ちゃんと is a word I use fairly often and I thought it would be a good choice to write a focused blog post about it.
Although I have a fairly strong image of this word in my head, I decided on checking both the Japanese and English dictionary entries to see what the official definitions were.
Let’s first take a look at these. (If you are in a hurry, feel free to skim them)
Japanese-English dictionary entries: [words in brackets on the right are from the English translations of the example sentences]
1 〔きちんと〕regularly, neatly; 〔ゆがまずに〕straight [“properly”, “punctually”]
2 〔間違いなく〕 [ “perfectly”, “exactly”]
This is a good example of where dictionaries can give information overload that can overwhelm beginning students of a foreign language. If you are a perfectionist and have the time on your hands, you can read all the example sentences provided (links at the bottom of this post) and try to memorize all the different ways the word can be translated.
But if you just want a rough approximation to understand most of the situations where this word is used, you can just remember the concept of “properly”. This works with many of the example sentences provided in the above dictionary entries.
Here are two simple sample sentences:
- Eat your vegetables.
- Speak properly! (can be said when somebody is stuttering or making mistakes in their speech)
In the English translation for the first example I haven’t used the word ‘properly’ since it’s implied. The important thing is that you understand the feeling of ‘properly’ when you hear ちゃんと used in Japanese.
You can use the word ちゃんと also with itself and する or やる in the following fashion.
- Do it properly! / Do it right!
Keep in mind that this sort of phrase would be typically used when speaking to a child, and could be considered rude when said to an adult.
ちゃんと is typically used as an adverb, but it can also be used as an adjective in the form ちゃんとした.
- I want to get into a good/proper/reputable college.
Two words that are bit more formal and have a similar meaning are しっかり and きちんと, and they are used in a similar way to ちゃんと as adverbs. This reminds me of the time when I used the word ちゃんと to describe something an adult was doing and I was corrected by a Japanese person to use きちんと since it was more appropriate.