Tuesday, April 30, 2013

"How long" in Japanese

The question phrase "how long" is usually expressed using by any of the following: どのくらい and どれくらい. This source says that, according to the 日本文法大辞典, どのくらい was commonly used in the Edo era, but どれくらい became more common in the Meiji era. Google Search shows that both are still commonly used today. くらい is loosely translated as "about" or "approximately".

Dono  kurai/dore kurai machimasu ka?
How long will we wait?

Anata wa Nihon ni dorekurai sunde imasu ka?
How long have you been living in Japan?

You can also be more specific by using 何日、何時間、何ヶ月, and so on.

Mainichi, nanjikan, shigoto wo shimasu ka?
How many hours do you work every day?

Nannichi gurai taizai shimasu ka?
About how many days will you stay?

Google search
Japanese for everyone


More commonly, we encounter position words such as となり, そば, まわり etc in the following grammatical construct:

____ の<となり、まわり, etc>

Interestingly, one of the things that is not taught is the construction

この・その・あの<となり、まわり, etc>

I've seen only そのとなり used (Japanese for Everyone by Nagara), and it means "the one beside it". However, I see no reason why it cannot be used for この・あの. Apparently, it's not very commonly used with そば, although it is commonly used with まわり based on Google Search.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

volitional + to omou ~おうと思う

"volitional + to omou" = "to intend to do such and such", "to think of doing such and such"

When talking about a third person, use "to omotte imasu."

ex. 今晩は薬を飲んで早く寝ようと思います。
Konban wa kusuri wo nonde hayaku neyou to omoimasu.
I think I will take some medicine and go to bed early tonight.

Ane wa arubaito wo sagasou to omotte imasu.
My older sister is thinking of looking for a part-time job.

Schaum's Outline: Japanese Grammar

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The word for "have": 持っている vs. には~がある/いる

Disclaimer: I didn't get this from any book, but this is something that I picked up by hearing these two expressions many times.

Consider the following sentences in English:

1. I have a car.
2. I have two brothers.
3. I have talent.

In English, the idea of possession of a "car", "brother", or "talent" are all handled by the same word, "have". However, in Japanese, there's another nuance that has to be taken care of.

What's the difference between having a car and a brother? One difference here is that you will always have a brother - it's something that's part of you - while you can buy or discard a car. Having a "brother" is inherent, and having a "car" is not. Note that this divide also holds for possession of animate/inanimate objects. Having a "cat" is inherent, but having a "house" is not.

In Japanese, these two nuances are covered by two different sentence patterns: ~を持っている (lit. to hold), and ~に~がいる/ある (lit. to exist in).

"while" - ながら

Note that when using ながら, the subject must be the same for the two actions that occur together! If not, use あいだ.

Monday, April 22, 2013

The word for convenient: べんり、つごうがいい

Elevators, escalators, bullet trains are べんり "benri" . They make life easier, and in that sense, are "convenient". Having to ride the train during crowded rush hour is ふべん ("fuben") "inconvenient"。

On the other hand, when something is convenient in the sense that it matches your schedule, the word to use in not べんり, but rather つごうがいい. When something is inconvenient for your schedule, then you use つごうがわるい。

Thursday, April 18, 2013

まだ + verb

Note that verbs that are used with まだ cannot be used in the past tense:

should be replaced by

The sentence means "I haven't done it yet", so since the state is ongoing, the progressive form has to be used.

まだ  can also be used with the present tense:

Mada samui desu.
It's still cold.

Mada atatakaku naranai.
It hasn't become warm yet.

How to say "popular" in Japanese: はやる and 人気

はやる "hayaru" and 人気 "ninki" are two different words that are both translated as "popular" in English. However, they are not exactly the same.

というか and ということ "to iu ka" and "to iu koto"

Much of this post was directly from Tae Kim's Guide to Japanese Grammar since I'm too lazy right now to write my own explanations.

直す vs. 治す "naosu"

There are two kanji for "naosu": 直す and  治す. They have different uses:

 治す = cure (a disease, a person)
直す = repair (something broken)

Friday, April 12, 2013

Direct Passive vs. Indirect Passive

In English, the passive form is used to tell something that was done on an object. For example,

"The car was repaired by the mechanic."

Note that in English, only transitive verbs (verbs that require objects) can be converted into a passive form. Thus, there are no passive forms for verbs like "go", "sneeze", and "die".

There is an exact equivalent of the English passive form in Japanese, which is called the direct passive form. The passive form is constructed as follows:

1. Godan verbs:
nai-stem + reru

ex. 使う "tsukau" -- 使われる "tsukawareru"

2. Ichidan verbs (aka "iru" or "eru" verbs)
nai-stem + rareru

ex. 食べる "taberu" -- 食べられる "taberareru"

3. Irregular verbs

する "suru" -- される "sareru"
くる "kuru" -- こられる "korareru"

The following sentences can be translated into Japanese directly:

These tools are used in building a house.
Korera no dougu wa ie wo tateru no ni tsukawareru.

