Japanese Grammar: Using kara (から) and node (ので) to express a reason in isolation

By | March 15, 2017

As I’ve written about before, in Japanese oftentimes words or entire phrases can be omitted, even more so than in English.

I’d like to talk about another case where things can be omitted in Japanese, but first I want to give a quick summary of talking about reasons in Japanese.

Expressing a reason is pretty straightforward and typically uses the form 〜から (~kara) or 〜だから (~dakara).

  • リンゴがおいしいから食べたい。
  • Apples are tasty so I want to eat (one).
  • 好きだから君に会いたい。
  • I like (you) so I want to see you.

The reason and what the reason is talking about can be separated into different sentences.

  • 雨が降ってる。だから行きたくない。
  • It’s raining. That is why I don’t want to go.

Also, a reason can be stated after the fact, like let’s say you are asked why you like to study Japanese.

  • だって、難しいから。
  • It’s because it’s difficult.   (This is an answer only I would give (:   )

The pattern 〜ので  (~node) or 〜なので (~na node) can also be used in a similar way, except it has a more polite, formal feel.

So now onto the main topic. Sometimes in Japanese the thing the reason is talking about can be omitted completely and is implied from context.

For example, say you just asked someone to do something, but they aren’t listening. In frustration, you could say:

  • (もう)いいから。。。
  • Because it’s already good…

Here I purposefully gave the literal translation which doesn’t make much sense. “いいから” (ii kara) is more of a set phrase that means something like “Come on (already).”

Here is another one:

  • ちょっと待って。すぐ戻るから。。。
  • Wait a minute. (Because) I’ll be right back…

The “から” here is a little tricky to translate because in English, we generally don’t say “because” in situations like this. Literally it means “I want you to wait because I’ll be right back.”

Here’s one more:

  • 子供じゃないんだから。。。
  • You aren’t a child anymore so…  (or ‘Because you aren’t a child anymore…’)

Depending on the situation, the implication here could mean “stop that” or “you should be embarrassed”.

Sometimes the thing the reason is referring to may be omitted in order to avoid saying something too direct. Let’s say someone asks you to help them study math but for whatever reason you want to decline. You could say:

  • ごめん、数学はちょっと苦手だから。。。
  • Sorry, I’m not really good at math so…

This one translates pretty well to English where “so” is more natural.

For yet one more example, imagine that you made a mistake and someone is really disappointed in you. As part of that conversation you could say:

  • 僕、もっと頑張るから。。。
  • I’ll try harder, so…

Here the implication is “I’ll try harder, so don’t give up on me.”

This pattern applies equally to explaining reasons with “ので” . For example, let’s say you try to light up a cigarette inside a restaurant. The waitress comes up to you and says:

  • すみません。こちらは禁煙なので。。。  [or 〜禁煙ですので。。]
  • I’m sorry. This is a non-smoing area therefore…

As a side note, the な the above sentence (as part of ので)has the meaning of だ. Also, often the phrase なので can be abbreviated as なんで, for example:

  • すみません。こちらは禁煙なんで。。。

I think this sort of omission can generally be understood pretty easily in context, but it might help you listen for it more now that you are aware of the pattern.

One final meaning of “だから。。。” I wanted to mention is when someone has said something but you respond in a way to make it sound like you haven’t heard or understood what they said. Depending on the context, it can have the (annoyed) feeling of “Like I just said…”.

Looking at these examples, I think there are many cases where a similar phrase could be said naturally in English, but the main difference is that often “because” is not explicitly said in English while (だ) から or(な)ので is more likely to be in Japanese.

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2 thoughts on “Japanese Grammar: Using kara (から) and node (ので) to express a reason in isolation

  1. Kurt

    Great article.

    One usage you could add is just the plain old だから?(“So…?”, as in “Why are you telling me this?”). It’s kind of a correlative to your last “final meaning” だから.

    My wife often uses this when I tell her something that she thinks qualifies as 余計な話 (like “Hey, my favorite soccer team won their game”) 😉


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