The dictionary translates both どうせ (WJDIC) and しょせん (WJDIC) as "anyway / in any case / after all".

But what exactly is the difference in nuance between them?

For example, what is the difference between this sentence:


and this:


How do we decide when to use which?

  • 1
    Also there is とにかく, それより etc.
    – Flaw
    Jun 18, 2012 at 14:34
  • 2
    どうせ might be a shortened version of どちらにせよ/どうしたって(whichever you take/whatever you do/however you try)/(どっちみち/どのみち?) or something. 所詮[しょせん] means "after all/anyhow(結局/とにかく)" but also sounds to me like せいぜい~~に過ぎない(at most/at best/only...) and I think we often use it as a set phrase of しょせん~~にすぎない. Compared to 結局・とにかく・しょせん, I think どうせ can carry more apathetic or negligent tone, grumbling tone, or criticizing tone. And どうせ sounds to me more conversational than しょせん.
    – user1016
    Jun 18, 2012 at 23:50
  • @Chocolate Btw is there a "more conversational" version of しょせん?
    – Pacerier
    Jun 19, 2012 at 4:29
  • @Paceriersan, As sawa-san stated in her post, I think しょせん can normally be replaced by どうせ(--am I right?). どうせ sounds to me much more conversational than しょせん.
    – user1016
    Jul 3, 2012 at 12:50
  • @Chocolate But using どうせ, there will be a "grumbling" connotation right? Is there a word that is commonly used in conversation but doesn't have the "grumbling" connotation?
    – Pacerier
    Jul 3, 2012 at 15:32

1 Answer 1

  • どうせ may imply excess or insufficiency.


所詮 usually implies insufficiency (# indicates pragmmatic anomaly).

# 所詮、彼は中学生だ。幼稚園児とけんかすれば勝つだろう。

  • どうせ implies that a proposition has something to do with the context.


所詮 implies that a property of something has something to do with the context.

* 所詮、掃除する

From this, it follows that どうせ, but not 所詮, can be used in conditionals.

* 所詮、掃除するなら、丁寧にする。
* 所詮、掃除しても、またすぐに汚れる。

  • Ok, so 「どうせ、彼は中学生だ。大したことはできないだろう。」 carries the hidden meaning of presupposing that 中学生 does not have the ability to do 大したこと". But apologies, I do not really understand the explanation of 「所詮」. What does "the thing being something" mean? What is the hidden meaning of 「所詮、彼は中学生だ。大したことはできないだろう。」?
    – Pacerier
    Jun 19, 2012 at 11:34
  • @Pacerier It is the same. There was a mistake in the previous version of the answer, particularly, I typed the word "presupposition" by mistake; I meant "proposition". Please see the new version. The difference between the two words is that 所詮 always have to be used with A is B, which actually indicates that it is used with B rather than the whole A is B. どうせ can be used with propositions in general, like C, where C can be in the format like A does D.
    – user458
    Jun 19, 2012 at 11:39
  • So is it true that the difference in nuance between 「どうせ、彼は中学生だ。大したことはできないだろう。」 and 「所詮、彼は中学生だ。大したことはできないだろう。」 is that the first (どうせ) is an opinion of the speaker and is thus "subjective", whereas the second (所詮) is "objective"? Are there other hidden nuances besides the difference in subjectivity?
    – Pacerier
    Jun 19, 2012 at 12:39
  • @Pacerier They don't differ in that respect. 彼は中学生だ is an objective fact. That the fact leads to likeliness of 大したことはできない is a hidden opinion of the speaker whether used with どうせ or with 所詮.
    – user458
    Jun 19, 2012 at 12:51

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .