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I think when a lot of people first learn もう it's as "already', right? There's also the meanings of "anymore", "soon", "now", "more', "another" and its use as an interjection. That's a lot of meaning packed in one small word, I think, and personally I get easily confused whenever I see it. In particular, the use of もう to mean "already", and its use with certain verbs constantly confound me.

My question concerns the use of もう with certain verbs and its meaning in those contexts. I'm not sure if there's a specific term for the type I mean but two examples are 止める and 諦める. (Edit:My reasoning is that these verbs are similar to negative form verbs on their own. I'm wondering if due to that property I should understand them the same way I understand もう我慢できない (can't take it anymore) and もうするな (don't do that anymore).) Specifically when used with these verbs in their present tense form how should I interpret もう? I'll give some examples:

  1. 日本語を学ぶのは難しすぎるよ。もうやめる!
  2. 私はそれをもう諦める
  3. もうこの男のことは諦めろ
  4. もうほっといてくれ!

I hope that's enough examples. My question is how to interpret and translate those usages of もう. Are these translations correct?

  1. Learning Japanese is too hard. I quit already!
  2. I'm going to give up on that already.
  3. Give up on this man already
  4. Leave me alone already!

None of those translations seem correct to me, but I'm not sure how else to translate them. Wouldn't もう here rather be closer in meaning to "anymore"? Like in example 1, doesn't this translation make more sense: "Learning Japanese is too hard. I'm not gonna do it anymore!"? I just don't see how "already" is what's intended, yet I'm also not sure that's it's not.

I apologize if my questions are unclear. I wasn't sure how to best word my doubts about もう. I feel I lack a basic understanding of it, but dictionaries and guides haven't proved sufficient for me. If I was unclear on anything or my question is written poorly please feel free to ask for clarification.

  • Why do you think none of your translations are correct? Those are all perfectly good sentences in English. Clearly, the English "already" doesn't even mean "so soon" in your four examples. And, even for past actions like, "He had already finished eating by the time I got there", "already" here doesn't really mean "so soon". Depending on context, it could imply that I was particularly late. It seems like you're getting mentally locked into one particular dimension of "already" in English. – A.Ellett Jul 31 '16 at 16:08
  • Sorry, those four examples were part of a separate question and didn't have anything to do with my question regarding "already" as "so soon". Of course, in none of those example is that aspect of "already" meant to be demonstrated. Only my first question concerns that. In my second question, I'm asking how to interpret もう with a certain type of verb in present tense. Sorry if that was unclear. – FinS Jul 31 '16 at 19:24
  • As for why I think those translations are incorrect, it's because i feel like what もう indicates in those examples is that an action will/should not be continued anymore and the meaning "already" doesn't really signify that. I'm looking for confirmation or rejection of that idea. I would say that in English the "already" in those translation just indicate impatience, or that an action has gone on longer than it should have. Does もう also have that meaning in Japanese? Or should I be thinking of it differently in those context? – FinS Jul 31 '16 at 19:55
  • I edited out a portion of the original post for simplification. – FinS Aug 1 '16 at 10:54
  • Do you feel convinced if I explain it as "indication of an action enters into effect now or was accomplished before now"? – broccoli forest Aug 20 '16 at 3:06
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As you were alluding to in one of your comments, もう when used in conjunction with a present tense (I prefer the term "imperfective" as it's not really present tense - there being another form for an action that is specifically presently happening...) does have that connotation in Japanese that the action should not be continued anymore.

In my experience, it is best not to try and one-for-one words across languages, as there's just really not a clean translation many times. It's best to translate things in context, understanding what the speaker is attempting to communicate.

I think where this gets tricky (as you mentioned) is when もう is used in the negative, the word "already" just doesn't seem to fit so nicely as a one-for-one replacement. If you'd like my best stab at how もう really works.. it's not really modifying the verb.. it's more describing the situational/contextual setup or "feeling" of the situation. And, when you look at it in this way, you no longer are bound to the conjugation of the verb to explain why the translation of もう changes from situation to situation.

I hope that makes sense/is helpful.

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I'm not sure about your first question. I'm not a native speaker. But my guess is that you cannot use もう in that manner. I'll late a native speaker (or someone else answer that portion).

