Every day is "mai nichi", but every child is NOT "mai kodomo".

The sakura season went by quickly and the weather has been unstable in Tokyo since then. We often have rainy days and sometimes have windy days too. Spring weather changes a lot. Did you enjoy the sakura this year? 

Today we are studying “mai” and “every”. “Mainichi” or “maishu” appear at the beginning of Japanese textbooks since they are easy and useful words. However, it isn’t always the case that “mai = every”. Advanced learners have probably already noticed this.
mai: something always happens at a certain time
every: regular occurrence at specified intervals
Only when these two definitions coincide is it possible to translate “mai” as “every” and vice versa.
As you know, “mai” is prefixed to another word when it is related to time, such as in “mai nichi” (every day), “mai asa” (every morning), “mai toshi” (every year), “mai kai” (every time) and so on. Other examples include “mai shoku” (every meal) or “mai shiai” (every sports match). These have the meaning of “every time”, so you can use “mai”.

Also, "every five minutes" is “go fun goto” in Japanese. This usage can be applied to other time-related words as well.

What about other cases? Let's study some definitions and examples from an English dictionary (Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary).
every: refer to groups of three or more which are seen as wholes
I think “subete”, “zenbu” or “minna” work well in this case. I will translate the following sentences. (Keep in mind that these are my own translations and there may be other ways to translate this text as well.)

  • Every child in the class passed the examination. (kono class no kodomo tachi wa minna shiken ni gokaku shita)
  • I've got every record she has ever made. (kanojo ga ima madeni tsukutta (dashita) record o subete motteiru.)
You can also say “dono ________ mo”.

  • class no dono kodomo tachi mo shiken ni gokaku shita.
  • kanojo ga dashita dono record mo motteiru/ kanojo ga dashita record wa dore mo mottieru.

What happens when “every” takes on the meaning of “each”?
every/each: every person, thing, group, etc., considered individually
I would say sorezore” or “ichi X ichi(one X one X).

  • He enjoyed every minute of his holiday. (kare wa yasumi no ippun ippun wo tanoshinda.)
  • They were watching her every movement. (kare tachi wa kanojo no ugoki o hitotsu hitotsu miteita.)
  • Each of us has a company car. (watashi tachi wa sorezore kaisha no kuruma o motteiru.)
  • He gave us 5 pounds each. (kare wa watashi tachi hitori hitori ni go pondo o kureta./ kare wa watshi tachi ni go pondo zutsu kureta.)
maitoshi haru ni saku sakurawa nihonjin ni totte taisetsuna mono des. 
sore wa tada no hana dewa naku, toki no nagare ya jinsei no henka nado o tsuyoku kanjisaseru mono des.
hitotsu hitotsu no chiisai hana wa jinsei no ichi byo ichi byo ni mo niteiru to watashi wa omoimas.
sakura wa nihon ju no dono machi ni mo uetearu node, doko ni sundeitemo, nihonjin wa sakura to tomoni seicho shitieru no des.

(Sakura, which bloom every spring, are important to Japanese people. 

They are not just flowers: they strongly remind us of the flow of time and the changes in life. 
I think every small flower represent a second of our life. 
Sakura trees have been planted in every town in Japan, so Japanese people grow up with sakura wherever we live.)

I should have posted this earlier. The Golden Week has just begun today!  Happy Golden Week, everyone in Japan !!


I hope (part 1)

The weather in Tokyo is getting warmer little by little, but it is still cold. I hope you haven’t caught a cold. I have almost gotten sick twice this winter but took care of it immediately, so I got better soon and have been well. Every time I feel a little sick, I take some medicine, go to bed early, and sleep a lot that day. This makes my condition better the next morning. I haven’t gotten a serious cold for last five or six years.
Some people are reluctant to take medicine, but I think that it is better for your body to take medicine when necessary.

“I hope” is one of the most common expressions that non-Japanese people want to know soon after starting to learn Japanese. I usually simply teach “to ii” to a beginner, but this is a tentative expression because “to ii” is not always used in the same way as “I hope” in English. For example, there is the common English phrase “I hope you had a good weekend”. You can’t directly translate it into Japanese. Thus, I am writing about this point today.

First, translate the next English sentence to Japanese: "I hope it will be warm tomorrow." 
Ashita wa atatakai to ii.
Ashita wa atatakai” is a speaker’s hope. This part should end with the dictionary form of verbs or the short forms of nouns and adjectives. “To” indicates “if”—essentially, a hypothetical.
So, if you directly translate this Japanese sentence, it is "If it is warm tomorrow, it would be good."
The dictionary shows “nozomu” or “kibou suru” as the definition of hope, but these words are not used in this situation. In Japanese, we just use an “if” expression. We don’t strongly show the speaker’s desire. I think that is interesting.

