I see there are two words for building in Japanese, ビル and 建物【たてもの】. Can someone tell me the difference and when I should use one or the other?

3 Answers 3


「[建物]{たてもの}」 (tatemono) is a neutral Japanese word for building. I found a definition of "building" at Wikipedia:

a structure with a roof and walls standing more or less permanently in one place, such as a house or factory.

This applies to the Japanese word 「建物」.

On the other hand, the word 「ビル」 (biru), which obviously originates from the English word "building," has a different meaning than English "building." I think most Japanese people agree that 「ビル」 refers to a certain kind of building, which are tall and have many floors, as in the image below (taken from Google Image Search).


So, if you are to imply that you are talking about this kind of buildings, use 「ビル」 (biru). Use 「建物」 (tatemono) in any other case.

  • 1
    I agree with your explanation but let me add landed houses and barns tend to be excluded even from 建物. Also any square-ish buildings made with concrete may qualify as ビル, as in 2階建てビル (2 floors building) so ビル doesn't have to be a skyscraper.
    – nodakai
    Commented Jan 17, 2017 at 7:36

According to the dictionary:

ビル: A medium or high building made of materials like reinforced concrete.
たてもの: any construction made for people to live or to store things or for people to work.




ビル is also used when writting building's name in addresses. For example it's XYZビル if you live in アパート named XYZ. One does not use XYZ建物. On the other hand, it's 建物を建てる (to build a building) and rarely ビルを建てる。

  • 1
    What is the best verb to use with ビル then, if not 建てる?
    – Blavius
    Commented Jan 18, 2017 at 5:33
  • 3
    ^ 「ビルを建てる」も「ビルが建つ」も、良いと思います。
    – chocolate
    Commented Jan 18, 2017 at 5:41
  • 2
    You would only write ビル in an address if that's included in the name, like サンシャインビル. Otherwise, you would simply write the apartment names, like ひまわり荘 or メソン・フルール.
    – Jimmy
    Commented Jan 18, 2017 at 18:15

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