In this blog I typically like to focus on a series of expressions or words for each post, but for once I’d like to dedicate an entire article to a single expression: そろそろ。
I was reading the other day in someone’s blog about how some words take several hearings to ‘stick’ in the mind, and others get remembered easily with little effort. I completely agree with this sentiment, and そろそろ was definitely in the latter category for me. I heard it used by a Japanese couple when leaving a small party and could never get it out of my head after that. In fact, in my daily-life Japanese this has become a very useful word, such that I wouldn’t be surprised if I said it once a day on average, if not more.
そろそろ is commonly used to express that its about time to do something, often because its getting late or you have other plans. For example, let’s say that I am out with my family at a restaurant, and we have finished eating. I might say something like this:
- そろそろ帰ろう？ (soro soro kaerou?)
- You want to get going soon?
The dictionary translates this word as “by now”, or “soon” in some of the example sentences, but doesn’t have an overall one-fit word for this usage, probably because there is no perfect match to English. It does refer to the Japanese word “ぼつぼつ”, which has only one related meaning, “まもなく”, which means “soon”. The other meaning in the dictionary for そろそろ is “slow/quietly”, but I’ve never heard this one used before.
Here are a few more examples:
- そろそろいいんじゃない？ (soro soro ii n ja nai?)
- Don’t you think it’s about time?
- そろそろ寝る時間だよ。(soro soro neru jikan da yo)
- It’s about time to sleep .
- そろそろ夕食たべない？ (soro soro yuushoku tabenai?)
- Do you want to eat dinner soon?
If you ever get an opportunity to live in Japan, or even live with Japanese-speaking people in whatever country you are in, this expression will surely prove invaluable.
I remember coming across this phrase in a story once, but I hadn’t really thought about it until now – I suppose your post jogged my memory 😀
Thanks for the comment!
Thats one way words gradually get cemented strongly in our heads. We hear a word in context somewhere and then in another context again later, gradually building up a store of memories and feelings associated with that word or phrase.
We have the same expression in Korean “슬슬” which pronounces “seul seul.” Very similar eh? Great post, you explained the subtle meaning of the word very well 🙂
That’s interesting, I wonder if one of them derived from the other…
I was just listening to BabyMetal, and I ran into sorusoru near the end of Uki Uki midnight. You are correct about words sticking with you, I remember hearing this word, but never heard the meaning, so this time I finally had to look it up, and ran int your post and blog.
Thanks for the comment, yeah it’s funny how each word can have an memory or emotion associated with it. Glad you decided to look up ‘soro soro’ and found my blog (:
(many years later)
In similar situations in business meetings, I have heard “Sore ja.”
In the US some Midwestern people say “Okay then” when indicating intention to leave.
As a learner you don’t necessarily know all the kanji in the example sentences you give. So they are of no use to you in explaining a point of grammar. When this is the case, as here, I have to go elsewhere for an explanation. Why don’t you use furigana? Or write the sentence using all kana as well as one with the kanji? Respectfully.
That’s a good point, and in fact in the majority of the my articles in the last few years I have included romaji furigana for nearly all kanji. It just happens that this article is quite old, before I started that habit.
I just updated it, and now it has furigana.
Thanks for reading!
it may also mean “eventually”?
Im not familiar of any situation where it would be mean eventually. The meaning I am focusing on in this article is more of a quicker period of time, as in “soon”, whereas “eventually” can be arbitrarily long.
There is another meaning of “soro soro” which is “slowly”, but that doesn’t quite match up with the nuance of “eventually” either.
Some words that can have the nuance of “eventually” are “yatto”, “youyaku”, and “iyoiyo”.