My Japanese teacher wrote this as an example :

It is a rude person to come into someone else room without permission.

I figure out that 勝手に meaning was : without permission. But the translation on internet is quite different, it has the sense of "voluntarily" which is not the same thing to me. I was just wondering if this was a mistake of my teacher or if this has actually 2 meanings.


1 Answer 1


The basic meaning of 勝手に is "of one's own accord", ie. doing something on one's own judgement without consulting anyone else.

When used of a person, it usually (but not necessarily always) has negative connotations, implying that the person isn't being very considerate and they should really have consulted someone before doing the thing. This negative connotation is particularly explicit in the adjectival equivalent 勝手な(人), which refers to the kind of person who only thinks of themself.

勝手に can also be used with non-human subjects (機械が勝手に動き出した "the machine started moving on its own", 問題が勝手に解決した "the problem resolved itself") in which case there is of course no value judgement involved.

I have trouble thinking of many situations where it would be natural to translate 勝手に as "voluntarily", but it's not out of the question, since they do both indicate that a person is doing something of their own will rather than due to anyone else's influence.

  • Okay, thank you, I'm not English so I had troubles understanding "of one's own accord" ! So the translation of my sentence is not really right isn't it? Since 勝手に can't be used with non-human, the translation should better be "It is rude that..." ? Feb 27, 2018 at 19:05
  • 1
    @MarionFuchs I believe "without permission" could work for implicit meaning. Btw, I think the original sentence has a similar nuance to "Entering someone's room without asking, what a rude person!" than a neutral statement.
    – Andrew T.
    Feb 28, 2018 at 2:13

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