Language | WELL SAID

To totally understand 'zenbu,' you have to learn all of its usages

by Akemi Tanahashi and Hitomi Tashiro

Contributing Writers

Kare no hon wa zenbu yonda yo. (I’ve read all his books.)

Situation 1: Ms. Tamachi and her colleague Mr. Sere are chatting about books.

田町: セレさんは村上春樹が好きなのよね。

セレ: うん、彼の本は全部読んだよ。日本語でも英語でも読んだ。

Tamachi: Sere-san wa Murakami Haruki ga suki nano yo ne.

Sere: Un, kare no hon wa zenbu yonda yo. Nihongo demo Eigo demo yonda.

Tamachi: You love Haruki Murakami, right?

Sere: Yeah, I’ve read all his books. I’ve read them in both Japanese and in English.

Today, we’ll take a look at the proper use of 全部(ぜんぶ) and 全部で, both of which describe “all.” 全部 means “all, everything” and can be used as a noun, as in:

彼(かれ)は全部の科目(かもく)でAを取(と)った。 (He received A’s in every subject [at school].)

これで全部です。 (That’s all.)

The word 全部, however, is used as an adverb more often than as a noun:

借(か)りていた本(ほん)を全部読(よ)んだ。 (I read all the books I had borrowed [from the library].)

You can also say 借りていた全部の本を読んだ, in which 全部の comes before the noun, but the former sentence, in which 全部 comes before the verb, sounds more natural. Other examples:

持(も)ってきたものは全部ここに置(お)きました。 (I put all the things that I brought here.)

仕事(しごと)は全部終(お)わりましたか。 (Have you finished all the work?)

全部 is often used with expressions such as わけではない or とは限(かぎ)らない for partial negation. Words similar to 全部 include: 全員 (ぜんいん, everyone, all members), みんな (everybody), and for formal language, 全て (すべて, all). Example:

住民(じゅうみん)が全員スマホを持っているわけではない。 (Not all the residents have a smartphone.)

Situation 2: Ms. Gray is buying drinks at a liquor store to bring to a party at Ms. Morita’s house.

グレイ: このワイン1本とビール2本とナッツをお願いします。全部でいくらになりますか。

店員: えっと、3580円になります。

Gray: Kono wain ippon to biiru nihon to nattsu o onegai-shimasu. Zenbu de ikura ni narimasu ka?

Ten’in: Etto, sanzengohyakuhachijū-en ni narimasu.

Gray: Please give me one bottle of this wine, two bottles of beer and nuts. How much is that in total?

Shop clerk: Well, it’ll be ¥3,580.

全部で means “altogether” or “in total” and is used to express a total or sum. 全部で cannot be replaced by just 全部. Example:

この企画(きかく)の予算(よさん)は全部で2000万円(にせんまんえん)ほどになる。 (The budget for this project is going to be in the range of ¥20 million altogether.)

Bonus Dialogue: Ms. Gray is now at Ms. Morita’s house enjoying the party with Ms. Hayashi.

グレイ: あ、私(わたし)たち、ワインもう全部飲(の)んじゃったんだ。

森田: うん。あとはビールしかないね。今(いま)、うちにはこの前(まえ)もらったビールがあるから、全部で2本(にほん)ある。

グレイ: それじゃ、足(た)りないよ。近(ちか)くのコンビニで買(か)ってくるね。お金(かね)は後(あと)で全部まとめて頭割(あたまわ)りしよう。

林: …ねえ、森田(もりた)さん、全部話(はな)したほうがすっきりするんじゃない?

森田: そうね。…うちの新(あたら)しい課長(かちょう)、ほんとにひどいんだ。新しいプロジェクトについて、「全部君(きみ)たちに任(まか)せる」と言(い)っていたのに、私たちが出(だ)した企画を全然(ぜんぜん)認(みと)めようとしないのよ。

グレイ: えっ。上司(じょうし)の全員がひどいわけじゃないけど、とんでもない人(ひと)もいるものね。

林: ほんとうに最低(さいてい)ね。でも、いやなことを全部話してすっきりしたら、あとは楽(たの)しく飲(の)めるよ。さあ、みんなでビールを買(か)いに行(い)こう。

Gray: Oh, we totally drank all the wine!

Morita: Yeah. There’s only beer left. I got a can of beer from before, so we have two cans in total.

Gray: Well, that’s not enough. I’ll go buy some at the nearby convenience store. Let’s split the cost later.

Hayashi: … Hey, Ms. Morita, you gotta get all that stuff off your chest (tell us everything).

Morita: Well, our new section chief is honestly awful. About the new project, he said he’d “leave the whole thing to you lot,” but then wouldn’t accept any of the proposal we submitted.

Gray: Oooh. Not all higher-ups are terrible, but there are some outrageous people.

Hayashi: It sucks, right? But, if you get all the bad things off your chest, you can relax and drink happily. Well then, let’s all go buy some beer.