker is judged through the discussion, apart from the discussion of the contents of the book itself. In that case, in order to avoid his competence being judged lower, he would say "読むには読んだ" in advance with the intention of making one or some of the following excuses. In any case, a man pretending to be an intellectual would sometimes use this expression in order to "make himself look bigger".

  • Since he was not particularly conscious of the point or issue raised by the opponent when he read the book, he makes an excuse that he cannot make a higher quality answer to it.
  • Although he actually remember the contents of the point raised by the opponent, he pretends to forget it now and makes an excuse for not being able to answer properly.
  • He insists that if he would have read the book more carefully he could discuss the issue at a higher level, in order to show off that his competence is greater.

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