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Can somebody explain to me the difference in usage of these three forms. Sometimes it feels as if there are cases where they are interchangeable. If you could add also some examples it would be extremely helpful.

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I tend to remember N+にしては as "even though (it is) N", while I tend to remember N+の+わりに(は)as "considering N". Of course, both can be translated "for", but this distinction helps me a little.

Clearly, both phrases express something unexpected. They are sometimes interchangeable, but にしては needs to point directly to the characteristic you are talking about, while わりに can talk more abstractly.

For example, both にしては and のわりに are OK in the following sentences, as January is a specific concept by which you can think about the typical weather:

1月にしては暖かい朝だ。 "Even though it is January..." OK

1月のわりに暖かい朝だ。 "Considering it is January..." OK

For January, it is a warm morning. (i.e. I am finding it warmer than I might expect for a January morning).

However, the following sentences for にしては are ungrammatical **.

** 彼は年齢にしては元気だ。"Even though he is age..." ??

彼は年齢のわりに元気だ。 "Considering his age..." OK

He is lively considering his age.

** 田中さんは身長にしては、軽すぎじゃない? "Even though he is height..." ??

田中さんは身長のわりに、軽すぎじゃない? "Considering his height..." OK

Considering his height, isn't Tanaka too light?

However, if you replace e.g. the 年齢 with a concrete age, both are fine:

彼は60歳にしては元気だ。"Even though he is 60..." OK

彼は60歳のわりに元気だ。 "Considering he is 60..." OK

For a 60 year old, he is lively.


Both にしては and わりに can also be used with verbs; I think they are essentially interchangeable in these instances. Again, both can be used in positive or negative situations.

For example:

ダイエットをしているにしてはよく食べる。"Even though you are on a diet..." OK

ダイエットをしているわりによく食べる。"Considering you are on a diet..." OK

You eat a lot even though you are on a diet.

You eat a lot considering you are on a diet.


You can use わりに with い- and な-adjectives; you can't use にしては. The formation is (いadj)い+わりに and (なadj)な+わりに.

この寿司は高いわりにまずい。

Considering it is expensive, this sushi is bad.

このレストランは有名なわりにおいしくなかった。

Considering it is famous, this restaurant('s food) was not delicious.


There is another use of わりに, which is just to show the gap in expectation without providing the justification. Just don't append the noun which provides the basis of the expectation. For example:

今日、わりに寒いね。

Today, it is cooler than I expected.

わりに、おいしくなかったね。

(The food) was less delicious than I expected.


〜くせに:although 〜, despite 〜 is quite different. It expresses annoyance/criticism/anger, and can be quite rude. It is like a "negative" 〜のに. So circumstance will usually make it clear when this is (in)appropriate.

できるくせにやろうとしない。 Although you can do it, you don't even try!

Finally, this post Usage of くせに and わりに in the following sentence interestingly notes an interesting difference between わりに and くせに, in that わりに works only when talking about proportional claims/factors (e.g. age) rather than something (ostensibly) binary, like gender.


Apologies if I missed something; there's quite a lot there... but hope that helps!

  • Does わりに generally have a negative/unpleasant connotation associated with it, i.e. a meaning of the kind 'Considering X, unpleasant result'? On a different note, can わりに be used in neutral/objective reporting of facts? For example, a reporter on TV saying "Considering the heavy rainfall expected tonight, the public inauguration event has been canceled." – SystematicDisintegration Jun 27 at 10:11
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    No, わりに is not explicitly negative, but context is so key for this sort of phrase, as the fact you are expressing surprise could be rude. Saying “considering you didn’t have time to study for the test, you did well!” could be reassuring between friends; but it could also be a bit patronising as you are highlighting they did badly. Really depends on how it’s said & what the relationship between the parties. I don’t think it can be used in your example sentence about inauguration, as there needs to be a sense of difference from expectation, and you would expect a cancellation if there were rain. – henreetee Jun 27 at 13:27
  • Putting it another way, the “considering” in the inauguration example is more like a “because”, so I would probably use one of で・ので, から, のせいで, depending on context and nuance. – henreetee Jun 27 at 13:34
  • I see. As far as my sentence goes, I suppose I should've clarified that the implication is the heavy rainfall being unexpected, as opposed to the event cancellation in the event of it occurring. Do you still think the form cannot be used here? – SystematicDisintegration Jun 27 at 14:05
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    I don’t think that’s how XわりにY works. Remember, the meaning is close to the same as にしては, so you could translate it “Even though X, Y”, or “For X, Y” (e.g. “[Even though the flat is close to the station/For a flat that is close to the station], the rent is not expensive”). The unexpected result comes in the following clause, Y, not in X. Also, わりに does need a sense of proportionality about it (I mention it briefly): you use XわりにY when Y is not in proportion to what you/one would usually expect from X; I don’t feel like there’s any proportionality in your sentence (the above issue aside). – henreetee Jun 27 at 14:54

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