Variations of saying a simple phrase in Japanese

By | January 15, 2014

I’ve noticed that in Japanese they are many, many ways to say something, each with a different connotation or feeling. I’m sure this is the case in English as well, but I don’t typically think about it in the same analytical and logical way, so I haven’t really noticed it. Having said that, I feel that Japanese still wins out in this area if you look at how many expressions can be made just by changing the sentence a little.

For this post I’ll give a list of such variations on a simple theme, “stop”, in various shades of request or command. I’ll stick to expressions with the verb やめる, which could be written 止める in this case. (辞める is used when talking about quitting a job)

I’ll try to explain the nuance of each of these, but for some of them its hard to put into words. When you hear these phrases used by someone, try and remember the context you heard them in and the feeling they gave you.

Remember that just like in English, the feeling of the expression is modified by the tone of voice used and facial expression.

  • やめて => fairly neutral way to say “stop”
  • やめてね => softer/feminine way than above
  • やめろ    => very rough way which can be seen as rude, used mostly by men
  • やめれ     => slang version, roughly same as above
  • やめろよ => slightly softened version of the above
  • やめようよ  => a softer way to express, “let’s stop”, as if warning someone what they are doing is wrong
  • やめなよ => masculine way to warn
  • やめなさい => strict command form, used by a superior to someone below him/her. Has a refined feel to it.
  • やめなちゃい   => baby talk version of previous
  • おやめ   => older phrase usually used by older women
  • やめたまえ  => older, refined phrase used by older men
  • やめてくれ    => “stop for me” with a slightly refined feel
  • やめてください   => polite “please stop” (making a request)
  • やめちまえ  => very aggressive/rude, with apathetic/uncaring feeling
  • やめるんだ   => literally “you are going to stop”. If the pitch at the end of the word raises, it can have a positive connotation. If it drops, it has more a feeling of a warning.
  • やめたら?  =>  trying to convince someone its a good idea to stop, “why don’t you stop?”
  • やめれば? => same as previous
  • やめたほうがいいよ => “It’s better if you stop”, warning someone
  • やめてくれる?  => “Would you mind stopping (for me)?”  [and other variants with もらえる, etc.]
  • やめてくれない?   => Similar to above. Can be used when the other person is persistently doing something you don’t like.
  • やめてくれないかな  => “I was wondering if you would stop (for me)”, softer indirect request
  • やめること  => dry command, I have seen this used on the inside of a car hood

Understanding the variations in tone and feeling between different expressions is one of the things needed to become truly fluent. You’ll naturally distinguish these in your native language, but it will require some extra effort for most people studying a foreign language.

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3 thoughts on “Variations of saying a simple phrase in Japanese

  1. FujikoToyohashi

    Very interesting post. I never thought about it, but I do use several versions, regarding the person I’m talking to and the situation I’m in. Also as means of getting more serious (e.g. Starting with やめたら? then use やめてくれない? or やめてね to the ultimate やめなさい)

    Reply
    1. locksleyu Post author

      Thanks for the comment. I try to write articles that are unique and provide information not (easily) found elsewhere, and I hope I succeeded in this post – at least a little.

      Reply
    2. locksleyu Post author

      Thanks for the comment. I try to write articles that are unique and provide information not (easily) found elsewhere, and I hope I succeeded in this post – at least a little.

      Reply

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