Placing blame or fault in Japanese with せい (sei)

By | March 20, 2014

せい is a word in Japanese which can be used to express blame or fault. I’ll go over a few related uses of this word.

1) Explaining something occurred because of someone or something’s fault. This is similar to using (だ)から in the sense of ‘because’ except it usually has a negative connotation.

Pattern: [reason for something] + せいで + [What happened as a result of that reason]

  • 疲れたせいで考えがまとまらない
  • Because I’m tired I can’t organize my thoughts.
  • 手が小さいせいでピアノがうまく弾けません。
  • Because my hands are small I can’t play the piano well.

The way it is used grammatically changes slightly depending on the word used. Here are the general patterns:

  • With a verb in the normal (する), past-tense (した), or continual (してる/してた) forms: Verb + せいで
  • With a na-adjective: Adj + な + せいで
  • With a i-adjective: Adj + せいで
  • With a noun: Noun + の + せいで

If you want to express uncertainty in the reason, you can replace せいで with せいか

  • パソコンを落としたせいか、立ち上がらない。
  • My computer won’t start up, possibly because I dropped it.

2) Explaining a reason for something directly without talking about what happened as a result.

Pattern: [reason for something] + せい   (+ だ/です)

  • 日本語が下手なせいだ。
  • It’s because I’m bad at Japanese.

3) Directly blaming someone for being the cause of a negative consequence.

Pattern: [reason for something] + せい + にする

  • 君のせいにするよ。
  • I blame you.
  • 人のせいにするんじゃなくて、ちゃんと自分で責任をとりなさい。
  • Take responsibility yourself, don’t blame other people.

If you wan’t to express something caused a positive result, you can use おかげ(お陰)in a similar way. This has the nuance of “thanks to ~”.

  • 先生のお陰で、試験を合格しました
  • I passed the test thanks to (my) teacher.

The expression おかげさまで derives from this same おかげ and is used to give thanks to those around you, or in a spiritual sense. It is often used when talking about one’s health.

  • おかげさまで風邪が治りました。
  • Thankfully my cold has gotten better.

Finally, both せいで and おかげで can be used after その to refer to something that was just discussed.

  • その日、道路がぬれてたんだけど、そのせいで転んじゃった。
  • That day the roads were wet and because of that, I slipped.
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2 thoughts on “Placing blame or fault in Japanese with せい (sei)

  1. staff

    When talking to my kids, I find it sometimes more productive to switch the focus from せい to 責任 (せきにん), or responsibility. Oh, we still end up arguing, but it’s more interesting.

    1. locksleyu Post author

      Thats true, 責任 is a more formal word that sounds less like attacking and more like you are trying to talk about how things are supposed to be (:


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