My dictionary shows kara twice:

kara: from
kara: since, because

Is there a difference in the way these two are written or is there just one meaning?

  • Why would any dictionary list two meanings when the word has just one meaning? Can you list what you understand and what you don't from the dictionary and its examples?
    – Rathony
    Oct 17, 2016 at 14:42
  • Your question doesn't appear to make sense. There is no difference in the way lead and lead are written, and yet they have very different meanings.
    – user1478
    Oct 17, 2016 at 14:56
  • 1
    This looks like a reasonable question from someone learning Japanese language. I see no reason to downvote it.
    – VampyreSix
    Oct 17, 2016 at 15:04
  • @VampyreSix This question has two reasons for the downvote. (I am not the downvoter). (1) It doesn't have any research, (2) It is not useful for current and future users. Reasonable question from someone learning the Japanese language should have some reasonable prior research.
    – Rathony
    Oct 17, 2016 at 15:12
  • 1
    Related question, Two から in the same sentence,
    – Rathony
    Oct 17, 2016 at 15:38

3 Answers 3


I'm going take a different tack on this from everyone else.

If you go back to earlier Indo-European languages such as Latin, but more so like Sanskrit, you see a very similar use of the ablative case to express both the idea of "from" and "because". There are still vestiges of this in English when we say something along the lines of

From what I've seen,....

which can easily be rephrased as

Because of what I've seen,....

In Japanese, the difference in the meanings should be clear from context. If から follows a noun, the most likely meaning is "from". If から follows a verb, then it's most likely going to mean "because" unless it's follow the "te" form of the verb, in which case, から will mean "after".


Generally, not only in this case, determining if multiple definitions of a word form are homonymous (i.e. being distinct concepts) or polysemous (i.e. being a single concept) is a hard problem in theoretical linguistics.

It's safe to say the two definitions of kara you cited are usually covered under the same headword in Japanese-Japanese dictionaries, because they are etymologically identical, and have relatively clear semantic similarity, but grammatically not equal, being postposition and conjunction, respectively.

The effort to delimit exact borderlines between meanings tends to be unproductive and opinion-based. For example:

The U.S. should elect a woman as president "as soon as possible,"... (source)

Are the three instances of as same meaning? At least, they all belong separate parts of speech, so very different in function. Some English dictionaries list them as as1, as2..., but Japanese dictionaries don't like this way.

You cannot rely on translation, either. Are "sleeping" dream and "fancying" dream same thing? They share the same word in many languages, including English and Japanese, but are separate ideas in many other languages, including Finnish and Russian.


A dictionary for use by english speakers learning japanese may list both of those meanings because in english there is a more definitive difference between these two meanings.

から is always spelled the same for these two contexts in japanese. Lets take a look at them both, followed by a tip on what to do with から as you learn.

From example

Take for example the following

"I came from America."


In this sentence, から would be like "from" in English.

Because example

The following would be an example of "because" in english.

"Because I understand Japanese, I speak to Japanese people"


Both of these are spelled the same and the nuance of the meaning depends on the context.

In conclusion

I would recommend that you treat から as a sort of a different thing than the two meanings you have been given in english. Try not to treat them seperately.

To a japanese speaking person, there is not really a difference in the same way you would see a difference in english. から is just から and so as you learn to view it that way, it helps your mastery of the language.

  • 1
    There is a distinct grammatical difference, not contextual. The one that means "from" connects to nouns while the other one that means "since/because" does to terminal forms of verbs or adjectives. They should be treated separately.
    – user4092
    Oct 18, 2016 at 3:40
  • I am sure you have a strong mastery of the japanese language and your time living among and conversing with the japanese people in their own country and we could benefit from more experience. In my time there and from my interactions with the japanese, in their minds the particle is used in certian contexts but is not the same sort of cut and dry english split of those two meanings. Please let me know why that is incorrect so I can improve my answer.
    – VampyreSix
    Nov 1, 2016 at 17:16

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