Natsukashikute, chotto yotte-mita-n-desu. (I was feeling nostalgic, so thought I’d drop by for a bit.)

Situation 1: Mr. Tian rings the doorbell of Mrs. Mori’s house, who is his old landlady.

森: まあ、ティエンさん、うれしいこと!とつぜん、どうしたの?

ティエン: 仕事で近くに来たものですから、なつかしくて、ちょっと寄ってみたんです。

Mori: Mā, Tian-san, ureshī koto! Totsuzen, dō-shita-no?

Tian: Shigoto-de chikaku-ni kita mono-desu-kara, natsukashikute, chotto yotte-mita-n-desu.

Mori: Oh, hi, Mr. Tian! Welcome! But, why are you here so suddenly?

Tian: I happened to be around here on business; so I was feeling nostalgic and thought I’d drop by for a bit to see you.

Today we will explain various meanings and usages of the colloquial adverb ちょっと. It is originally the same meaning as すこし (a little/ a few) and shows that something, time, degree etc. is of a small amount or of little quantity as in かんにコーヒーがちょっとだけのこっている (There’s very little coffee left in the tin). It is also used when the speaker wants to show that the action is done not very seriously but with light or casual feelings as in Mr. Tian’s usage, or as in: そこのみせで、ちょっとお茶(ちゃ)でも飲(の)まない? (Why don’t we have a chat over a cup of tea in that shop?)

Situation 2: Mr. Shiba’s uncle visits him to to have a serious talk.

おじ: 達彦、ちょっと、たのみがあるんだ。50万ほど貸してもらえないだろうか。

芝: え?50万ですか。50万は、ちょっと…。

Oji: Tatsuhiko, chotto tanomi-ga aru-n-da. Gojūman-hodo kashite-moraenai-darō-ka.

Shiba: E? Gojūman-desu-ka? Gojūman-wa chotto….

Uncle: Tatsuhiko, would you do me a favor? Will you please lend me ¥500,000?

Shiba: What? Did you say ¥500,000? That amount is … [too great and impossible for me to lend you].

ちょっと can also be put in advance of asking a difficult favor in order to soften the tone, as the uncle does above. It is also used with a negative sentence that expresses that something is difficult or impossible as in: ちょっと私(わたし)にはお答(こた)えできません (Well, I can’t answer). It is often used to decline the request and the part after ちょっと tends to be omitted, since the rest is obvious, with the dragging and fading intonation. In Mr. Shiba’s sentence, むりです (that’s impossible for me) is omitted. Another implication of ちょっと is “quite” or “considerably,” as in あの人(ひと)はちょっと有名(ゆうめい)な作家(さっか)だよ (That person is a considerably famous writer).

Bonus Dialogue: At the office, Mr. Okubo talks to a member of his staff, Ms. Gray. Later, Mr. Mita joins them.

大久保: あ、ちょっと、グレイさん。

グレイ: はい、課長(かちょう)。なんでしょうか。

大久保: 今夜(こんや)ちょっと残業(ざんぎょう)してもらえない?ちょっとめんどうな書類(しょるい)を作(つく)ってもらう必要(ひつよう)があって…。

グレイ: 今夜はちょっと…。できれば、はずしていただきたいのですが…。

大久保: じゃあ、しかたない、田町(たまち)さんにたのもう。田町さんを呼(よ)んでくれないか。秘書課(ひしょか)の大崎(おおさき)さんと、早(はや)く相談(そうだん)してもらわないといけないから。

三田: すみません、課長、私(わたし)でよかったら、残業しますけど。

大久保: お、三田(みた)くん、めずらしいね。きみにはことわられると思(おも)って、たのまなかったんだが…。

三田: ことわるなんて、とんでもない。会社(かいしゃ)のために働(はたら)くのが私のよろこびですよ。では、ちょっと秘書課に行(い)って、大崎さんと相談してきます。

Okubo: Excuse me, Ms. Gray?

Gray: Yes boss; what is it?

Okubo: Can you work overtime this evening? I have to ask you to prepare some complicated documents.

Gray: Hmm, this evening isn’t good. If possible, can someone else do it?

Okubo: OK, it can’t be helped. I’ll ask Ms. Tamachi. Will you bring her here? I want her to make arrangements with Ms. Osaki in the secretarial section as soon as possible.

Mita: Excuse me, boss, I can work overtime if you like.

Okubo: Oh, that’s not like you, Mr. Mita. I didn’t ask you because I thought you’d decline.

Mita: Decline? No way! It’s always my pleasure to work for this company. Now, I’ll just go visit the secretarial section to see Ms. Osaki about the arrangements.

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