As a non-native speaker I start with the assumption of ~のに being "although/even though/etc" and ~ても being "even if ~" if I encounter either in a sentence.

After finishing the sentence I backtrack and re-assess if the above assumption makes sense given the context.

Most of the time my assumption is valid, but a non-insignificant number of times it is obvious that my initial assumption does not hold water and のに is actually a nominalized ~の + particle に and ~ても is in essence ~たら.

Now this is fine, but it does not feel like a very natural way of reading, as I feel I should be able to know what grammatical function ても or のに is serving without having to finish the sentence and backtrack to confirm.

For native speakers do they have to go through a similar process, or do they intuitively know what to expect without having to assume anything?

Take these two sentences for example:


「ゆとり!! 常識知らず!! 空気読め!! 向上心が足りない!!いいかお前ら!! いつか社会に出てもこんな言葉一つに絶対踊らされるんじゃねーぞ!!」 (in response to "俺は絶対に今年こそ彼女をつくる!! 俺たちは今年から!! 絶対に勝ち組になるぞォォ!!")

If this were a book and the page cut off at のに/ても, would a native speaker have to flip the page to know what grammatical function either was serving?

I suppose this could apply to 適当 as well since I always assume the "suitable/appropriate" meaning before potentially deciding "unserious/irresponsible" actually makes more sense by the end of the sentence.

  • I like this question because I have at various points struggled with similar things myself, but i think these may be two subtly different things. There are undeniably two different のに constructions with different meanings and different purposes. I think the ても issue is a little more finessed, and might be less of a case of there being two different things written the same way and more a matter of ても have a broader range of applications than English's "even if". Sometimes it can be a little more like "even when" or "even once".
    – Mindful
    Apr 29, 2020 at 4:15
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    @mindful Personally i feel that ても is quite distinct at times, to a point where you cannot reasonably translate it with a "even if/when/once" statement and you have to interpret it as "if" or even "obviously if".
    – charu
    Apr 29, 2020 at 4:24
  • the ても in the example you gave looks an awful lot like "even when one you one day join society...", but we'll have to see what some of the native speakers think. I grant that ても can cover a confusingly wide range of cases though.
    – Mindful
    Apr 29, 2020 at 4:28
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    yeah was not exactly the best example of such a use case, just the latest sentence that caught my eye and prompted this post. あんまりゆっくりしてても、お母さん帰ってきちゃうかもだし…… or 変に気張ってもお互い緊張するだけなので、今日はこんな感じでまったり彼女と過ごすことにする would be more applicable for instance.
    – charu
    Apr 29, 2020 at 4:35

1 Answer 1


For のに in your example:


I wouldn't say it's ambiguous at this point, I mean, it is, but I can have >90% confidence to bet on being non-idiom の + に with this much of context. If you cut it down to:


I am decidedly undecided.

For ても, I don't even count it as an idiom. In my language intuition, this is a very transparent construction that も takes a te-form as a nominal phrase. も is inherently "ambiguous" in this sense, but in my viewpoint, still seems to have essentially only one meaning: "to put something alongside of another in consideration". The whole spectrum of meanings from "as well as" to "nevertheless" is matter of interpreted relation between those two things.

"Having gone out into the world, (still) never let such a piece of bullshit trick you!"

"Having spent too much time, (in turn) mom would come back home"

"Having tried over hard, it will (rather) only make either side stressful"

  • 1
    @Mauro Perhaps you are talking about するに(は)? That's the special construction usually considered equivalent to English "in order to". In this case, 時間がかかる requires ~に for noun: 処理に時間がかかる, and what の does is nominalizing the verb to conform the formula. Apr 30, 2020 at 4:02
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    @Mauro I think It depends on translation... but (a) you can alternatively have で: 手紙を書くので忙しい (note: not that ので either), (2) it also takes plain noun: コロナ対策に忙しい, (3) what about 変装して歩いているのに出会った? May 1, 2020 at 9:35
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    So that 「のに」 is just Jisho's (jisho.org/word/%E3%81%AB) 「に」 3rd/4th definition, with a nominalizing 「の」? I found this page about "in order to" 「のに」: jlptsensei.com/learn-japanese-grammar/…. 「変装して歩いているのに出会った」's 「のに」 seems like a different case to me, if I understand it well, since it seems it can't mean "in order to", but I'm not sure.
    – Mauro
    May 1, 2020 at 10:27
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    @Mauro If I've correctly understood charu's intention, we were talking about the idiomatic sense of のに, which is solely contradictory (what said after defies the expectation of what before). May 5, 2020 at 4:17
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    @Mauro Yes, that one. May 5, 2020 at 13:30

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