I came across the structure [V simple-past]とはいえ、、、、 and I can't figure out exactly what it means.

I found this いえ is 言え, and it means the same as とは言うものの... which I don't really understand perfectly either, to be honest. As far as I can tell it seems to mean "With that being said, X."

Am I close to the mark, or far off?

  • 3
    [conjunction, usually kana] though, although, be that as it may, nonetheless
    – cypher
    Commented Dec 9, 2011 at 0:56

3 Answers 3


とはいえ=といっても (approximately), meaning "although."

It's similar to 〜くあれ=〜くても or AあれB=AあってもB, in that it's a written-style usage of the imperative that functions as a concessive. That is, it's conceding something: although, though, even though, yet, however, etc.

春【はる】とはいえまだ寒【さむ】い。 = Although it's spring, it's still cold.

Keep in mind that this isn't 言【い】う in the sense of "he said ___," but more in the broader sense of defining and describing a concept. As a general point, while you're correct that いう is 言【い】う, the two spellings imply different usage. Although it's not a rule, generally 言【い】う will refer to an action, like something directly spoken:

何度【なんど】も言【い】った。 = I've said it several times.

いう, on the other hand, generally used in phrases like という or こういう, has the broader senses of defining, describing, quoting, emphasizing, etc. It implies a grammatical function (like とはいえ):

日本【にほん】という国【くに】 = The country (called) Japan

  • I never realized how intentional the omission of a written kanji is! Also, great explanation, Thank you! Commented Dec 10, 2011 at 18:26
  • I don't know if it's intentional, and I wouldn't assume as much. Omission of kanji can come from simple disuse (or perhaps 常用 effect as much as anything else (cf. 慥か, 秤). A word that has multiple subtle kanji choices based on nuance is also often written in hiragana, avoiding the issue (like 作・創・造る, but there are better examples I can't remember). It sounds more plausible that the huge frequency with which いう and other markers of its type occur led to habitual omission, while the use of the verb 言う in its simpler form, with its lower frequency, has not experienced the same effect. Commented Feb 26, 2013 at 11:07

You are right that both とはいえ and とはいうものの are similar things, but your translation is not quite right. They mean 'even though they say A, B'


I interpret it as the imperative 言え, which relates it to ~にしろ、~にせよ, which have similar functions. Then it becomes "That said...", and, in the case of the other two examples, it's the ~にする construction with the imperative, which comes out to "Then assume X, [it still doesn't change my conclusion which is Y]".

Either way, all [we/I] can do now is wait here.
That said, it won't do to change our course immediately.

  • I don't think it's the imperative. I think it's the stem of 言える, making it more along the lines of "You can say...".
    – istrasci
    Commented Feb 26, 2013 at 15:49
  • Wouldn't that imply that somewhere in a corpus you could find the reasonable substitute, the te-form: 「とは言えて」? I would bet a dollar you'll have to dig. Commented Feb 26, 2013 at 18:12
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    What do you think of interpreting it as とはいえ(ども)? Concessive rather than imperative?
    – user1478
    Commented Mar 2, 2016 at 23:14
  • @snailboat That sounds like an interesting idea. My argument is that you can replace it with other imperatives like the ones I mentioned in my answer, but I'd be interested to see evidence for other possibilities. Commented Mar 3, 2016 at 19:21

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