quick Japanese lesson

I learned something today about making lists in Japanese.

For instance, in English, it is common to write a list of items such as:

“A baseball, basketball, volleyball and soccer ball.”

In Japanese that would be:


Translated, that would be:

“baseball ya basketball, volleyball, soccer ball nado no … wa”

Does anyone else have any other interesting differences in grammar [yamamori hodo arudarouga] between English and Japanese?

2 comments on “quick Japanese lesson
  1. Chris says:

    Well, an easy one, in English we have this (near me or in my possession) and that (everything else)
    In Japanese there is これ (kore: near me or in my posession), それ (sore: near you or in my possession), and a third あれ (are: near neither of us). “Are” also conveniently stands in for unmentionables (i.e. “that thing? yeah you know that thing, oh THAT thing!, yeah what’s up with that?)
    I also like how granularity changes in vocabulary. In Japanese there is “普通” (futsu), which pretty much covers the following: general, typical, usual, basic, regular, average, common, normal, ordinary. Try explaining the difference between all of those to a Japanese student of English.
    On the reverse, Japanese is picky about temperature. in Japanese there is お湯 (o-yu) and お水(o-mizu), hot and cold water respectively, and if you ever say cold when you meant hot, you might as well have said elephant. Also, 冷たい (tsumetai) means when an object is cold but 寒い means the environment is cold, while 熱い and 暑い have the same relationship, but are both pronounced “atsui”.

  2. Jay says:

    I once read a very interesting analyse concerning the two types of list in Japanese:
    – exhaustive lists with と
    – unexhaustive lists with や often unended with a など
    The former is an exhaustive list and do not let any room to your interlocutor to fill in his thoughts. On the other hand, the unexhaustive one, by being open ended, lets you locutor enough room to put in whatever he/she wants and helps smoothing human relationships.
    In short, “I trust you enough to let you finish my list”. This is exactly the same phenomenone that is at work with あれ. Nobody knows if two people are taking about the same あれ or not. Who cares? The conversation can keep on without having someone hurt by others.
    You can find examples of that in the slang spoken my the young Japanese. これ、好きかも. To like or not, that is not the question. The fact that saying that you like it without letting your locutor enough room to react is surely the main problem here.