Language | WELL SAID

Two of a kind: complementary compliments 'yasashii' and 'shinsetsu'

Wā, yasashii-n-desu-ne! (Wow, how kind!)

Situation 1: During a break, Ms. Shiba is talking to her colleague Mr. Tian about her son.

芝: 私が風邪をひいてつらそうにしていたら、うちの息子がごはんの後片付けを手伝ってくれたんです。まだ3歳なのに。

ティエン: わあ、優しいんですね。

Shiba: Watashi-ga kaze-o hiite tsura-sō-ni shite-itara, uchi-no musuko-ga gohan-no atokatazuke-o tetsudatte-kureta-n-desu. Mada sansai-na-noni.

Tian: Wā, yasashii-n-desu-ne.

Shiba: When I had a cold and looked like I was having a tough time, my son helped clear the table, even though he’s only 3 years old.

Tian: Wow, how kind!

Today we will introduce some proper uses of the adjectives 優(やさ)しい and 親切(しんせつ)(な). 優しい, an i-adjective that means “gentle” or “kind,” is used to describe the character or attitude of someone who is considerate to others. Example: 幼稚園(ようちえん)の先生(せんせい)はだれに対(たい)しても優しかった (My teacher in kindergarten was really kind to everyone). 優しい can also be used to describe things that look or seem mild or gentle. Example: 彼女 (かのじょ)の優しい声(こえ)が忘(わす)れられない (I can’t forget her gentle voice). 優しい can be used in its adverbial form, 優しく, to mean “softly” or “gently,” as in このセーターを洗(あら)うときは 優しく洗ってください (Be gentle when you wash this sweater). Recently, (Xに)優しい has become common as a way to describe a something or someone that does not have a bad influence on X, as in 地球(ちきゅう)に優しい再生紙(さいせいし) (Earth-friendly recycled paper).

Situation 2: Mrs. Okubo talks to her husband, who has just got home from a party.

妻: パーティーの後に急に雨が降ってきて困ったでしょう?

夫: うん、でも、親切な人が車で駅まで送ってくれたんだよ。

Tsuma: Pātii-no ato-ni kyū-ni ame-ga futte-kite komatta-deshō?

Otto: Un, demo shinsetsu-na hito-ga kuruma-de eki-made okutte kureta-n-da-yo.

Wife: Didn’t you get caught in the sudden rain after the party?

Husband: Yeah, but a kind soul was nice enough to give me a lift to the station.

Like 優しい, the na-adjective 親切(しんせつ) means “kind,” and it is used to evaluate someone who does something kind for a person in trouble or is considerate to others. However, 親切 is used to describe the character of someone based on his/her action, and is not usually used when referring to one’s own family or close friends. Example: その親切な人(ひと)は私(わたし)の重(おも)い荷物(にもつ)を持(も)ってくれた (That kind person helped me with my heavy baggage). 親切 can be used as a noun, as in ご親切ありがとうございます (Thank you very much for your kindness).

Bonus Dialogue: Mr. Mita, who recently broke his leg, is chatting with two colleagues, Ms. Gray and Ms. Tamachi.

グレイ: 足(あし)はよくなった?

三田: うん。だいぶよくなった。けがをすると、人(ひと)の親切がとってもありがたく感(かん)じられるよ。この前(まえ)、電車(でんしゃ)で立(た)っていたら、ぼくのギプスを見(み)て親切な人が席(せき)を譲(ゆず)ってくれたんだ。

田町: へえ、それはよかったね。もう普通(ふつう)に動(うご)けるようになったんでしょう?

三田: うん、まあね。でも、歩(ある)くと、ちょっと痛(いた)いときがある。

グレイ: そう。じゃ、私(わたし)がコピーをとってきてあげる。

三田: ああ、グレイさんはほんとうに優しいなあ。

田町: でも、コピーは両面(りょうめん)コピーにして。さっき、三田(みた)さんがとった片面(かためん)コピーは地球(ちきゅう)に優しくないでしょう?

三田: ああ、ごめんなさい。‥でも、田町(たまち)さん、地球にだけでなく、ぼくにも優しくしてほしいんだけど…。

Gray: Has your leg recovered?

Mita: Yeah. It’s much better. When you get hurt, you really appreciate other people’s kindness. The other day, when I was standing up in the train, a kind person saw my plaster cast and offered me her seat.

Tamachi: Oh, that’s nice. So are you OK to do regular work now?

Mita: Yeah, I suppose so. But I sometimes feel a slight pain when I walk.

Gray: Really? In that case, I’ll do that copying for you.

Mita: Oh, that’s really kind of you, Ms. Gray.

Tamachi: But when you copy, please use both sides. Mr. Mita was doing some copying earlier but he was only using one side, which isn’t environmentally friendly, is it?

Mita: Ah, sorry about that. But please be kind to me and not just the Earth …

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