It is said by everyone that (I'm/it's) strange.
Minna ni hen da to iwaremasu.

There is also another "form" of the passive in Japanese, called the indirect passive. This can also accommodate intransitive verbs, and has no direct equivalent in English. It is used to denote an action that was done by someone on the subject that is out of the subject's control. Most textbooks on Japanese call this the suffering passive, as this form is mostly used to denote an event that is unfortunate. An interesting insight by Tae Kim is that there is no such thing as a "suffering" passive: what makes the passive indicate "suffering" is that the action is done on the object without the object's control. This may make it easier to understand for some learners of Japanese.

The agent responsible for the inconvenience is followed by に. Compare the following sentences:

Ano inu ga ashi wo kanda.
That dog bit (my) leg.

Ano inu ni ashi wo kamareta.
(I) was bitten in the leg by that dog.

In Japanese, the 2nd sentence (which uses the passive form) indicates that the event is something unfortunate or something outside the subject's control (i.e., you couldn't help it but you were bitten in the leg by the dog), whereas the 1st sentence is more neutral.

When an intransitive verb is used in the passive form, that is most definitely a case of the indirect passive.

ex. 夫に死なれた女性は未亡人と呼ばれる。
Otto ni shinareta josei wa miboujin to yobareru.
A woman whose husband has died is called a widow.

In the example above, there are two verbs in the passive form: 呼ばれる and 死なれる. 呼ばれる is used in the direct passive sense (i.e., there is no indication of something unfortunate). The use of the passive form "shinareta" 死なれた indicates that the action of the husband dying affected the woman in some way.  Contrast this with a sentence using the active form instead:

Otto ga shinda josei wa miboujin to yobareru.

This is a more neutral construction, and the tone conveys a matter of fact.

Ultimate Advanced Japanese, Random House.
Tae Kim's Guide to Japanese blog. http://www.guidetojapanese.org/blog/2005/09/09/no-suffering-passive/
jisho.org (for example sentences)

Saturday, April 6, 2013

noun +「とする」、「となる」

We've already discussed

+ となる "to naru"

in a previous post. It means "to become ". Now let's discuss something which I have never seen discussed in any grammar book, the pattern   + とする.

+とする = To consider/define/describe noun A as noun B.

He considers this as his specialty jump.

Define the length of this side of the square as "x".


How to use まるで

まるで "marude" has two basic meanings:

1. "just like"

When used in this manner, まるで is often followed by よう or みたい.

Sumisu san wa Nihongo ga jouzu de, marude Nihonjin no you da.
Smith is good in Japanese that he speaks like a Japanese.

Ano roujin wa marude akanbou mitai da.
That old man is just like a baby.

2. "completely"

In negative sentences, まるで has the same function as まったく "mattaku" and ぜんぜん "zenzen". However, まるで implies the speaker's negative judgement.

Miura, Akira. Essential Japanese Vocabulary, Tuttle.

Southeast or east-south?

In Japanese, there are two ways to express southeast: 東南 "tounan" = "east-south" or 南東 "nantou" = "south-east". However, they have different uses. Use "east-south" if you're talking about a particular location, e.g., Southeast Asia = 東南アジア. When talking about a particular direction, use "south-east": southeasterly wind = 南東の風.

Miura, Akira. Essential Japanese Vocabulary, Tuttle Publishing.

The word for "help":「助ける」と「手伝う」 tasukeru vs. tetsudau

Both words mean "help" in English. However, 手伝う "tetsudau" refers to helping someone with the same task. 助ける "tasukeru" can be used in place of 手伝う in some cases. However, unlike 手伝う, it can be used to refer to saving or rescuing someone (for this, 手伝う is NEVER used!) . From my encounters with the language, 助ける is more often used in this context of rescue than just helping someone complete a chore.

The word for "sun":「太陽」と「日」 taiyou vs. hi

Both 太陽 "taiyou" and 日"hi" mean "sun" in Japanese. However, 日 is a more anthropocentric term, meaning it refers to the sun as something in relation to human activities. If you're talking about the sun setting or rising, then 日 is the proper word to be used.

太陽, on the other hand, is used to refer to the sun as a body in the solar system. It is more scientific than 日. Thus, we have the words

taiyou no kokuten

taiyou no chokkei
diameter of the sun

I've also seen 太陽 used in songs:

恋してるチカラに魔法をかけて, 太陽がずっとしずまないように
koishiteru chikara ni mahou wo kakete, taiyou ga zutto shizumanai you ni
Put a spell on loving power so that the sun wouldn't set.

Hora taiyou ga, yasashii kaze ga, bokura wo mitsumete iru kara
Look, the sun and the gentle wind are gazing at us.

In these two examples, the sun seems to be considered as an animate object, almost like personification.

Akira Miura, Essential Japanese Vocabulary, Tuttle Publishing.