Getting along with people: Japanese expressions involving “naka” (仲) [naka ga ii, nakayoku, nakanaori, etc.]

By | October 4, 2018

The word “naka”, often written in kanji as 仲 but sometimes in hiragana as なか, refers to a human relationship. There are a handful of expressions involving this word commonly used in everyday conversation that are useful to learn.

One of the simplest and most common, ways to use this word is when describing a good or bad relationship. For example, to describe a good relationship you can use the word いい (ii) or よい (yoi), both which can be written in kanji as 良い. For example:

  • 君たち、がいいね (kimitachi, naka ga ii ne)
  • You guys/girls get along well.

You can also use the phrase “仲良し” (nakayoshi) which means the same thing:

  • 僕たちは仲良しだよ。 (bokutachi wa nakayoshi da yo)
  • We’re good friends.

Similarly, you can use the word “warui” (わるい・悪い) to describe a bad relationship.

  • あいつとが悪いんだよ。 (aitsu to naka ga warui n da yo).
  • I really don’t get along well with that guy/guy.

Going back to describing good relationships, you can use the adverb “nakayoku” (仲良く) to describe getting along with someone:

  • 子供たちが仲良く遊んでている. (kodomotachi ga nakayoku asonde iru)
  • The children are playing together happily.

A good time use the phrase is after a fight with your significant other, when you want to express you want to kiss and make up:

  • 仲良くしようね (nakayoku shiyou ne)
  • Let’s get along.    (<== This is a pretty literal, and awkward. translation. A better one might be “Let’s make up”)

Another related and useful word is “nakanaori” (仲直り), which means to reconcile a relationship. For example:

  • 昨日、彼と仲直りした.  (kinou, kare to nakanaori shita)
  • Yesterday, I made up with him.

Note in this case, as well as one of the other example sentences above, the particle “to” (と) is used after the person you are having some relationship with.

Also, I should point out that while these expressions can be used with you are dating (or married to) someone, they can also refer to just being friends.

Another word which contains 仲 is 仲人, which while pronounced as “nakoudo”, according to my dictionary was originally “nakabito”. This word means “matchmaker” or “go-between”.

“nakama” (仲間) is one more word that uses 仲. While roughly similar to “friend”, it is used more to describe someone who is part of a shared group. For example, it can be used to describe someone who works at the same company (仕事仲間, “shigoto nakama”), or someone who plays the same game together (ゲームの仲間, “geemu no nakama”).  I think the word “comrade”, though probably not common in English nowadays, is a pretty close match.

By the way, a more formal way to say “relationship” is 間柄 (aidagara), though I wouldn’t expect to hear this used much in informal conversation.


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