Language | WELL SAID

The more you study 'sureba suru-hodo,' the better you'll speak

by Akemi Tanahashi and Hitomi Tashiro

Nomeba nomu-hodo yōki-ni naru-ne. (The more he drinks, the more cheerful he becomes.)

Situation 1: At a party. Mr. Mita and Mr. Sere are watching Mr. Ueno, a senior member of staff.

三田: 上野さんって、本当にお酒が好きなんだね。

セレ: うん。飲めば飲むほど陽気になるね。

Mita: Ueno-san-tte, hontō-ni o-sake-ga suki-na-n-da-ne.

Sere: Un. Nomeba nomu-hodo yōki-ni naru-ne.

Mita: Mr. Ueno really likes alcohol.

Sere: Yeah. The more he drinks, the more cheerful he becomes.

Today we will introduce the proper use of XばXほどY, which means “the more X, the more Y.” XばXほどY is used to express that the degree of Y increases or decreases in proportion to the change of X. The first X and second X are the same words, with the former being the conditional form of a verb or i-adjective, the latter its affirmative plain form. Y is a clause or verbal or adjectival phrase that expresses the change or evaluation. Examples: 修理(しゅうり)に来(き)ていただくのは、早(はや)ければ早いほど助(たす)かります (The sooner you come to repair it, the more helpful it would be); 旅行(りょこう)カバンは軽(かる)ければ軽いほどいい (The lighter the traveling bag is, the better it is). When X is a suru-verb such as 練習(れんしゅう)する (practice), the second X is just する, without the noun, as in 練習すればするほど、 上手(じょうず)になります (The more you practice, the better you become). In the pattern of XばXほどY, Y often expresses a fact about X that seems contrary to common sense, as in 考(かんが)えれば考えるほどわからなくなってしまった (The more I think about it, the less I understand).

Situation 2: The Shibas’ refrigerator needs fixing, so Mr. Shiba talks to his wife.

夫: 最近の家電製品は複雑で、故障しやすいような気がするなあ。

妻: そうね。機械は単純なら単純ほど故障が少ない もんね。

Otto: Saikin-no kaden-seihin-wa fukuzatsu-de, koshō-shi-yasui yō-naki-ga suru-nā.

Tsuma: Sō-ne. Kikai-wa tanjun-nara tanjun-na hodo koshō-ga sukunai-mon-ne.

Husband: I think recently, home electric appliances are complicated and break down easily.

Wife: Yeah. The simpler the machine is, the fewer breakdowns happen.

When X is a na-adjective, the pattern of XならXなほどY or XであればXであるほどY is used. Example: 私(わたし)は仕事(しごと)が大変 (たいへん)なら大変なほど、やる気(き)が出(で)るんです (The harder my task is, the more incentive I have). When X is a noun, XであればXほどY is used: 本当(ほんとう)に優秀(ゆうしゅう)な人(ひと)であればあるほど、謙虚(けんきょ)になります (The greater a person is, the more humble they become).

Bonus Dialogue: During their lunch break, Ms. Tamachi and Ms. Gray are chatting. Mr. Mita cuts in.

田町: 好(す)きになればなるほど、もっと知(し)りたくなるの よね。

三田: えっ、それ、だれのこと?

田町: 人(ひと)じゃなくて、レッサーパンダのことよ。ほんとに かわいいんだから。この前(まえ)、グレイさんといっしょに動物園(どうぶつえん)に見(み)に行ったの。

グレイ: うん。写真(しゃしん)をいっぱい撮(と)っちゃった。 ねえ、見(み)れば見るほどかわいいと思(おも)わない? この写真なんて、最高(さいこう)!

三田: あ、いいねえ。でも、ぼくはコツメカワウソだな。 [スマホで写真を見せる] ほら、この赤(あか)ちゃんの写真なんて、もうたまらないよ。

田町: あ、ほんとうだ。私もはまりそう。コツメカワウソって、どこで見られる?

三田: そうだなあ…。

グレイ: [ひとりごと] 田町さんは、しょっちゅう三田さんを叱 (しか)っているけど、こういうときには意見(いけん)が 合(あ)うんだなあ。知(し)れば知るほどおもしろい。

Tamachi: The more I like, the more I want to know.

Mita: What? Who are you talking about?

Tamachi: Not a person — lesser pandas. They are really cute. I went to the zoo with Ms. Gray recently to see them.

Gray: Yeah. I took a lot of pictures. Hey, the more you look at them, the cuter they look, right? This one is superb!

Mita: Yeah. That’s nice. But, I like oriental small-clawed otters. (Shows a photo) Look, I’m crazy about this photo of a baby.

Tamachi: Oh, you’re right. I could go crazy over them, too. Where can you see them?

Mita: Well, let’s see …

Gray (Talking to herself) Ms. Tamachi often scolds Mr. Mita, but she gets along with him well at these kinds of times. The more I get to know about these two, the more interesting they are.

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