Language | WELL SAID

Introducing adverbs 'atarimae' and 'tozen'

by Akemi Tanahashi and Hitomi Tashiro

Contributing Writer

Sore-wa, okoru-no-wa atarimae-da. (It’s only natural that she got angry.)

Situation 1: Mr. Sere is chatting with his colleague Mr. Mita about his date.

セレ: きのう、待ち合わせに1時間遅れてユリを怒らせちゃったんだ。スマホを忘れて、連絡できなかったんだよ。

三田: それは怒るのは当たり前だ。

Sere: Kinō, machiawase-ni ichijikan okurete Yuri-o okorasechatta-n-da. Sumaho-o wasurete, renraku-dekinakatta-n-dayo.

Mita: Sore-wa, okoru-no-wa atarimae-da.

Sere: I made Yuri angry because I was an hour late to meet her. I forgot to bring my mobile phone and I couldn’t contact her.

Mita: It’s only natural that she got angry.

Today we’ll introduce two adverbs 当(あ)たり前(まえ) and 当然(とうぜん). 当たり前 means “natural, reasonable,” and is used when something is self-explanatory and most people won’t question it. It often conveys the speaker’s feeling to criticize someone. Example: 冬(ふゆ)、寒(さむ)いのは当たり前だ (It’s only natural that winter is cold). 当たり前 can be used in the pattern X (verb, adjective in noun modifying form) のは当たり前だ, as in Mr. Mita’s remark above. 当たり前 also means “usual, ordinary, mundane” and is used in the pattern当たり前の + noun. Example: 当たり前の発想(はっそう)では、ヒット商品(しょうひん)は生(う)まれない (Hit products will not be created with ordinary ideas).

Situation 2: Section Chief Mr. Okubo and Division Head Ms. Yamani are talking about the price of their new product.

大久保: もう少し価格を下げるようにしなければなりませんね。

ヤマニ: ええ、品質が同じなら、消費者が値段の安いほうを選ぶのは当然のことです。

Ōkubo: Mō sukoshi kakaku-o sageru-yō-ni shinakereba-narimasen-ne.

Yamani: Ee, hinshitsu-ga onaji-nara, shōhisha-ga nedan-no yasui hō-o erabu-no-wa tōzen-no koto-desu.

Okubo: We have to make an effort to lower the price a little more.

Yamani: Yes. If the quality is the same, it’s only natural that consumers choose the cheaper one.

当然(とうぜん), meaning “natural, reasonable, expected,” is similar in meaning as 当たり前. But, 当然 shows logical or objective conclusion while 当たり前 implies a rather subjective feeling. Examples: 働(はたら)いた人がお金(かね)をもらうのは当然の 権利(けんり)だ (It’s a legitimate right for a person to be rewarded for their labor); 「ほんとうにありがとうございます」 「いいえ、当然のことをしただけです」 (“Thank you very much.” “Don’t mention it, I only did what I had to do”).

Bonus Dialogue: Mrs. Okubo’s teenage son Mitsuo tells his mother about how he picked up a wallet on his way home.

光男: きょう、学校(がっこう)の帰(かえ)りに財布(さいふ)を拾(ひろ)ったんだ。

母(はは): ちゃんと交番(こうばん)に届(とど)けた?

光男: そんなの当(あ)たり前(まえ)だよ。届けたよ。

母: それはよかった。もし持ち主(もちぬし)が現(あらわ)れたら、当然(とうぜん)お礼(れい)がもらえるのよね。

光男: そんなつもりで届けたわけじゃないよ。当たり前のことをしただけだよ。財布を落(お)とした人がとっても困(こま)っているだろうな、って思(おも)って。

母: ごめんなさい。光男(みつお)はえらいね。

光男: ところで、きょうの宿題(しゅくだい)、やらなきゃいけないかな。あした、しめきりなんだけど、交番に行(い)って手続(てつづ)きをしていたら、帰(かえ)りが遅(おそ)くなっちゃったんだ。

母: 当たり前よ。それとこれとは別(べつ)でしょう? さっさとやりなさい。

Mitsuo: I picked up a wallet on the way home from school today.

Mother: Did you turn it in to the police?

Mitsuo: Of course, I did.

Mother: That’s good. If the owner appears, you’ll get a reward, naturally.

Mitsuo: I didn’t take it to the police with that in mind, you know. I only did what anyone would do. I thought the person who dropped the wallet must be in deep trouble.

Mother: Sorry. You’re such a good boy.

Mitsuo: By the way, do I have to do today’s homework? The deadline is tomorrow, but the visit to the police box and the procedures took long and I’m home late.

Mother: Of course. Your homework and the police visit have nothing to do with each other. Do it at once.