In the English of iOS, when the phone can't recognize your Touch ID when unlocking the device, it says on the top there "Try Again". After I switched the language to Japanese though, it turns into "やり[直]{なお}す".

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After looking up the dictionary, 直す means "to fix/repair", which kind of makes sense. That is because it is kind of asking the user to "fix" the position of the finger or something like that (The user might be partially touching the home button and that may be why the identification failed).

However, why is やり used here? I looked up the dictionary for やり and found that it means a "spear" (槍). Since that makes no sense in this context, I did some more searching.

Then I realized that やり might be 遣り, 演り or 飲り written in Hiragana for ease of understanding. And one of these verb stems combine with 直す to form a compound verb, like 思い出す. But I don't know which one it is since none of these makes sense.

What is the meaning of やり?


3 Answers 3


Japanese has tons of compound verbs (複合動詞{ふくごうどうし}) and やり直す is one of them.

  • やり is the masu-stem of やる, which is a very basic verb that means "to do." Note that this verb is almost always written in hiragana when it simply means "to do."
  • 直す here means something like "re-" (as in "reorder", "rethink", etc). It can follow almost any other verb and add the meaning of "re-." (See "Syntactic and Lexical Compound Verbs" section in the linked lexicon).

Put together, やり直す means "retry" or "redo."

Similar common compound verbs:

  • 見{み}直す see again, review
  • 読{よ}み直す reread
  • 考{かんが}え直す rethink
  • 送{おく}り直す resend
  • Now that you mentioned this, I think that I have actually learned the usage of 直す and やる a long time ago! But I just can't remember those things when I saw the the expression.
    – Sweeper
    Commented Nov 12, 2016 at 23:25

V.ます+直す is a grammar construction that means to "do something again". When you do something again, you kind of "fix it" ;). Check you dictionary for 直す, I'm sure there is a entry for it.

So using やる(to do) with this form you obtain やりなおす (do it again).


やりなおす is a single word listed in the dictionary and means to "try once more":

I don't think it is a good idea to break down the word because the meanings of the individual words may not always add up, even though in this case it does.

  • 4
    Yes, generally speaking, compound verbs can have unexpected meanings (that's exactly why there is a lexicon). But ~直す, along with other 29 verbs, is categorized as "syntactic", which means all verbs in the form of ~直す are almost always predictable. Do you know an example where masu-stem + ~直す ever means something unexpected? Do you also say one needs to memorize 食べ始める, 歩き続ける and so on individually?
    – naruto
    Commented Nov 13, 2016 at 6:13

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