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簡単{かんたん} and 単純{たんじゅん} seem to both mean simple. Are they used in different situations or have slightly different meanings?

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Quite different, actually.

簡単{かんたん} means simple as in "easy", "not difficult", or "plain".

Examples of use would be:

このゲームは簡単だよ。 This game is easy.
簡単に言うと、時間はかかる。 Simply put, this will take time.

単純{たんじゅん} means simple as in "simple-minded", or "not complex".

Examples of use would be:

彼は単純な人。 He is a simple-minded man. (Note this is a belittling statement)
単純骨折 simple bone fracture.

For the most part, if you think of 簡単{かんたん} as "easy" and 単純{たんじゅん} as "simple", the meanings should be clearer to you.

  • 1
    Does 単純{たんじゅん} always have a belittling connotation? – cerealeagle Apr 24 '17 at 19:04
  • Only in the sense of calling someone that (if you said someone was "simple-minded" in English, that would be belittling, wouldn't it?). Outside of that, the word itself doesn't carry any negative connotations. – Jimmy Apr 24 '17 at 19:32
  • The meanings of "simple man" and "simple-minded man" are vastly different in English. Simple would mean his motivations are not complex, which could be belittling but is mostly neutral. Simple-minded means he is a stupid man. Which is closer to the connotation that 単純な人 carries? – Will Kunkel Apr 24 '17 at 20:13
  • @Will Kunkel Just as my translation says: simple-minded. This is the dangers of trying to equate English words 1:1 to other languages. For simple in "simple man", you would use 素朴{そぼく}(ejje.weblio.jp/content/%E7%B4%A0%E6%9C%B4). – Jimmy Apr 24 '17 at 20:20

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