Let’s look at more examples.
"I hope you (will) have a nice trip." This expresses hope for events that will happen in the future. In Japanese:

  • Tanoshii ryoko da to ii ne.  (It would be good if it is a nice trip.)
  • Ryoko ga tanoshii to ii ne.   (It would be good if a trip is nice.)
  • Tanoshii ryoko ni naru to ii ne.  (It would be good if it will be a nice trip.)
Next is a hope for events happening now. "I hope you are having a nice trip."
  • (anata ga) ryoko o tanoshindeiru to ii na.  (It would be good if you are enjoying the trip.)
This hypothetical sentence can be used to assume something for the future and the present, but not for the past. Basically, no past tense verb can precede “to”.

You must be wondering how the Japanese express "I hope you had a nice trip."
  • Tanoshii ryoko datta? (Was it a nice trip?)
  • Ryoko wa tanoshikatta? (Was the trip nice?)
  • Ryoko o tanoshinda? (Did you enjoy the trip?)
Ask if it was nice or not. This is the best way. Very simple and easy.

While I was thinking about “I hope”, I realized that it is such a complicated expression that I can’t finish writing about it this time, so I am also going to write about it in the next few posts. This is the end for today. See you next time.


be boring - be bored / surprise - be surprised

For the first post of 2015 I am going to explain about how to use words describing one’s feelings. First of all, please look at the two sentences below.

  1. a-, kono eiga wa tsumaranai na.
  2. a-, tsumaranai na.
In English,
  1. (sigh) This movie is boring.
  2. (sigh) I am bored.
Isn’t it strange that both “boring” and “bored” are “tsumaranai” in Japanese? Would the second sentence be “I am boring”? Let’s think about sentence 2 a little more. I think that it is a shorter version of “I think the current situation is boring.” This person feels that the current situation is boring because of certain reasons, such as there being nothing to do nor anyone to play with.

Let’s have a look at some other words.
  1. I am surprised.
  2. This news surprised me.
  3. I was surprised by this news.
If you translate these to Japanese,
  1. (watashi wa) bikkuri shita / bikkuri shiteiru.
  2. kono news wa watashi o bikkuri saseta.
  3. (watashi wa) kono news ni bikkuri shita / saserareta.
In sentence 2, “bikkuri saseru”, the causative form of “bikkuri suru”, is used. In sentence 3, you could use either “bikkuri shita” or “bikkuri saserareru”, which is the causative-passive form. The causative-passive form expresses a stronger level of surprise.
In fact, sentence 2 is not that common. Sentence 3 is used more often, showing that Japanese people generally prefer sentences that start with "watashi" (I).

By the way, “You scared me!” would be “bikkuri shita! / bikkuri sasenai de yo!” when translated to natural Japanese.

I will now introduce another example which has the same pattern as “bikkuri suru”.
  1. I am annoyed. (watashi wa iraira shiteiru.)
  2. He annoys me. (kare wa watashi o iraira saseru.)
  3. I was annoyed by that fly. (ano hae ni iraira shita / saserareta.)
There are cases in which both an adjective and a verb can be used to express one’s feelings. For example, “kanashii” and “kanashimu”.
  1. I am sad. (watashi wa kanashii.)
  2. I feel sad about his misfortune. (kare no fuko o kanshindeiru.)
  3. He made her sad. (kare wa kanojo o kanashimaseta.)
When you use the verb, as in sentence 2, the object takes “o”. The causative-passive form, “kanashimaserareru”, is never used. This pattern applies to “ureshii” and “yorokobu” as well.

As we have various feelings, there are many words to express your emotions: nervous, excited, disappointed, upset, embarrassed, etc. Please try to remember how to use these words and express your feelings in Japanese.

The year 2014 has ended and the year 2015 has just begun. If you are feeling satisfied without any regrets from last year and many hopes for this year, that’s wonderful. Last year I myself have experienced enjoyable, sad, good and bad things as usual. I hope that 2015 will be an even better year!! 


2015, the year of the sheep

Happy New Year! Akemashite omedeto gozaimas.
What is your new year's resolution? I am sure that some of you have decided to study Japanese harder. Gambatte kudasai !
Mines are to work more, to study this language more as a teacher and to paint pictures (for a hobby). This year I am going to be more creative. I expect painting will be changing my viewpoint.

minasan, kotoshi mo yoroshiku onegai shimas.

