In this post I’d like to focus on the Japanese word “choudo” that can be written in hiragana as ちょうど or in kanji as 丁度. This word and I go long back since it was one of the first words I learned, and I still use it frequently many years later.
Unlike some words in Japanese that have a variety of meanings or can be hard to understand, “choudo” is relatively simple and only has a handful of common uses. That’s why I feel it’s easy to learn for any level of Japanese student.
Put simply, this word is used when you want to say something matches up “perfectly” or “exactly” with something, like a time or some requirement (explicit or not).
A very common way to use this word is in the phrase “丁度いい” (choudo ii), which literally means something like “perfectly good”, but in practice is used to say something is “perfect”. For example,
- 湯加減どう？暑い？ (yukagen dou? atsui?)
- How is the water temperature? (Too) hot?
- 丁度いいよ (choudo ii yo)
- It’s perfect!
As “ii” is an adjective, you can use the phrase “choudo ii” as an adjective as well:
- これが丁度いい色です (kore ga choudo ii iro desu)
- This is the perfect color.
Another word that can be used in a similar way is ぴったり (pittari), although when using that as an adjective you need to follow it with a の (ex: ぴったりの色).
As mentioned above, 丁度 can also be used to describe an exact time:
- 先生はちょうど5時に来ると思います。(sensei wa choudo 5ji ni kuru to omoimasu)
- I think the teacher will come at exactly 5 o’clock.
By the way, you can also use ぴったり in this case, but generally you should use it after the time, for example: 5時ぴったり.
You can also use 丁度 to refer to spans of time:
- ちょうど一年前だったな (choudo ichinen mae datta na)
- It was just about a year ago.
Keep in mind this doesn’t have to mean literally 365 days ago, but the speakers feels it was pretty close to that.
Finally, “choudo” can be used to express a coincidence when two things just happen to match up. For example, if you friend asks you to help with his Japanese homework, you could say:
- 実は、今ちょうど日本語の勉強をしてるところだよ (jitsu wa, ima choudo nihongo no benkyou wo shiteru tokoro da yo)
- Actually, I just happen to be studying Japanese right now.
I personally use “choudo” this way in conversation fairly often.
(Note: featured image of a dartboard from Pexels.com)
Studying Japanese on my own, I had actually fallen out of using choudo in my usual conversations. On a recent trip to Japan I was reminded of the word and its versatility since, of course, one of the staff at a 7-11 thanked me for giving him exact change.