Particle combination かで (kade)

By | June 1, 2020

Particles––small words that can have a big impact on the meaning and nuance of a sentence––are arguably one of the most difficult things to master in Japanese grammar (the other being various forms of politeness). Over time I’ve written a bunch of posts about particles, which you can see here. This time I would like to go over the particle combination かで (kade).

This combination is not used as frequently as combinations like では or には, but for that very reason I think it is worth writing about, especially because you probably will not find it mentioned in the average book on grammar or particles.

First let’s look at an example sentence that uses this particle combination:

  • 宝石の価値はどれぐらい珍しいかで決まります。 (houseki no kachi wa dore gurai mezurashii ka de kimarimasu.)

This particle combination is formed from the particle か, used for full-sentence questions as well as embedded questions, and で, which has various uses but in this case has the nuance of “depending on” (which can also be written with the expression によって)

This usage involves an embedded question, and generally embedded questions should contain a question word (although there are exceptions like the “whether/or” case, ex: “してるかいないか”). In the above example sentence the question word is どれ, used in the form どれぐらい珍しいか to mean “how rare something is” or “to what degree is something rare”.

If we put this together we end up with this:

  • The price of a gem depends on how rare it is.

Notice that in the English translation we also use a question word (“how”).

If you want to say something depends on a factor that is expressed simply as a noun, not as an embedded question, then you only should use the で particle.

  • 宝石の価値は大きさ決まります。 (houseki no kachi wa ookisa de kimarimasu.)
  • The price of a gem depends on the size.

By the way, the verb 決まる here literally means something along the lines of “is decided (by)”. Other verbs that can be used grammatically in a similar way, but with different meanings, include 変わる(“kawaru”, to change) and 分かる (“wakaru”, to understand).

There is another case where かで is used for a completely different meaning. That is when the か is coming from the word immediately before it, as in 誰か、どこか、どれか, etc. Let’s look at an example of this:

  • どこかで勉強しよう (doko ka de benkyou shiyou)
  • Let’s study somewhere.

In this case, even though the か and で are next to one another, I wouldn’t consider them to be used as a particle combination. Another way to think of this is that どこか isn’t really an embedded question, but rather just a noun, just as the word “somewhere” in English isn’t actually a question word.

(Note: picture of gemstones from Pexels.com)

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