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Given a phrase of the form "Even though you're X, you're still Y..." what would be the best (i.e. more natural or grammatically correct) Japanese form?

For example:

"Even though you're that weak, you're still a soldier."

A:「お前はそれほど弱くても、まだ軍人だ。」
B:「それほど弱くても、いずれにしてもお前は軍人だ。」

Can 「まだ」 be used in this context? Most of the examples in the Tatoeba sentences seem to imply まだ is only correct in the context of "time" (still here, still hasn't happened yet, etc...); I haven't seen any examples where it's applied to a noun like this.

But, even in English, I'm not sure if the concept of "time" really applies to the use of "still" here, which seems to have more of an "above all" or "in the end" connotation to it.

As I'm typing this, two more possible translations comes to mind:

C:「それほど弱くても、お前だって軍人だ。」
D:「それほど弱くても、所詮、お前は軍人だ。」

All four seem like they capture the spirit of the original English, but all four also feel like they might be missing something or changing the meaning subtly.

The nuances seem to be:

A: "Even though you're that weak, you're still [at this time] a soldier." Which implies that later on you might not be a soldier. It seems more similar in meaning to "Even if it's Friday, you're still on the clock."

B: "Even though you're that weak, when all is said and done you're a soldier." Which seems close, but still feels off.

C: "Even though you're that weak, even you are a soldier."

D: "Even though you're that weak, you're a soldier after all. " or

D: "Even though you're that weak, in the end you're a soldier."

All of the translations seem to be missing the subtle implication of the English, namely that you are a soldier, and thus capable of the things a soldier can do, regardless of the fact that you are weak. In other words, being weak does not change the fact that you are a soldier.

A similar, if not identical form in English would be "Even if you're a pain, you're still my little sister," where the fact that the person being a pain does not negate the fact that she is the speaker's younger sister.

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Yes, English still has several meanings, and you have to distinguish them when you translate it into Japanese. As you have correctly suspected, まだ軍人だ is perfectly grammatical, but it's appropriate only for someone who is nearing their retirement.

B looks good to me. C is fine in this context, but it can be rude in other situations because お前だって is "even (a person like) you". D is incorrect because this use of 所詮 sounds like "you are just an soldier and nothing more" or "you are no more than a mere soldier (and your personal weakness doesn't matter, after all)".

You can also say "お前は弱いが、それでもお前は軍人だ." This article has some more examples of それでも.

  • Would B still be appropriate in the second example, such as 「迷惑でも、いずれにしても君は俺の妹だ。」? – stix Jul 23 at 2:50
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    @stix いずれにしても ("nevertheless") makes sense, but it may be overly stiff, and the use of two も's sounds a little unsophisticated. 迷惑だがそれでも君は俺の妹だ sounds better IMHO. – naruto Jul 23 at 3:03
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Since there's nothing much to add to the grammatical analysis by @naruto, I'd just suggest some extra "best" Japanese expressions:

... that you are a soldier, and thus capable of the things a soldier can do, regardless of the fact that you are weak. In other words, being weak does not change the fact that you are a soldier.

  1. たとえ弱くても、お前は軍人だ。
    (たとえ)弱かろうが、お前は軍人だ。

    The standard translation of "even though..." is たとえ……ても/でも/だろうと (choose according to word class), and you could also use たとえ……かろう(が/と) (for i-adj.), which may still be on the Japanese textbook, but only for a solemn and/or bookish talk.

  2. 弱くても、お前は立派(な/に)軍人だ。

    立派 usually means "worth praising", but another meaning "worth the name" is activated in this context (better put emphasis on 立派).

A similar, if not identical form in English would be "Even if you're a pain, you're still my little sister," where the fact that the person being a pain does not negate the fact that she is the speaker's younger sister.

Previous #1 can be applied: たとえ厄介者だろうと、お前は妹だ。
(Translation of "be a pain" is non-definitive, it'd vary wildly depending on the course of story...)

  1. (いくら)厄介者だろうと、お前が妹なのに変わりはない。

    ~に変わりはない is a common idiom for this situation, affirming the identity no matter what.

  • I feel like たとえ wouldn't work here, as it seems too unsure or conjectural, like saying "Even if you happen to be..." In the original English phrases, the condition is pre-established and most likely unquestionable. I think #3 has the same issue with conjecture, coming across as "No matter how much of a pain you may be..." I hadn't thought to use ~変わりはない, and I can certainly see how it would fit the situation, but I think it might be moving away from the intent of the original English, as I feel like "~it doesn't change the fact that you are a~" is subtly different from "~you're still a~." – stix Jul 23 at 15:06
  • I understand your concern, but don't forget that Japanese has no subjunctive so a condition almost always ambiguous whether it is real, unreal, or both. For 変わりはない, maybe I presuppose too much context, but isn't it what you say when you reassure her that you wouldn't abandon/hate her? Then I think that's just they say. – broccoli forest Jul 23 at 17:41
  • That's definitely a good case, but yeah, you might be reading too much into the context. A different context might be a situation where say, your sister is participating in a sport that you're very good at but she lacks confidence. In which case you'd be reassuring her that even if she seems unskilled, or unlike you (presumably because she's annoying), that because she's related to you ("still my sister"), she has the potential to perform as well as you do. I think this is closer to the soldier example, in that regardless of one's shortcomings they are ultimately still capable in some way. – stix Jul 23 at 18:16
  • @stix Oh, wow... then I guess neither naruto or I imagined such a situation. People would say in totally different ways, such as 確かに大変だけど、俺の妹だからやればできるさ or ~そこは俺の妹じゃないか. – broccoli forest Jul 23 at 18:41

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