I tried to find a notion for もう that combines all of its different meanings into one concept. This is what I came up with:

もう shapes the entire feeling of a sentence by emphasizing change.

"もう来ないでください" (it was okay for the addressee to come before)
"9じ時ですからもう失礼します" (the speaker only has to disturb now)
"あいつは、もうだめだ" (the situation with that person is now hopeless, but has not always been)

I really like this approach, but I have trouble applying this understanding of もう to its usage in phrases such as "もう一度" and "もう一本飲みます". Does anyone have an idea how to combine the meaning of もう in these last two examples with the concept of emphasizing change? (Provided that this way of looking at the word is deemed viable at all.)

1 Answer 1


I like your analysis of the concept at work here. I think the notion of "change" is still appropriate for もう一度 and もう一杯. While the もう in this context is commonly glossed as "more", I believe it is still possible to apply your analysis:

  • For もう一度, the speaker now intends to do something once more, or perhaps to ask someone else to do something once more.
  • For もう一杯, the speaker now intends to have one more glass.

The emphasis is still on a change of state in the now, with the change being one of intent.

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