Language | WELL SAID

Chilling in Japanese with ‘hieru,’ ‘hiyasu,’ ‘sameru’ and ‘samasu’

by Akemi Tanahashi and Hitomi Tashiro

Contributing Writers

Reizōko ni biiru ga hiete-imasu. (There’s beer chilling in the refrigerator.)

Situation 1: Mr. Okubo comes home one hot evening.

夫: ただいま!

妻: おかえりなさい! 暑かったでしょ。冷蔵庫に、ビールが冷えているわよ。

Otto: Tadaima!

Tsuma: Okaeri nasai! Atsukatta desho. Reizōko ni biiru ga hiete-iru wa-yo.

Husband: I’m back!

Wife: Welcome home! It was hot, wasn’t it? There’s beer chilling in the refrigerator.

Today we will introduce meanings and uses of the verb 冷(ひ)える (to become cold) and its related words and expressions. Since 冷える is the intransitive form, it expresses that something gets cold by itself, as in:

夜風(よかぜ)に当(あ)たっていたら、体(からだ)が冷えてしまった。 (While I was exposed to the night wind, my body got cold.)

Its transitive form is 冷やす, which is used when someone makes something cold intentionally, as in:

ビールを美味(おい)しく飲(の)むには、コップも冷やしておくといい。 (To make beer taste good, it’s best to keep the glass cool too.)

In Situation 1, the wife tells her husband about the cold beer using the intransitive verb, as if the beer got cold by itself, despite the fact that she put it in the refrigerator herself. Instead, she could have said, using the transitive verb 冷やす:

ビールを冷やしておいた。 (I kept the beer chilled.)

However, this pattern implies that it took time and effort to do this, so it could sound a bit immodest. In Japanese conversations, intransitive verbs are used more often than transitive verbs since it is more polite not to mention the speaker’s own efforts.

Situation 2: At dinner time, after Mitsuo fails to emerge from his room, where he’s absorbed in a video game, his mother calls him.

母: 光男、ご飯が冷めちゃうから、早く来て。

光男: ちょっと待って。今、戦いの最中だから、動けないんだよ。

Haha: Mitsuo, gohan ga samechau kara, hayaku kite.

Mitsuo: Chotto matte. Ima, tatakai no saichū dakara, ugokenai-n da-yo.

Mother: Mitsuo, your dinner is getting cold. Come quickly!

Mitsuo: Wait. I’m right in the middle of a fight, so I can’t move.

In Situation 2, Mitsuo’s mother uses the intransitive verb 冷(さ)める, which is written with the same kanji as 冷(ひ)える but is read differently. 冷(さ)める is used when what should be or has to be hot or warm loses temperature, as in:

息子(むすこ)とは、同居(どうきょ)するよりスープの冷めない距離(きょり) の所(ところ)に住(す)むのがいい。 (It’s better to live near enough to my son that soup doesn’t get cold than to live together).

This verb’s transitive form is 冷(さ)ます, which is used as in:

赤(あか)ちゃんのミルクは、人肌(ひとはだ)に冷ましたお湯(ゆ)で作 (つく)ってください。 (Please make the baby milk using boiled water that has been cooled down so to body temperature.)

Bonus Dialogue: Two young colleagues are chatting.

セレ: 三田(みた)くん、最近(さいきん)新(あたら)しい彼女(かのじょ)に熱(ねつ)を上(あ)げていたみたいだったけど、どうなってる?

三田: ああ、何(なん)だかすっかり熱が冷(さ)めちゃって…。スタイルはいいんだけど、性格(せいかく)がちょっと…。 彼女が見(み)ているのはぼく自身(じしん)じゃなくて、 ぼくのロレックスだと気(き)がついたんだ。「すてきな 時計(とけい)」って、そればっかり。だから言(い)ったんだ。「好(す)きなのはぼく?それとも、この時計?」 って。

セレ: そうしたら、彼女、何て?

三田: 「じゃあ、あなたは? 好きなのは、私(わたし)? それとも私の脚(あし)?」って言(い)われた。「私の こと、いつも脚がきれいだとしか言わない。センスがいいとか頭(あたま)がいいとか、一度(いちど)も言ってくれない」って。だけど、センスも頭も良(よ)く ないんだから、そんなお世辞(せじ)は言えない。

セレ: それで、別(わか)れたの?

三田: 別れてはいないけど、関係(かんけい)は完全(かんぜん) に冷(ひ)え切(き)っている。

セレ: 別れるのも、時間(じかん)の問題(もんだい)だな。

Sere: Mita, it seemed like you had the real hots for your new girlfriend, so what’s going on now?

Mita: Oh, my fever has completely cooled. She’s beautiful but her personality is a bit, well … I noticed it was my Rolex, not me, she was looking at. She kept saying, “What a wonderful watch!” So, I asked her, “Is it me or my watch you’re attracted to?”

Sere: So what did she say?

Mita: “Well, what is it that you like? Is it me or my legs?” she said. “You only ever say that my legs are nice — never that my fashion sense is good or that I’m smart.” Thing is, she doesn’t have a good sense of style and isn’t smart, so I can’t flatter her about that.

Sere: So, did you break up?

Mita: We haven’t broken up, but our relationship has gone completely cold.

Sere: Then I guess it’s just a matter of time before you break up.