Japanese grammar spotlight: だって (datte) vs だから (dakara)

By | September 18, 2019

In this post I want to focus on two common Japanese words that sound similar but have very different meanings––in fact opposite meanings.

These words can have a few different usages, but I will be focusing on the following usage, where だって or だから begins a new sentence.

  • 「sentence A」。だって「sentence B」
  • 「sentence A」。だから「sentence B」

Besides sounding a little similar, these words have something else in common: they both are related to a reason for doing something.

だから (dakara) is used after a reason for something is given. Another way to look at it the first sentence (A) leads to the second (B). Let’s look at an example:

  • お腹いっぱい。だから食べたくない (onaka ippai. dakara tabetakunai).
  • I’m full. That’s why I don’t want to eat.

Other ways to translate this word include “therefore” or “so”.

One way to help remember the meaning of だから is to remember that から (kara) can be used to mean “from” (like “received a present from him”). So you can think that sentence B came from sentence A, in other words sentence A lead to sentence B.

I wanted to focus on the word だから to keep things simple, but it’s good to know that you can simply add から (kara) to a verb or i-adjective, or だから (dakara) to a na-adjective to noun, and keep everything in one sentence. For example:

  • お腹いっぱいだから食べたくない (onaka ippai dakara tabetakunai)
  • I’m full so I don’t want to eat.
  • 寒いから出かけたくない (samui kara dekaketakunai)
  • It’s cold so I don’t want go to out.

(Update: I added another example of “dakara” based on a question from a reader.)

Another use of “dakara” (or “desu kara”) is when the speaker wants to emphasize they already said something. For example:

  • Person A: お店に行かないの? (omise ni Ikanai no?)
  • Person A: Aren’t you going to the store?
  • Person B: だから、行かないって言ったでしょう (dakara, ikanai tte itta deshou)
  • Person B: Like I told you, I’m not going.

Here the nuance is that Person B had explained they aren’t going to the store earlier, or at least implied it.

Now for だって (datte), things are completely reversed: sentence B is the reason for sentence A.

  • 食べたくない。だって、お腹いっぱい (tabetakunai. datte, onaka ippai)
  • I don’t want to eat. It’s because I am full.

In this usage, だって means something like “The reason for that is”, but often translating it that way is too wordy and unnatural, so you have to find more succinct ways. The word “because” is also a good fit, except the starting a sentence with “because” is sometimes not considered good grammar.

One way to help remember だって is to think of だっていうのは (datte iu no wa), which means something like “to say that is…” or “as for saying that…”.

In practical use, you often see a combination of だって and だから (or から). For example:

  • 食べたくない。だって、お腹いっぱいだから (tabetakunai. datte, onaka ippai dakara)
  • I don’t want to eat. It’s because I am full.

In sentence like this, the だって prepares the listener to know a reason is coming, and then the だから (or から) at the end confirms that. You could omit the だって and it would still be a valid sentence, but I think it sounds much better with it in. Also だから・から can be replaced by だもの (damono) or もの (mono), which is sort of like a more emotional reason of giving a reason (that sounds a bit childish to me, though I guess that depends on the tone of the speaker). Also, だもの and もの are commonly abbreviated as だもん and もん in spoken Japanese.

To finish, I’ll ask a question to test your understanding. Do you think だって or だから fits in the blank?

  • 映画館に行きたくない。___お金がない。 (eigakan ni ikitakunai. ____ okane ga nai).
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2 thoughts on “Japanese grammar spotlight: だって (datte) vs だから (dakara)

  1. archemidiate

    Thank you as always for your lessons! Your teaching style is very clear and easy to grasp.

    To the question: (corrections welcomed)
    I don’t want to go to the cinema. It’s because I’m broke.


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