Minako Okamoto


the last - last

I am sorry that I have been lazy about writing my English blog. So I am writing one more post this month. It is short though...
Here is a question for you. How do you translate these?
  1. The last Saturday in October
  2. The last two people
  3. Last Saturday
  4. Last time
The answers are:
  1. 10 gatsu no saigo no doyobi
  2. saigo no futari
  3. senshu no doyobi, kono mae no doyobi
  4. zenkai, kono mae no toki
You can translate “last” two different ways, but the difference is simple when you compare them. “The last” (the antonym of “the first”) is “saigo no”; and “last” (the antonym of “next”) is “kono mae no”.
the last (saigo no) the first (saisho no)
last (kono mae no)  next (tsugi no)
When you confuse “saigo no” and “kono mae no”, it’s good to think of the antonym of the “last” that you’re using in English. 
However, both work on this English sentence:
When was the last time you went to an onsen?
saigo ni onsen ni itta no wa itsu des ka? 
kono mae onsen ni itta no wa itsu des ka? 


deru (出る)

A couple weeks ago, a volcano in Japan erupted. This eruption is a tragedy because there are many victims. At the same time, I realized again that the earth is a living thing. Japan has 110 active volcanoes and its highest mountain, Mt. Fuji, is one of them. An active volcano is one that has erupted within the past 10,000 years. The time we have lived is nothing more than one fleeting moment compared to the history of the earth. By the way, Mt. Fuji last erupted in 1707.

It is rather boring to talk about details of Japanese grammar after having a topic as big as the grand history of the earth, but I’d like to discuss the word “deru” (出る) today.

The kanji “” is familiar even to non-Japanese because you often see signs with “出口” on them at stations. “” means “out” and “出口” (out mouth) means “exit”. This is an easy example of kanji words. 
The verb for this kanji is “deru”.
  • Uchi o hachi ji ni deru. (I leave my house at 8). 
  • Densha wa nanji ni eki o deru? (What time is the train leaving?)
Meaning: to go away from a place, leave a place and go somewhere else
The point is, you should use (o) when you leave places, such as uchi o , eki o. This indicates the starting location.

Then, what is the meaning of following examples?
  • Kare wa ashita no shiai ni deru.
  • Kaigi ni deru.
  • Denwa ni deru.
“Shiai ni deru” is not the same as “shiai kara deru” (leave a game). This is actually “play in a game”. The meaning of “deru” here is basically the opposite of its meaning in “uchi o deru” from earlier, isn’t it?
The meaning of “deru” changes depending on whether or you use “ni” or “o”.

Meaning: to go to a specific place to do something

  • Shiai ni deru: to go to a game in order to participate in it.
  • Kaigi ni deru: to attend a meeting
  • Denwa ni deru: to answer the telephone
When you use “deru”, think carefully about whether to use “o” or “ni”.


Sorry and Excuse me / gomen and sumimasen

The hot summer has begun. Even though the heat is unpleasant, the arrival of summer is always exciting. Complicated, isn’t it?

Today, I will study the differences between “Sorry” and “Excuse me” and the Japanese equivalents “gomennasai” and “sumimasen”. It seems that everybody knows these expressions, but there might be some things about them that you don’t know.
According to Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary, “sorry” has three definitions. I will list them and add Japanese translations to each English sentence.
1. feeling sadness or regret
I am sorry to say that I won't be able to accept the job. (sono shigoto o hikiukerarenai no wa zannen des.)
I am sorry to hear of your father's death. (okuyami moushi agemas.)
When you say "I am sorry to say that" or "I am sorry to hear that”, you should use “zannen des”. Also, since “zannen des” is, by itself, not quite sufficient to express your sadness at someone’s passing, “okuyami moushi agemas” would be a good phrase to add.

2. full of shame and regret, apologetic
If you say you are sorry, we will forget the incident. (anata ga gomen to ittara,/ayamattara, watashitachi wa kono ken o wasuremasho.)
Aren't you sorry for what you have done? (jibun ga yatta koto o warui to omowanai no?)
Saying “gomennasai” or “sumimasen” is an act of apologizing. For the second example, you should use “warui to omou” rather than “gomen” because the sentence only refers to feeling apologetic, not actually apologizing.

3. used to express mild regret, disagreement or refusal
Can you lend me a pound? No, I am sorry I can't. (1pound kahiste kureru?  gomen/ warui kedo, kasenai.)
I am sorry I am late. (okurete gomen/ sumimaen.)
When you convey your refusal or disagreement with “I am sorry but…”, it is natural to start with “warui kedo”. It is okay to simply use “gomen(nasai)” or “sumimasen” for the second sentence, but don’t forget to use the te-form of the verb (before “gomen” and “sumimasen”) if you also state your reason for apologizing.

Next, here is the definition of “Excuse me”:
used as an apology when one interrupts, disagrees, disapproves or has to behave impolitely
Excuse me, is anybody sitting here? (sumimasen, koko ni dareka suwatteimas ka?)
Excuse me, can I get past? (sumimasen, toottemo ii des ka?)

“Sumimasen” is a very useful phrase because you can use it for both “I am sorry” and “Excuse me” and it can also be used for expressing feelings of gratitude. However, it can’t be used for the first definition of “sorry” and does not always fit with the second and third ones either. Thus, it is important to remember the situations in which it is appropriate and sentence patterns as well.