Language | wellsaid

Introduce the usages of the conjunction particle 'nagara'

by Akemi Tanahashi and Hitomi Tashiro

Special To The Japan Times

Tsumetai mono-demo nomi-nagara, hanashi-no tsuzuki-o shimasen-ka? (Why don’t we continue our chat over a cold drink?)

Situation 1: Ms. Tamachi bumps into Chika, an old high school friend, on the street. They chat, until they realize how hot it is.

田町: ちょっと、ここ暑くない?

千賀: うん。そこの喫茶店で冷たいものでも飲みながら、話の続きをしない?

Tamachi: Chotto, koko atsukunai?

Chika: Un. Soko-no kissaten-de tsumetai mono-demo nomi-nagara, hanashi-no tsuzuki-o shinai?

Tamachi: Hey, it’s hot here, isn’t it?

Chika: Yeah. Why don’t we continue our chat in that coffee shop over a cold drink?

Today we’ll introduce some usages of the conjunction particle ながら (while/though). In Situation 1, X (verb in pre-masu, or stem, form) ながらY(verb-phrase) shows that a person’s actions X and Y happen simultaneously. (Pre-masu form is masu-form without ます.) In this pattern, Y is the main action and X is the background one. X cannot be a momentary action and has to be a verb that can last over a period of time. Another example: 歩(ある)きながらスマホを見(み)ている人(ひと)がいますが、本当(ほんとう)に危険(きけん)ですから、やめてください (Some people look at their cell phones while walking, but it’s really dangerous so please don’t do it). Looking at a cell phone while walking is expressed with the combined-noun 歩(ある)きスマホ and used as in, 歩きスマホは危険です. Those who always do two things simultaneously, as in studying while listening to music, eating meals while watching TV, etc., are called ながら族(ぞく), literally, “the ながら tribe.”

Situation 2: Ms. Shiba asks Mr. Tian about next week’s lecture.

芝: 来週の講演会、いらっしゃいますか。

ティエン: 残念ながら、欠席します。どうしても抜けられない用があるんですよ。

Shiba: Raishū-no kōenkai, irasshaimasu-ka?

Tian: Zannen-nagara, kesseki-shimasu. Dōshite-mo nukerarenai yō-ga aru-n-desu-yo.

Shiba: Are you attending next week’s lecture?

Tian: I’m afraid not. There’s some business I just can’t get out of.

XながらY can also be used to show that X and Y contradict each other. In this construction, X is a noun, a verb in pre-masu form, or a na-adjective without な, as in Mr. Tian’s ざんねんながら. Sometimes も is added to ながら. This pattern also expresses that a person does Y in the state of X, as in: インターネットがあれば、いながらにして世界(せかい)のニュースが読(よ)める (Having the internet allows us to read news from around the world while staying put).

Bonus Dialogue: At home, Mrs. Okubo is using her personal computer and eating cookies.

光男: 母(かあ)さん、おかしを食(た)べながらパソコンを打(う)っちゃだめだよ。キーボードにクッキーの粉 (こな)が落(お)ちたら大変(たいへん)だよ。

母: 光男(みつお)は自分(じぶん)が「ながら族(ぞく)」なのに、そんなことを言(い)うの? 光男だって、おやつを食べながら勉強(べんきょう)してるじゃない。

光男: あのねえ、パソコンはデリケートなんだから、気(き)をつけないと。最近(さいきん)、パソコンの調子 (ちょうし)が悪(わる)いのは、そのせいだよ、きっと。

母: はい、はい、わかりました。パソコンやりながらおかしを食べるのは、やめる。光男は、パソコンの ことになると、うるさいんだから。試験(しけん)のときも、そのぐらい注意(ちゅうい)深(ぶか)かったら、ずいぶん成績(せいせき)も上(あ)がるでしょうけど。

光男: そんなこと言(い)うと、今度(こんど)パソコンの調子が悪くなっても、助(たす)けてあげないよ。

母: あっ、アイコンが消(き)えた! どうしたらいいの?

光男: まったく、しょうがないなあ。

Mitsuo: Mom, you shouldn’t eat snacks while working on your computer. You’ll be in trouble if the cookie crumbs fall on the keyboard.

Mother: Look who’s talking! You’re always doing two things at the same time. I’ve seen you eat snacks while studying.

Mitsuo: Mom, you have to be careful because computers are delicate. I bet that’s why your computer hasn’t been working well recently.

Mother: OK, OK. I’ll stop eating while working on the computer. Mitsuo, if you were as careful with your exams as you are with your computer, you’d get much better grades, you know.

Mitsuo: Stop saying things like that or I won’t help you out next time your computer doesn’t work.

Mother: Oh, an icon disappeared! What should I do?

Mitsuo: Gee Mom, you’re hopeless.

Coronavirus banner