I have a feeling that they are etymologically related based on their kanjis 兎も角 and 兎に角 (although they're just 当て字 so there's not much to extract from those kanjis, I guess), but I can't fully understand the explanation in here:

とにかくは、他にたくさんの些細なことがあっても、目下集中すべきことを優先する場合に使います。 用例)水泳には筋トレなど、たくさんの練習方法はあるが、とにかく泳ぐ。

ともかくは、他に優先すべきことがあるが、それを差し置いて優先する場合に使います。 用例)試験勉強はさておき、ともかく泳ぐ。

Does it mean that in とにかく there's an implication that the other things are 些細 or trivial while in ともかく it doesn't "trivialize" the other things? Also, do you agree with this answer?

2 Answers 2


I don't fully agree with that answer on Yahoo but it's helpful.

Let's take an example 彼はおもしろい (he's funny.) "とにかく" always focuses on the fact "he's funny" and emphasizes it but "ともかく" never does this.

(No matter how he has many demerits but I don't care, I want to say "He's funny!!" Even if he were a criminal I would still believe he's funny!!)

(By the way, he's funny.)

Next, take another sentence 行動しよう(let's take action). In the same way, "とにかく" emphasizes its target whereas "ともかく" doesn't.

(Let's take action. It is the most important for us to take action. This is the goal of us.)

(OK, let's try taking action. Because we're wasting time now.)

ビールを飲みたい (I want to drink beer.)

I eager to drink beer.

I want beer for now.

"とにかく" imparts a meaning like "whatever, but don't forget he's funny/Take action/I want beer."
"ともかく" really doesn't care about anything. "whatever".


とにかく "in/at this and that" = "among other things; at any rate" is an adverb itself, while ともかく is technically only a part of ~はともかく "though this or that about —" = "putting — aside". It needs something else to say putting what aside in order to be a complete expression.

But what is it when ともかく is used standalone? It would implicitly take what was said before to mean "putting those things above aside" = "be that as it may".

When とにかく and ともかく appear at the beginning of a sentence, they may differ as little as "at any rate" and "be that as it may" do. But ともかく cannot semantically modify a verb, even it can be inserted in the middle of sentence.

At any rate, we need money.

= [[お金が][とにかく]必要だ]
We need money before anything.

Be that as it may (= no matter what), we need money.
= [お金が]i(、)ともかく(、)[必要だ]i
We need, be that as it may (= nevertheless), money.

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