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Friday, February 6, 2009


Even More Japanese That Ain't in the Textbook:

Yet another installment of words and phrases "to help make your 言い回し more 日本人ぽい."
This time we've got three helpful phrases that Japanese people use ALL the time, and you can incorporate into your speech just as easily.

betsu ni

not particulary; nothing special.
You'll recognize 別 as meaning 'separate,' or 'apart.' When you need separate checks at a restaurant, you say "別々."

別に、however, is the best way to answer "Do you like" questions when you don't have any strong feelings on way or the other, but it has tons of other uses as well. Technically it should take something afterwards, like "別にない," to make "nothing special," or "別に構わない," for "It' doesn't particularly matter," but in conversation, people say 「別に」 as a standalone phrase all the time. It's so common that Brett and I debated introducing it here; we say it so often that it seemed too basic.

Did you do anything fun this weekend? 別に.
Do you like natto? 別に.
Do you want to read the first draft of my novel? 別に.

You can use 特別にない as well, to highlight your lack of specific preference, as 別に can often sound detached to the point of being very cold, so be careful with it.

When I was going to meet Yuri's family for the first time, we talked a lot about how to get him to take me seriously as a boyfriend. We also used to joke about things that I should NOT say if he asked why were seeing each other. Top of the list was 「ゆりの事は別にきらいではない。」 Translation: I don't really DIS-like your daughter. Winning words? 別に。

yaku ni tatsu

to be helpful; to be useful

役 means 'role,' 'position,' or 'use.' An actor or actress's role is their "役," for example. But in this case, it gets used to mean to be of assistance, or to help someone out.

「役に立ちたい」 means "I want to help out."

「学校で習うことは将来に役に立つはずです」:The things you learn in school are supposed to help you out in the future.

You can use 役に立つ in all kinds of ways, and you'll hear it all the time. The Daily Yo-jiは皆の役に立てたらいいですね。


safety; peace; quietness; nothing
Literally meaning "the absence of things," 無事 gets used to mean "without incident." You'll hear it most often with the verb 着く, as in 「無事に着いて良かった: It's good that you arrived safely." I heard it tons of times on my hitchhiking trip from people who asked me to let them know when I made it to my next destination. You can use it with verbs like 届く for packages or letters, with 終わる or 終了する, pretty much anything you can attach "without incident" too.


jljzen88 said...

see, what I don't get is the subtle difference between 別に and 特に. I often use 別に to the point of sounding cold or offensive, but don't always mean it that way. I suppose 特に might be better suited for those situations.

Defendership said...

Can you give an example of the sentences that lend themselves to either usage?

In my mind, 別に is used for negatives.



ie. not really, not particularly.

特に, on the other hand, is exactly the opposite, and only used for positive constructions.



AzzidisRidden said...

Maybe it's a grammatically incorrect usage (like ぜんぜん大丈夫), but I've heard 特にない used before.

I do think that 特別にない and 特にない sound a little less cold than 別にない。 I guess the inclusion of 特 emphasizes the lack of SPECIAL preference, so it's more like answering "Is there something you want for dinner?" with "Anything's fine," rather than "Not really."

Also, while you can say 別に without adding anything else after it, 特に by itself doesn't sound as natural to my ears. My ears aren't the most qualified, but 特に alone doesn't quite pass the bar for me...

Michelle said...





AzzidisRidden said...

Wow. Thank you, Michelle. That is the perfect example of how 別に and 特に can be cold to the point of rudeness.

And for those of you who watched the video, that word in the beginning, 「睨み,」 is にらみ;nirami which translates as "a glare."

You can use it when people give you dirty looks.

Michelle said...