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I was thinking of giving an answer to this question, but then I remembered that my Japanese is rubbish.

I was going to give an example:

ケーキはあまり食べない

Then I started having doubts about whether this would mean "I don't often eat cake" or "I don't eat much cake", i.e. "When I eat cake, I only eat a small slice".

Without context, can the sentence have both of these interpretations?

  • Please try to avoid writing answers in the comments section. – snailcar Mar 31 '18 at 16:42
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Yes. We judge it by context as you knew. If you want to make sure that you mean "I only eat a small slice", you can say "ケーキは少ししか食べない".

I interpret ケーキはあまり食べない as "I don't often eat cake", because I feel it says "one's preference" or "custom".

For example, あまり旅行しない would mean "I don't often go on a trip.", 今日はあまり酒を飲まなかった would mean "I didn't drink much today" rather than "I didn't often drink today".

  • I'm having trouble understanding because I feel it says "one's favor". Could you explain what you mean by this part? – snailcar Mar 31 '18 at 16:45
  • I interpret it as "I don't habitually eat cake because I don't like it very", not "transient quantity", because present tense can mean "habit". – Yuuichi Tam Mar 31 '18 at 17:14
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    one's favor 「好み」ってことですかね? one's preference とか。。。 – Chocolate Apr 1 '18 at 7:32
  • Yes, I chose a wrong word. Thank you for teaching. – Yuuichi Tam Apr 1 '18 at 8:25

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