Giving a reason or pinpointing a cause with ‘riyū’ and ‘gen’in’

by Akemi Tanahashi and Hitomi Tashiro

Contributing Writers

Yamamoto ga kaisha o yameta riyū o kiite mita? (Did you ask Yamamoto why he quit his company?)

Situation 1: Mr. Sere and Mr. Mita are talking about their old friend Mr. Yamamoto, who recently resigned from his company.

セレ:  山本が会社を辞めた理由を聞いてみた?

三田:  うん。会社の人間関係が悪くて、将来性がないと思ったんだって。

Sere: Yamamoto ga kaisha o yameta riyū o kiite mita?

Mita: Un. Kaisha no ningen-kankei ga warukute, shōraisei ga nai to omotta-n datte.

Sere: Did you ask Yamamoto why he quit his company?

Mita: Yeah. He thought that the interpersonal relationships in his company were bad and that there were no future prospects.

This week we will introduce 理由(りゆう) and 原因(げんいん), words that have similar meanings. 理由 means “reason” or “cause,” and shows the circumstances or how something came to be or why he/she did something. Examples: 山田(やまだ)さんは健康上(けんこうじょう)の理由でランニングをやめてしまった。 (Mr. Yamada stopped running for health reasons.); この企画(きかく)が中止(ちゅうし)になった理由を聞(き)いたんだけど、はっきりしないんだ。 (I asked why this project was canceled, but the reason isn’t very clear.) 理由 is usually used when speaking about the action of a nation, organization or people. このパソコンが安(やす)いのは、それなりの理由があるんだよ。 (As this PC is cheap, you can be sure there’s a reason for it.) 理由 is often used for excuses, as in: 彼(かれ)は先週(せんしゅう)も病気(びょうき)を理由に欠席(けっせき) した。 (He was absent because of illness last week, too.)

Situation 2: Division head Ms. Yamani and section chief Mr. Okubo discuss their new product.

大久保: 新製品の売れ行きが伸びていませんね。

ヤマニ: ええ、原因を探って、対応しなければなりません

Ōkubo: Shin-seihin no ureyuki ga nobite-imasen ne.

Yamani: Ē, gen’in o sagutte, taiō shinakereba narimasen.

Okubo: The sales of our new product have not increased.

Yamani: Yes, we must find out the reason why and respond.

原因(げんいん), which can also be translated as “factor” or “root,” refers to the “origin” or “cause” behind something happening. 原因 is often used to describe the causal relationship behind a bad event, and its antonym is 結果(けっか, result). Examples: 事故(じこ)の原因は運転手(うんてんしゅ)の飲酒運転(いんしゅうんてん)だった。 (The cause of the accident was the driver’s drunk driving.); 喫煙(きつえん)はさまざまなガンの原因となることが明(あき)らかになっている。 (It has been found that smoking causes various cancers.)

Bonus Dialogue: Ms. Tamachi and Ms. Gray are chatting about health.

グレイ:  お昼(ひる)ご飯(はん)を食(た)べたあと、眠(ねむ)くなるでしょう?原因(げんいん)は早食(はやぐ)いなんだって。

田町:  ええっ、昼休(ひるやす)みは短(みじか)いから、急(いそ)がなくちゃならないのに。ゆっくり食べていて遅刻(ちこく)したなんて理由(りゆう)を言(い)ったら、叱(しか)られちゃう。

グレイ:   どんぶりものは、ご飯が多(おお)いから、特(とく)に眠くなりやすいんだって。

田町:  ええっ、どんぶりものが大好(だいす)きなのに、ショック。

グレイ:  それから、野菜(やさい)を先(さき)に食べたほうがいいんだって。

田町:  うーん、いつも野菜が先に食べられるとは限(かぎ)らないよ。

グレイ:  でも、肥満(ひまん)が原因で起(お)きる病気(びょうき)は多いから、若(わか)いうちから気(き)をつけておいたほうがいいね。

田町:  そうね。上野(うえの)さんもいろいろ理由をつけてタバコを吸(す)っていたけど、ついにやめたらしいし。健康管理(けんこうかんり)、しなきゃいけないなあ。

Gray: We all get sleepy after having lunch, right? I’ve heard that eating quickly is one of the causes.

Tamachi: Huh? But our lunch break is so short that we have to eat quickly. If I tell my boss that the reason I’m late is because I ate lunch slowly, I’ll get told off.

Gray: Donburi rice bowls in particular make us sleepy because they have so much rice in them.

Tamachi: What? I love donburi — I’m shocked!

Gray: Also, it’s better to eat your vegetables first.

Tamachi: Hmm, but it’s not always possible to eat your vegetables first.

Gray: That may be, but since there are so many diseases caused by obesity, it’s best to take care from a young age.

Tamachi: You’re right. Mr. Ueno was smoking for various reasons, but it seems that he’s finally stopped. We really should look after our health.