How do I express these ideas in Japanese while listing things?

For example, how should these sentences be translated into Japanese while carrying the same tone?

  1. He has a scary face but a heart of gold.
  2. She's very quiet but also very direct.
  3. I was doing my best, and yet I also wanted to give up.
  4. I'm excited yet vigilant about the future.
  5. You'll have to do it carefully but fast.

4 Answers 4


I think you have several options. For example...

  • けど / けれど / けれども:


  • が:


  • 一方(で) / 反面、/ (と)同時に / ~が/しかし同時に:


  • ても / でも:


  • のに:


  • ながら / ながらも / つつ / つつも:


  • or maybe しかし / それでも / なおかつ / それでいて:

「慎重に、それでいて/なおかつ 素早くやらねばならない。」


I think what in many cases also among your examples make a difference is how strongly one wants to emphasize the contrast, at first, how I would "guess" them:

In 1. I guess the sense of contrast is quite strong; one might not bother to make the statement just because someone looks scary, or just because someone is nice, but only because they came as a set.

In 3-5, I think the sense of contrast is a lot weaker, i.e. just saying "one half" is still meaningful enough.

Giving the above, I would probably use:

  1. ...なのに... (Big contrast; なのに may be best translated as despite / even though)
  2. (May need more rephrasing, instead of using quiet, I would say something like) だいたい黙っていますが言う時ははっきり(を?)言う。
  3. ...ながら(あきらめ)ようと思った (weak contract, could be translates as while ...ing)
  4. ...が... (weak contrast, between "but" and "and")
  5. Probably the toughest and depends also on the context, but maybe ても/でも, something like 早くてもていねいにしないと

Japanese has a wide variety of phrases to relate one sentence to the next. For lack of a better term, I'm going to call these words "Sentence-Initial Conjunctions".

でも, equivalent to "however" or "but", is used when the speaker is giving information that shows a contrast to the previous sentence.

As it is said, no matter how much good things you can tell about someone, if there is a "but", everything goes down to drain. So this "but" is a bit of poison.

In your examples:

He has a scary face but a heart of gold.
かれ【kare】は【wa】こわい【kowai】かお【kao】 を{o} している【shiteiru】が【ga】、よい【yoi】こころ【kokoro】を【wo】もっている【motteiru】。

As the tone of contrast from the first part of the sentence completely changes after you say "but" likewise the tone of contrast changes after you say いるが【iruga】, here いる【iru】 means "has", and the particle が【ga】 is attached to the last word of the first part of the sentence as a way of differentiating it from the second part of the sentence.

She's very quiet but also very direct.
かのじょ【kanojo】は【wa】とても【totemo】しずか【shizuka】です【desu】が【ga】、また【mata】 ひじょう【hijou】に【ni】ちょくせつてき【chokusetsuteki】です【desu】。

The particle が【ga】 in です【desu】が【ga】 is the contrasting word "but". When you say the sentence, it will naturally carry the same tone when you speak Japanese fluently. It will slightly vary a bit because of the Japanese accent, but the Japanese people will get the tone you are trying to convey.

There is a certain pause of 1 second after part "She's very quiet", then it comes the next part "but also very direct" また【mata】 ひじょう【hijou】に【ni】ちょくせつてき【chokusetsuteki】です【desu】. This is the tone we use in English.

In the case of Japanese, there is a pause after the particle が【ga】 in the clause しずか【shizuka】です【desu】が【ga】.

That is to say, in English the pause comes before the "but", but in Japanese the pause comes after the "が【ga】. Despite the slight variation in tone, Japanese native speakers will get the contrasting tone like the one we have in English.

I was doing my best, and yet I also wanted to give up.
わたし【Watashi】は【wa】さいぜん【saizen】を【wo】つくしていた【tsukushiteita】が【ga】、それ【sore】でも【demo】わたし【watashi】は 【wa】あきらめたい【akirametai】と【to】おもった【omotta】。

As you can see here as well, there is a が【ga】 right after the word つくしていた【tsukushiteita】. が【ga】 is used as a connector to give contrast between the two sentences, and naturally, there will always be a pause after it and before the contrasting word それでも【soredemo】("and still"/"but still"), which comes later. This is like the small gap we have after the word "best" (??).

I am very happy yet not satisfied.
わたし【watashi】は【wa】とても【totemo】うれしい【ureshii】です【desu】が【ga】、まんぞく【manzoku】 していない【shiteinai】。

It's the same thing here too. The pause is right after が【ga】 in the construction いるが【iruga】 which means "yet" in the sentence.

Note: For most of the contrasting sentences, in Japanese we use が【ga】 for "but", "yet" etc.

I hope this info helped you out. You can try listening to contrasting sentences in Japanese Audio Books online to help you understand better the tone and the pause in the sentences.

  • Hmm, I see you translated a lot of the example sentences by breaking the lists into separate clauses. For example, the 1st one lists two nouns ("face" and "heart"), the 2nd and 4th one list adjectives and the 5th one lists adverbs. Is it possible to list them while contrasting them like in English, or do they have to be broken into separate clauses? That said, that それでも in the 3rd one is actually a very helpful notion! Thank you very much! :>
    – Ranquil
    Jun 18, 2019 at 15:40
  • 1
    Hey, thanks for your first post -- welcome to the community! This answer is in-depth, and answers the question asked, so well done! :) Your explanations could I think be a little clearer/briefer though, so maybe consider what sort of information you really need to include when answering a question. I think, in particular, if you can, writing in Japanese script rather than Romaji would be helpful for clarity.
    – henreetee
    Jun 18, 2019 at 15:45
  • @Ranquil Yes it is possible to list them while contrasting......but you have to learn the native accent for it....otherwise you will have a different tone like all foreigners do even if your sentences are correct........it all depends on how well you speak!! Jun 18, 2019 at 16:23
  • @henreetee Your welcome......sure i will do my best!!! Jun 18, 2019 at 16:23
  • 3
    I am very happy yet not satisfied. ->Translation: Watashi wa totemo manzoku shite iruga manzoku shite inai.←もしかしてグーグル翻訳か何か使われました? translate.google.co.uk/….
    – chocolate
    Nov 17, 2019 at 6:36

I am adding one more to Chocolate's list:

a nice person albeit with a scary face

a nice person albeit with a fierce look

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