In my JLPT workbook, it gives these examples to explain the difference between 延{の}びる and 伸{の}びる:



They both mean "stretch", more or less, so I assumed the difference was that 延{の}びる was more about time and space, and 伸{の}びる is more about distance and length.

However, take a look at this practise question:


A 長引{ながひ}いた  B 広{ひろ}がった  C 延{の}びた  D 伸{の}びた

I chose, D, because it was about length.

According to the book, though, the answer is C.

How can I make sense of this answer in light of the example sentences?

  • 3
    Not relevant in the least bit but my reputation is 3456 and yours is 5678 at this instant. Thought it was something interesting to share =D.
    – Flaw
    Nov 23, 2011 at 12:55
  • It's potentially the start of a Dan Brown novel... ;)
    – Questioner
    Nov 23, 2011 at 15:36
  • There are some のびる which can have both 伸びる and 延びる. 伸びる is almost for physical stuff and the other is for space and time. An exception I know is [金]{きん}を[叩]{たた}いて[延]{の}ばす, which means Beat out gold. Also: dictionary.goo.ne.jp/jn/172188/meaning/m0u
    – puhitaku
    Nov 29, 2015 at 6:51
  • Does it mean 伸 is preferred when the topic is animate?
    – Derpius
    Nov 29, 2015 at 6:54

2 Answers 2


Using the Microsoft IME as a guide, generally 延びる seems to be used as "extend" and 伸びる as "grow":


  • Extend a conversation
  • Extend a schedule
  • Extend life span
  • Extend a subway into the suburbs


  • Plants/people grow
  • Expand investigations (in relation to the law etc)
  • Grow one's knowledge
  • Grow a market/earnings

According to business-textbooks.com


So the instance of adding one thing's length to another to extend the total length uses 延, and this seems to match the case in question, that of extending tracks.

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