6

I keep hearing this phrase

.... マシだ

Apparently it means something along the lines of "better than nothing"?

For example in the drama 「結婚できない男」 there's a scene where the main character is being suggested to help out his neighbor with a stalker and the dialog is something like

ミチルちゃんが一人でビクビク歩くよりクワノさんでもいた方がましでしょ(う)?

Is "better than nothing" a good translation or at least a good pattern to match the phrase to? I find if I can find something I might actually stay in English to tie a Japanese phrase to I'm more likely to be able to use it.

  • I have some difficulties understanding your example. Isn't it something like "ミチルさんは人でビクビク歩くよりクワノさんでも行った方がマシでしょう?" – broccoli forest Oct 22 '16 at 9:37
  • Related (duplicate?): japanese.stackexchange.com/q/30329/7810 – broccoli forest Oct 22 '16 at 9:41
  • 1
    "...クワノさんでも(あなたと一緒に)行った方が(一人だけで行くよりは)マシでしょう?" ということではないでしょうか – goldbrick Oct 22 '16 at 9:57
  • No idea how long this link will be valid but the scene is on youtube here youtube.com/watch?v=hshnHMkFh9w#t=7m24s Otherwise it's in episode 11 about 7 minutes in (available on Japanese Netflix) – gman Oct 22 '16 at 15:26
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    @gman Sorry, forget the last comment, it's what I dictated by smartphone. The clearer speaker says: ミチルちゃんが一人でビクビク歩くよりクワノさんでもいた方がましでしょ(う)? – broccoli forest Oct 23 '16 at 6:13
18

It means "better than something", but there are extra nuances that both choices are bad ones.

If you want to say "A is better than B", you can say "BよりAの方が良い" or "BよりAの方がマシだ". Both make sense and both mean "A is better than B", but if you use the word "マシだ", there is a nuance that both A and B are terrible.

For example,

彼よりも君の方が良い。
You are better than him.

彼よりも君の方がマシだ。
You are better than him. (But he and you are both bad.)

  • Sounds like it might best be related to the English idiom involving "the lesser of two evils". Meaning, there are two things that are bad (evil), but one of them is less bad than the other one, so the less bad one is preferred. – Todd Wilcox Oct 23 '16 at 5:00
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    I would translate it as "A is better than B, at least" – BlueRaja - Danny Pflughoeft Oct 23 '16 at 8:19
6

According to "A Dictionary of Intermediate Japanese Grammar", page 169:
ましだ: a phrase indicating that although someone/something (or some situation) is not satisfactory, it is better than someone/something else.

The goo dictionary provides some examples:

そんな友でもないよりましだ
Even such a friend is better than no friend (at all).

もう少しましなことは言えないのか
Can't you say anything [something a little] more sensible?

人の物を盗むくらいなら死んだほうがましだ
I would rather die than steal another's things.

このほうがまだましだね
This isn't quite as bad as that./This is less unsatisfactory than that.

http://dictionary.goo.ne.jp/je/71521/meaning/m1u/%E3%81%BE%E3%81%97/

3

Use マシ to suggest acceptable/better option given two undesirable choices. English equivalent of the given Japanese sentence "ミチルさんは[一人]でビクビク歩くよりクワノさん[と]でも行った方がマシでしょう?" will be "No one wants to walk with Kuwano-san but doesn't it beat walking alone scared?" In other words, both walking alone and walking with Kuwano-san are not great choices but walking with Kuwano-san at least will provide sense of security.

1

You seem to be overthinking the meaning of まし(マシ)だ. Its literal translation is "better (than something)" or "preferred (to something)". For example,

この[方]{ほう}がまだましだ. This way is far better (than the way implied in the sentence).

ないよりもましだ. (It's) better than nothing.

[死]{し}ぬよりは[増]{ま}しだ. (It's) better than dying.

  • The point of trying to think about more is learning when to use 〜マシだ over 〜の方がいい both mean "better (than something)" or "preferred (to something)" – gman Oct 22 '16 at 15:16
  • @gman I don't understand your comment. Did you ask the question that way? Did you ask when you should use 〜マシだ over 〜の方がいい? You asked "What's the meaning and usage of ~マシだ?" – Rathony Oct 22 '16 at 15:18
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    I don't understand your comment. Did I say "I think I'm overthinking this?". Anyway, according to another thread 〜マシだ means "less bad" which is a far better way to try to internalize it since "better than" gives it no distinction from other ways of saying "better than". – gman Oct 22 '16 at 15:21
0

増し is what you are looking for. It means better/preferable/increase. It doesn't really have to be "better than nothing." just that doing X is better.

0

It's a phrase indicating that it is probably better to do something than not to do it -- the exact same idiom in English is "might as well"

0

Lots of good answers already, but I can't find this one: "XがYよりましです": "X is less worse/bad than Y".

0

マシ means better (than). Similer to まだマシ(At least {something} higher than {something}).
You should not use in formal place. In that case, use まだ良い instead of it.

Example:

  • やらずに後悔するよりやって後悔したほうがマシだ。
  • これを食べればまだマシになるだろう。

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