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What's the difference between 関する【かんする】, 関係する【かんけいする】, and 関連する【かんれんする】?

I've tried looking for an answer on HiNative, and while I did find two answers, I didn't quite understand the differences. I then also tried reading the definitions for these words on dictionary.goo.ne.jp, which also didn't help, and tatoeba.org only has one sentence containing 関連する【かんれんする】. Looking the words up on jisho.org and eow.alc.co.jp didn't help either.

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関する literally means "to regard" or "to concern", but it's almost always used as a modifier (either adjectivally or adverbially) rather than as an ordinary predicate. It's used to tell what you are talking about.

  • 彼女に関する話
    a story regarding her
  • この件に関して話す
    to discuss concerning this issue
  • 明日の会議に関しては、…
    As for the meeting tomorrow, ...

関係する and 関連する both mean "to be related" in English, and they are often indeed interchangeable. 関連 tends to refer to more indirect relationships like "different but conceptually similar", "have something in common" or "people are often reminded of this". On the other hand, 関係 tends to refer to more direct relationships like knowing or affecting each other.

For example, Babe Ruth and Sadaharu Oh have a 関連 (they are both known as great home run batters) but people usually do not say they have a 関係 (they didn't know each other personally). We say "CPUとメモリの関係" but not "CPUとメモリの関連" because they are closely tied and work together. In Wikipedia, "See Also" sections are called 関連記事 in the Japanese version because each article is basically independent and does not affect others.

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I often find that in such cases it's helpful to consult a kanji dictionary and other words with the kanji involved to get a feel of the range of meanings.

For example:

関わる [kakawaru] be concerned in, have to do with

係 [kakari] 1) charge, duty, concern; 2) person in charge

関係 [kankei] 1) relationship, relation, connection, reference; ~ga aru, ~suru be related to smth., have a connection, concern; ~naku regardless of smth.; 2) involvement, participation, concernment; ~suru be involved, participate; 3) influence; ~suru have influence on smth.; 4) connection, sexual relations

連れる [tsureru] take smb. along

連続 [renzoku] 1) continuity, succession, series; ~suru continue, last; in compounds continuous; 2) continuously, without a break

連絡 [renraku] contact; connection; liaison; communication; ~suru contact; connect; communicate

(definitions from the JiShop dictionary)

From which we can infer:

  1. 関する is probably similar in meaning to 関わる, i.e. it hints that something is connected or relates to the subject being mentioned.
  2. 関係 is possibly used to describe human relations or similar.
  3. 関連 seems to hint at some kind of connection or link between the two subjects.

Of course, in practice it's a bit more nuanced as naruto describes, for example in the vast majority of cases 関する is used as a set expression ~に関する~ and 関係 is not limited to human relations.


Another good option is to do a Web search for "X と Y の違い". There are multiple sites and blogs devoted to such topics and even though most of them are in Japanese you should be able to get a gist of it with some work (and practice your Japanese at the same time ;) For example, from this page:

「関連」は、「その人やものごとに直接つながりのあること」を表します。

「関係」は、「その人やものごとに間接的にでもかかわりを持つこと」を表します。

2つの違いは「直接的か間接的か」という点です

My take:

関連 shows that "those people or things themselves have a direct connection"

関係 shows that "those people or things have a relation, even if indirect"

The main difference is "direct or indirect" point of view.

There are also good examples on the page which show when the specific word should be used or not.

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