I've got two questions. Firstly, what is the difference between 特殊{とくしゅ} and 特別{とくべつ}?

Secondly, is it true that all these grammar forms are correct:

  • 特殊{とくしゅ}な + [noun]
  • 特別{とくべつ}な + [noun]
  • 特殊{とくしゅ}の + [noun]
  • 特別{とくべつ}の + [noun]

2 Answers 2


I'm a Japanese student studying English at university. Let me try and answer your question.

We use 特殊 tokushu in academic situations, describing something strange or crazy.

In contrast, we say 特別 tokubetsu in casual situation, describing something precious or valuable.

For example, we say 「君は特別な人だ」(kimi wa tokubetsu na hito da - "You are precious to me"), but we don't say 「君は特殊な人だ」(kimi wa tokushu na hito da) in that sense.

When we say 「君は特殊な人だ」, this means "You are strange" or "You are not an ordinary person."

The answer for your next question is clear:

「特別な」and「特殊な」are correct, and they are not noun but adjective that can be translated as "special" or "peculiar."

「特別」are「特殊」nouns. We don't say 「特別の」or 「特殊の」in Japanese. What's more, to be precise, "special" is an adjective (形容詞 keiyōshi) in English, but 「特別な」「特殊な」is 「形容動詞」(keiyōdōshi) in Japanese.

「「形容動詞」can be classified as adjective, but we distinguish 「形容詞」

  • 4
    (1) 君は特別な人だ and 君は特殊な人だ are great examples. (2) Although 特別な is a 形容動詞 (na-adjective), we do also say 特別の: see the examples in 大辞泉. Commented Jun 9, 2011 at 16:34
  • @TsuyoshiIto, I do note that Daijisen (among other dictionaries) classes 特別 as both a 形容動詞 and a 名詞, and the definition expresses both nominal and adjectival aspects: 「他との間に、はっきりした区別がある こと。 ... また、その さま。 」 I suspect that the editors would class instances of 特別 as nominal use. Searching for 特別が or を also finds examples that look rather noun-ish. Commented Feb 27, 2023 at 20:12

Another way to look at it could be the difference between "special" and "specialized". Both words do technically refer to something "not normal", but 特殊 is more often used for something specialized, something that is particular to a case. 特別 is usually used to mean "special" as in "outside the norm" - it can be used for good things or for bad, but usually it's used for good things(I believe). 特別 can be used in sort of the same way as 特殊, as well.

Look at these sentences(from alc):

特殊なペンでイラストや文字を入力することもできます。 (Using a specialized pen, users can input pictures and characters.)

特殊なハードウェアを作る (to create specialized hardware)

These indicate that the noun being modified is something otherwise normal that has been tailored to a specific case.

特別, however, can generally be used for both:

特別な扱いはしないでほしい。 (I'd like it if you didn't give me special treatment.)

特別な企画に取り組む (to work on a special project)

Both give sentences give a sense of something "special", or something "outside the norm".

From personal experience, I see 特殊 being used more for concrete objects, such as 特殊な道具 or 特殊部隊.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .