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In the dictionary, 今度 has three definitions as follows. How does one know which applies for certain since they contradict one another? I feel it is too much to depend on context only.

  1. this time; now​
  2. next time; another time; shortly; soon​
  3. recently; lately; the other day​

今度の面接のために、このスーツを買いました from https://jlptsensei.com/learn-japanese-grammar/%E3%81%9F%E3%82%81%E3%81%AB-tame-ni-meaning/ was translated to "I bought this suit for my upcoming interview." What would prevent it from being interpreted as "I bought this suit for my last or recent interview."

I understand most of the time it means "next time" or the tense of the main verb can help. However can one be more certain?

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    Doesn’t “the interview this time” have similar ambiguity? I am really curious.
    – aguijonazo
    May 18, 2021 at 4:16
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    Regarding that so-called jlptsensei site, you may want to take a look at [this meta post].(japanese.meta.stackexchange.com/a/2196/30454)
    – Eddie Kal
    May 18, 2021 at 6:56
  • I thank you for your concern regarding possible errors of the web site. I will bear in mind. In the meantime, could you please tell me how to be certain what 今度 really means? Are you saying the sentence I quoted with the question is completely wrong? There're many examples from jisho.org/search/%E4%BB%8A%E5%BA%A6%20%23sentences too. We can't always go by the tense of the verb, can we?
    – Healer
    May 23, 2021 at 5:45
  • Perhaps you can give me an example sentence each along the lines of the one I quoted for "I bought this suit for my upcoming interview." if the quoted one is grammatically wrong and another one for "I bought this suit for my last or recent interview." I will appreciate very much.
    – Healer
    May 28, 2021 at 2:54

2 Answers 2

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今度{こんど} is a combination of 今{いま} and 度{たび}. If you look up what both mean, you'll find that 今{いま} can mean "now", "the present time", "soon", "immediately" and 度{たび} means "times" as in a counter for occurences (e.g. one 1 time = 1x / two times = 2x and so on). Together their meaning is combined and means exactly "now, this time".

As already aguijonazo has pointed out "this time" carries already an ambiguity, which can be resolved only from context. The ambiguity actually comes from the 今{いま} = "now" part of the word 今度{こんど} and it's behaviour is very similar to the behaviour of the English "now":

  • I am thinking now - 今{いま}考{かんが}えている OR I am thinking this time - 今{いま}考{かんが}えている: The first case could be smbd's answer who was asked e.g.: "What are you doing right now?" In the second case "What are you doing this time?" The English verb+ing form and Japanese verb+ている are both continuuos forms and are telling what is happening in the present time. Clearly, both have the same meaning as your dictionary entry No.1: "this time; now​"

  • I will go now - 今{いま}行{い}く OR I will go this time - 今度{こんど}行{い}く: In most situations when you say this you are still talking to the people and not yet in motion, so the "now" "this time" will effectively happen in (a maybe very close but nevertheless still-not-happened) future and corresponds to your point 2. "next time; another time; shortly; soon"

  • The interview went well (right) now - 今{いま}面接{めんせつ}がうまく運{はこ}んだ OR The interview went well this time - 今度{こんど}面接{めんせつ}がうまく運{はこ}んだ: Clearly the past tense in English and Japanese tells you that the action has happened in the past. So "now", "this" and "this time" as well as 今{いま} and 今度{こんど} are all referring to "this" occasion, which has happened or was occuring in the past. This "usage" is as in No. 3 of your translation: "recently; lately; the other day"

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I think aguijonazo hit the nail on the head in the comments. If you compare it to english, "this time" have the exact same ambiguities. Take these translations of your example:

  • (Literal, unnatural) For this time's interview, I bought a suit.
  • This time, for the interview, I bought a suit.
  • For the interview, this time, I bought a suit.
  • I bought a suit for the interview this time.

Now put these four [examples] sentences in each situations and see if it works.

  1. Past: "Did your interview go well?". Answer: "Yes, [examples], so I looked better."
  2. Present: "Is your interview going well? (asked while taking a break)". Answer: "Yes, [examples], so I look better."
  3. Future: "Your last interview didn't go well, are you ready for the one next week?". Answer: "Yes, [examples], so I should look better."

As you can see, we have the same problem in english. Context and verb tenses will give us the information we need. This means that your sentence can mean all three depending on context.


As a footnote, one interesting thing to realize is that, depending on the sentence structure, the isolated sentences gives different feelings. This is probably due to the frequency of usage of one particular form in certain situations. When I look at the literal translation of 今度の面接 (this time's interview), I can see why someone would translate it as "upcoming interview." Finally, in my limited Japanese experience, 今度の is also more often used for the next occurence (I have no proof of that, this needs confirmation).

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