Two words that seem completely similar to one another — how do you tell the difference?

by Akemi Tanahashi and Hitomi Tashiro

Contributing Writers

Tamachi-san no koe wa okāsan ni sokkuri ne.

Ms. Tamachi, your voice is just like your mother’s.

Situation 1: Ms. Gray runs into her colleague Ms. Tamachi and her mother walking down the street.

グレイ: 田町さんの声はお母さんにそっくりね。

田町: うん。よくそう言われるの。私はそう思わないんだけど。

Gray: Tamachi-san no koe wa okāsan ni sokkuri ne.

Tamachi: Un. Yoku sō iwareru no. Watashi wa sō omowanai-n-dakedo.

Gray: Ms. Tamachi, your voice is just like your mother’s.

Tamachi: Yes, I get told that often. I don’t think so though.

Today, we’ll look at two words that sound similar: そっくり and すっかり. When そっくり is used as na-adjective it means “similar” and expresses the idea that something or someone is just like something or someone else:

このふたごの姉妹(しまい)はそっくりで、見分(みわ)けがつかない。 (These twin sisters are like two peas in a pod, I can’t tell which is which.)

馬場(ばば)さんにそっくりな人(ひと)を見(み)たよ。(I saw a person who looks just like Ms. Baba.)

そっくり as an adverb means “wholly or entirely” and comes before verbs like 残(のこ)る (to remain), 受(う)け継(つ)ぐ(to succeed), まねをする(to copy), 盗(ぬす)む(to steal), 寄付(きふ) する(to donate).

息子(むすこ)がきょうは外(そと)で食(た)べるとメールしてきたから、晩(ばん)ごはんがそっくり残ってしまった。 (A text came from my son that said he’ll eat out today, so the dinner [that I made for him] is completely untouched.)

ここにあったお菓子(かし)は、吉田(よしだ)さんがそっくり持(も)って行(い)ってしまった。 (Mr. Yoshida took away all the sweets that were left here.)

この作家(さっか)の書斎(しょさい)はそっくりそのまま残されている。 (This novelist’s study has been left exactly as it was.)

Situation 2: Mr. Mita is chatting with his colleague Mr. Sere.

三田: 自分が生まれた町に行ってみたんだって? どうだった?

セレ: いやあ、すっかり変わっちゃって、昔を思い出すようなところはなかったよ。

Mita: Jibun ga umareta machi ni itte-mita-n-datte? Dō datta?

Sere: Iyā, sukkari kawacchatte, mukashi o omoidasu yōna tokoro wa nakatta yo.

Mita: I heard you went back to the town you were born in? How was it?

Sere: Ah, it has totally changed. The place that I remember from long ago is no more.

すっかり conveys the idea of completeness or being perfectly done as with Mr. Sere’s impression that his hometown has changed. Other examples include:

ゆかはすっかり元気(げんき)になった。 (Yuka has completely recovered [from her illness].)

すっかり is also often used to modify something negative, as in:

銀行(ぎんこう)に行くことをすっかり忘(わす)れていた。 (I completely forgot to go to the bank.)

Bonus Dialogue: Young staff members are talking about the president’s speech.

三田: きょうの社長(しゃちょう)のスピーチ、どこかで聞(き)いたような気(き)がしたな。

グレイ: あれは、前(まえ)の社長のスピーチの一部(いちぶ)をそっくりそのまま使(つか)ったものよ。

三田: なあんだ。そうだったんだ。すっかり忘れていたなあ。…前の社長はまだ影響力(えいきょうりょく)を持っているんだね。ときどき話(はな)し方(かた)がそっくりな時(とき)があるし。

田町: 今(いま)も陰(かげ)でいろいろ指示(しじ)しているのかな 。

グレイ: ううん、前の社長は引退(いんたい)してから仕事(しごと)をそっくり後継者(こうけいしゃ)に引(ひ)き渡(わた)したんだって。変化(へんか)が激(はげ)しい時代(じだい)には、新(あたら)しい人に任(まか)せたいらしいよ。

田町: そうなんだ…。私(わたし)たちの仕事も将来(しょうらい)はどう変(か)わっているか、考(かんが)えられないけど、何(なん)とか生(い)き残りたいなあ。

Mita: I feel like I’ve heard that speech the president gave today somewhere before.

Gray: He used part of our former president’s speech completely (word for word).

Mita: Oh! I see. I completely forgot. I guess the previous president still has some influence. (The current president’s) way of speaking is similar (to the former president’s) at times.

Tamachi: I wonder if he’s giving him instructions from the shadows.

Gray: No, I heard when the former president retired he handed the job over completely. In this era of drastic change, he wanted to leave things to someone new.

Tamachi: Ah, really. I can’t imagine how our work is going to change in the future, but I hope we are able to survive.