I feel that particles (such as の、で、に) are the heart of the Japanese language, or at least a grammatical aspect of the language that is significantly different to languages such as English. I think it’s fair to say that without a very strong grasp of particles, one can never fully understand the subtleties of more advanced sentences.
I have previously written several articles about particle combinations (For example: への、では、ではならの), and when I had stumbled across the phrase “からで” (“kara de”) sometime back, I initially thought it was comprised of the particles から and で. However, further research shows that で used in this context is not actually a particle.
In any case, even though this expression isn’t too common, I feel that it’s good to learn because it’s unlikely to be in any textbooks you read. For those who are into grammar, like me, it’s just fun to learn more such expressions to fill in gaps of remaining knowledge.
So let’s see each of these words used on their own first, before we see them put together.
から can mean “from” (in the sense of “海から帰ってきた” = “I returned home from the beach”), however it is also commonly used after a verb or だ+noun/na-adjective to mean “because” or “so”. For example,
- I’m hungry so I want to eat.
で can be used as a particle to mean where an action is performed, or how it is performed (ex: “バスで行った” – I went by bus), however we are more concerned with its meaning as a portion of the phrase “である”, which has the same meaning as the common word ”です” (namely “is”, and this is also called the copula). The difference is that when で is by itself without the ある portion, it still means “is”, but there is now a sense of something continuing after, in the same way that the “-te” form (i.e. 歩いて, “I walk and…”) can express an action followed by another action.
Let’s see an example of this usage since the above explanation may be a little hard to understand.
- I am an american, and he is Japanese.
からで (kara de)
Now we come to what happens when we combine these two words. Fortunately, the resultant meaning is pretty straightforward–it’s simply the combination of the two words’ meanings.
Rather than make up my own example, I’ve decided to use a slightly more complex sentence taken from a Japanese book.
- The reason there is a padlock attached is because it needs to be locked, and this is because postal mail is a bundle of personal information and very important.
(Note: I’ve elected for a mostly literal translation here for the purposes of explaining the usage of からで. If I was doing this translation in a more formal setting I would tweak the wording and grammar to more accurately convey the meaning in a natural way)
In the above sentence, we can see からで is immediately following 〜必要がある (“there is a necessity to ~”) and it is used to explain a reason and then continue the sentence.
You may ask is such an expression really needed here, and the answer is that while it is not strictly needed to express meaning, it achieves a subtle but important difference in tone. This can be see in English as well, as in the following examples:
- The reason there is a padlock attached is because it needs to be locked, and this is because postal mail is a bundle of personal information and very important. [original sentence translated]
- The reason there is a padlock attached is because it needs to be locked. This is because postal mail is a bundle of personal information and very important. [translated sentence where ”からで” was replaced with “から” and then starting a new sentence]
Comparing these two passages, you can see they mean basically the same thing. However, the first one (single sentence) sounds a bit more wordy, and the second (broken up into two smaller sentences) sounds more basic. In the same way, I have seen ”〜からで” mostly used in academic or literary contexts, and never in everyday conversation.
Actually, “からで” can be used for other meanings besides “because… and…”. For example, in some cases the “から” can actually mean “from”:
- The phone call was from my dad, and he said he had something to talk about.
Since here the pattern “noun[お父さん] + から” is used (as opposed to “noun + だ＋から”), you know ”から” is being used to mean “from”, not “because”.
Here is one final example (taken from this post):
- Would you go out with me? I’m fine just starting as friends.
(Note: here I took a more non-literal approach to the translation since it’s difficult to convey the meaning with a literal translation)
In this case as well, “から” is being used to mean “from”, in the sense of “starting a relationship from being just friends”. The “で” is actually used here in the common “〜して（も）いい” pattern which is used to express or request permission to do something. (ex: “帰っていいですか？” = “Can I go home now?”). Saying “permission” is a bit extreme here since someone is actually talking about their own preference, so you can think of it more as “I’m OK with ~”.
Here is another translation of the above phrase, taking a more literal approach just so you can see how things fit together:
- I am OK with starting from friends at first, so would you please go out with me.