Some important uses of wari (割)

By | January 17, 2014

If you look up the word “わり”(割)in a dictionary (see here), you’ll find several different meanings and expressions. In this post I’d like to focus on a few which I use frequently in the hopes you’ll make some use out of them yourself. Each of these are related to the basic meaning of わり, which is “ratio” or “percentage”. (The verbs 割る and 割れる mean “divide”, “split”, or “break”, and are written with the same kanji.)

1.  わりと – used for comparison or degree

This expression can mean “relatively”, “comparatively”, “fairly” or “rather”. I’ve heard this primarily used by older adults, and almost never by young people. To me it has slightly formal or intellectual feel.

  • 最近のタブレットは割と軽くなってますね。
  • Recent tablets have gotten fairly light.

2.  Number 1 through 9 + わり  =  Number   x   10%

When わり is said immediately after a number, it means 10 percent multiplied by that number.

  • この学校を無事に卒業する確率は8割くらいです。
  • The odds of graduating this school are around 80%.

3.  Noun or verb + わりに(は)= comparing one thing to another

This expression is used when comparing a certain state to something else, and is usually expressed in English with the word “for”, or “considering”. That’s a pretty vague explanation, so as usual I’ll give an example to clarify.

  • 彼は年の割に若く見える。
  • He looks young for his age.

This can also be used in a negative sense, or at least in a way that isn’t flattering.

  • 彼は日本に住んだことない割には日本語が上手ですね。
  • He is pretty good at Japanese, considering that he’s never lived there.

Notice that ‘は’ is used here. This sentence has the connotation that if he had lived in Japan, his language skills wouldn’t be too impressive.

If you want to compare to something that was just referred to, you can also use “その割に(は)”.

  • 彼の大学の専攻は日本語だったんだ。その割に会話が下手だね。
  • His college major was Japanese? Considering that, his conversation ability isn’t that great.

One final expression you may have heard is ”わり〜”, where the final vowel sound is drawn out. That is actually a slang expression for わるい(悪い)mostly used by young people, and is not related to 割. It can be used to mean “sorry” in a casual sense.


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  1. Pingback: Ways to express probability and possibility in Japanese | Self Taught Japanese

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