Regarding your second question, consider the dictionary definition as given in my print edition of 広辞林 where もう is defined as

  1. もはや。はや。すでに。

    例:もうだめだ。

  2. この上。更に。いま。

    例:もう少し
    例:まじめな青年だが、もう一つ積極性がほしい。

  3. まもなく。やがて。

    例:もう来るでしょう。

  • Thank you for the response. I realize now that I omitted something that may be helpful to understand where i'm coming from. That is, when you use もう with a negative verb, it means "anymore", right? Examples: もう我慢できない。もうしない。もう時間がない。So my reasoning is that verbs like やめる and 諦める are, in a way, negative verbs. If some says: それをやめろ that means "stop that" or "don't do that", yes? Then if someone says もうそれをやめろ does it mean "don't do that anymore"? – FinS Jul 31 '16 at 22:22
  • @FinS My sense is that もう is very similar to "already" in English in such a context. In もうやめろ, the speaker sounds annoyed that they have to repeat themselves just like in English if we said, "Stop already!" – A.Ellett Jul 31 '16 at 22:26
  • @FinS Though I have a feeling that a native speaker, in such a circumstance, might say something like, もうやめろといってただろう or もうやめるんだ. I'm hoping the native speakers will chime in here on this point. – A.Ellett Jul 31 '16 at 22:31
  • That's true. The 5th definition here indicates that: http://dictionary.goo.ne.jp/jn/218382/meaning/m0u/%E3%82%82%E3%81%86/ 5 自分の判断・感情などを強める気持ちを表す語。感動詞的にも用いる。まさに。なんとも。「これは―疑う余地のない事実だ」「嫌になっちゃうなあ、―」I also would like a native speaker to chime in, though. I wonder how a native speaker hears and understands it in these contexts. – FinS Aug 1 '16 at 8:41
  • Dingdong. Your insights on the usages of もう seem right to me. Could you clarify your points もう少し? when we use もう with negative verbs we have a feelings like 'from now on not anymore/any longer'. – Wataru 'Watson' Subridge Feb 18 '17 at 22:52
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According to 三省堂大辭林, the word もう could be used either as an adverb or as a short term to express one's emotion.

Since the meanings when it is used as an adverb are already there, I would not type in the same thing.

When it is used to express one's feeling, it has two meanings.

(1)ある感情や感動が高まったときに用いられる語。「─,最高だわ」「─,悲しくて悲しくて」
   「─,ほんとにすごいんだ」

(2)やや非難・叱責の気持ちをこめていう語。「─,何度言っても聞かないんだから」
   「ひどいんだから,─」

(1) Be used to express feeling when one's emotion swells.
(2) Be used by one who wants to blame/rebuke another person.

I'm not a native English speaker so my translation could be incorrect sometimes, please correct me when you see anything wrong here.

  • I agree with the above - I would just like to add, that from a conversational perspective, もう, is used as a filler between phrases and sentences - especially common when the user is feeling emotional or judgemental. – lohithbb Mar 31 '17 at 11:00
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Based on intuition and experience alone, I believe that もう is always pretty consistent when it's used to mean 'already'. It's simple to understand it when it's used for the past tense.

もうやった

I already did that

When it's in the present tense, though, I think it maintains that same meaning but expresses one's desire to be done with a situation, like they'd like to wash their hands of it for good.

  • もういいや (Enough already)
  • もうやめよう (Let's be done already)
  • もう胸糞{むなくそ}が悪くなった (I'm so disgusted [at this situation that I would like to be done with])

Again, this is based on experience alone and I have no formal writings to support this but I believe that your (the questioner's) original explanation is correct. I think the hardest part of understanding this is that it doesn't translate into a specific English grammar pattern but the emotion of wanting to be done with something is clear and can be translated into English with good word choice.

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If you put an exclamation mark on the end of the sentence, you have some will to the future. So, I will use adverb indicate right now to future rather than already.I assume using already in the present volition to the future is a little bit strange.

So, My translation:

日本語を学ぶのは難しすぎるよ。もうやめる!

Learning Japanese is too hard! I will quit right now!

私はそれをもう諦める

I have given up on that already.

もうこの男のことは諦めろ

You had better give up this guy right now.

もうほっといてくれ!

Leave me alone immediately!

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