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I was googling how to say "to be impressed" in Japanese and I found a few options:

感動, 感激, 感銘, and 感心

感動 seems to me to be the most commonly used (?)

The sentence I'm trying to translate is "I was impressed by your way of thinking". Would 感動 be okay in this case? The dictionary translates it as "being deeply moved emotionally" as first option, and I don't feel like I was that deeply emotionally moved, more along the lines of admiring/thinking that someone is cool.

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I am a native speaker of Japanese. In order to show the differences of words given by OP, I placed them on the illustration below.

enter image description here enter image description here

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    Lol this is quite cool. +1 – Tommy Jun 18 '18 at 5:03
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    Could you please add the translations with kana as text in your answer? I'm learning Japanese and I have no way to know what the kana is for these kanji :( Nice answer though, love the illustration! – Chris Cirefice Jun 18 '18 at 12:55
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    @ChrisCirefice: [心的]{しんてき} means literally relating to [心]{こころ} so I traslated it as emotional, and [身体的]{しんたいてき} means literally relatiing to [身体]{しんたい} so I translated it as physical. – mackygoo Jun 18 '18 at 13:36
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    Put your axes on the left side and on the bottom instead of crossing in the center. Right now, it looks like 感心 and 感激 are "equal and opposite" (i.e. 感心 being very unimpressed), when this is not the case. – alex.forencich Jun 18 '18 at 18:55
  • that one japanese answer for sure lol – lapots Jun 19 '18 at 11:12
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  • 感動: The feeling after seeing any kind of heart-touching movies, speeches, stories, etc. If your 感動 is deep enough, tears will come out. This is an emotional expression which is probably closer to "moved" than "impressed".
  • 感激: A stronger version of 感動, but tends to refer to a joyful thrill or excitement after seeing or hearing something wonderful (e.g., a present).
  • 感銘: This is the feeling after seeing something impressive, admirable, great, worth memorizing, etc. 感銘 means you're a bit excited or surprised, but it does not mean you're emotional. So basically just "Wow, great!" This word is the closest to "impressed" except that 感銘 is formal and literary. It rarely appears in casual conversations.
  • 感心: More casual than 感銘, and the level of excitement/surprise is probably the smallest among the four (i.e., "Oh, good"). 感心な usually just means "admirable". Also note that 感心 may sound condescending depending on the situation. 感心 is typically said from a parent to their children, a boss to their people, etc. Saying 感心しました referring to something related to your boss can be impolite.

For example, what is your reaction after watching a typical tragedy like Titanic?

  • 感動しました: This is the most natural reaction. You were moved, and you (almost) shed a tear.
  • 感激しました: May sound slightly unnatural or puzzling because it implies you somehow felt happy after watching the movie. Okay if you mean you're happy about the whole experience as a movie.
  • 感銘を受けました: Some people may feel you're cold. Or sounds like you are a professional reviewer who was appreciating the work in an analytic manner.
  • 感心しました: Sounds like you're thinking you can do better than James Cameron :)

What is your reaction after seeing a very well-written answer on this site?

  • 感動しました/感激しました: Exaggerated, but fine. Please do not overuse this.
  • 感銘を受けました: Semantically perfectly fine, but may sound a bit too literary.
  • 感心しました: This is usually rude.

As shown above, 感動, 感激 and 感心 are suru-verbs, but 感銘 is not.

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All your examples are quite good I think. Depending on the situation they can all be translated as "to be impressed with/by something" in English.

I believe this page could really help you get an idea of the differences in usage. As you can see they are all reported together as synonyms of 感動, the common meaning being the following:

ある物事に触れて、深く心を動かされること

That is, "being touched by a certain thing and having one's heart deeply moved by it".

Then you can see the explanation in the different nuances of all the other words. I'll paste it here:

「感動」は、心が物事を受けとめて深く動かされること。多数の人が一度に感じるときに、「感動の名演技」のようにも使う。「感銘」は、忘れられないほど深く感動し、心に刻み込まれること。

「感激」は、物事に触れて激しく心が動かされ、なんらかの形で外に表われ出るような場合に多くいう。かなり感情的で個人的な場面が多い。

「感心」は、心を直接揺すぶられるというより、情・知の両面から物事に触れて立派だとかすばらしいとか判断し、心が動かされること。

So basically:

Let's say that we got 感動 covered (as your heart being deeply moved by something).

感銘 is something even stronger (忘れられないほど深く感動し). Something so strong to the extent that you could never forget about it. Which I believe is why the character 銘 (inscription) is used.. something that will be "inscribed onto your feelings".

感激 is used when the thing you are being vehemently impressed by (that's why the use of the character 激 after all) comes out in some sort of form (actions, words, etc). It is quite emotional and used in private/personal settings.

感心 is used when your heart, rather than being shaken directly, you are being touched both emotionally and intellectually (this is quite hard to translate) by what happened (the thing that is impressing you) and your heart is moved also by a judgment of this something being great, exceptional. According to this other link, 感心 is a weaker version of the other three more easily and commonly used.

This being said, I think for your example "being impressed by your way of thinking" 感心 or 感激 could both possibly work.

PS. There's nothing like a bunch of examples of usage. You can find several here on weblio by searching for "I was impressed".

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