I am having problems with when to understand 大抵 as:

a) 事柄のあらまし。だいたいのようす。また、全体のうちの大部分。おおよそ。おおかた。(https://dictionary.goo.ne.jp/word/大抵/#jn-133918) (or as defined in Apple's dictionary) 全体の中の大部分のもの。ほとんどのもの。大体。

b) ほとんどすべてに及ぶさま。たいがい。https://kotobank.jp/word/大抵-557812

While I am aware of the difference between noun and adverb I saw the sentence:

1) 「大抵は魔法使いの エキスパートで―…」

translated as: "In general they are experts in using magic"

However I initially understood it as: "Most of them are experts in using magic" (especially sticking to the definition referred to in the Mac-dictionary)

I first came across this word in:

2) 「大丈夫だって。大抵の奴はわからんよ。」

In that case the meaning was pretty clear to me and according to its meaning here I thought in 「大抵は…」 its meaning is the same as in 2).

Context: (Season 1 Episode 2 of このすば) The "race" of Crimson-Demons is explained and general characteristics of them are listed and the this sentence is some kind of "conclusion" to it.


However I initially understood it as: "Most of them are experts in using magic"

I don't think you are wrong. Actually you got the gist except the actual sentence technically doesn't say so. 大抵 is basically a quantifier today whose core meaning is "most times/cases (of)" instead of "most part" or "most people". But when you catch any random guy and ask them if they are a magic expert, and if "most times" the answer is "yes", then logically "most of them" is so.

I don't know to what degree the translation is authoritative, but if the translator chose the wording "in general", s/he probably took the "typical(ly)" sense of 大抵; this is also a natural derivation from the "most cases" sense, thus both of you seem equally correct. After all, the described situation (and the truth condition) wouldn't change much either.

  • I kind of thought so as well. I probably - for whatever reason - added "part of something" into my definition of 大抵. Would you agree with what I've written in my own answer (that in the case of 大抵は and 大抵の it is reasonable to translate the sentence with different nuances)? – Himula Nov 14 '19 at 16:28
  • The translation in 1) seems to be rather credible as English and German subtitles agreed on the same meaning of 大抵 in this sentence. I believe that it is only a slight difference in meaning whether one says "In general ..." or "The major part of them..." but to fully the use of particles with adverbial nouns such as 大抵 (or even 大体) I believe that the nuance is somewhat crucial. – Himula Nov 14 '19 at 16:35
  • 1
    @Himula I don't think it has different nuances according to word class. Like English word most is listed under adjective, adverb, noun and pronoun, but the polymorphism is attributed to the target (or the lack whereof) the word quantifies. 大抵 in 大抵は is not a "real" noun but as much as "the most" that can always rewordable to "the most X" (or 大抵のX "X in most cases"). What X you think should be filled in causes the fundamental ambiguity. – broccoli forest Nov 15 '19 at 4:34

To the people who are also interested in this "disambiguation"...

While I am still not a 100% sure I think I can now explain why in:

「大抵は魔法使いの エキスパートで―…」「大抵」was translated as "In general..."

If we consider the defnition: たい‐てい【大抵】 の解説 [名]

1 事柄の主要な部分。「事の大抵を知る」

2 事柄のあらまし。だいたいのようす。また、全体のうちの大部分。おおよそ。おおかた


Especially 「だいたいのようす」, after cheking the definition of 「だいたい」 again:


[名]細かい点を除いた主要な部分。また、全体を大づかみにしたところ。あらまし。おおよそ。 (https://kotobank.jp/word/%E5%A4%A7%E4%BD%93-557714)

It seemed to me that the meaning of "larger/largest part of" only exists in combination with "specific entities" (as in 「大丈夫だって。大抵の奴はわからんよ。」)

In cases like 1) it seems to me as if 「大抵」 refers to "the elements that are shared by the main part and therefore construct the "usual case", or in other words what is the "usual/general state". In English you can simply use "mainly" or "generally" for this kind of concept, therefore the transaltion in 1) is perfectly fitting.

Extending on the definition in the first link: [形動]

1 (多くあとに打消しの語を伴って用いる)普通であるさま。

is listed as well.

However it still seemed weird to me that once the word refers to "the usual state/case/etc" and is in another case used to refer to "the main part". Looking up the definition in https://jisho.org/search/taitei did not really help either as they mark it as "mainly"(noun/na-adjective) and "almost all" (noun/no-adjective) and in 1) it remains underterminable whether it is an na/no-adjective.

In any case this seems to be a problem of language interference in a broader sense. All definitions seem to share a common idea of something being "main(ly)/general(ly)"; however the definitions do not state that 「大抵」 refers to the larger part of something but rather to the "general"(in once an adverbial sense and once possible adjective sense in its status as na/no-adjective). Here the language interference comes into play, there is no such adverb as "general" in English, we need to use "generally"; however, it is impossible to speak of "the generally part*". Therefore, I think that my non-japanese brain unconsciously solved this problem by adding "part of..." to the definition of 「大抵」 even in its adverbial sense.

Please feel free to comment whether I am correct or not and even further if experienced somewhat similar cases with the use of adverbial nouns as well.

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