Language | WELL SAID

Coming up with exceptions in Japanese can be tricky, but helpful

by Akemi Tanahashi and Hitomi Tashiro

Contributing Writers

Dezain mo ii shi, hadazawari mo ii desu ne. Tada, nedan ga chotto … (The design is nice and it also has a good feel. But the price is a bit …)

Situation 1: Mr. Sere is looking for a sweater at a shop.

店員: こちらのセーターはとても人気があります。

セレ: デザインもいいし、肌触りもいいですね。ただ、 値段がちょっと…。

Ten’in: Kochira no sētā wa totemo ninki ga arimasu.

Sere: Dezain mo ii shi, hadazawari mo ii desu ne. Tada, nedan ga chotto …

Shop clerk: This sweater is very popular.

Sere: The design is nice and it also has a good feel. But the price is a bit …

The words ただ and もっとも are both used to connect sentences. ただ is used at the beginning of a sentence and has the same meaning as “but,” “however” and “although.” What follows ただ supplements the previous sentence by showing a condition, restriction, problem or exception. The overall meaning of the ただ sentence often contrasts with the former sentence:

彼(かれ)は気(き)むずかしいところがある。 ただ、仕事(しごと)は完璧(かんぺき)にやる。 (He is hard to please in some areas. But, he does his work perfectly.)

犬(いぬ)に触(さわ)ってもいいですよ。 ただ、やさしくしてね。 (You may touch my dog. But, please do so gently.)

ただし is used in place of ただ in formal and written Japanese:

私(わたし)も出資(しゅっし)しようと思(おも)います。 ただし、条件 (じょうけん)があります。 (I think I will invest. However, there are some conditions.)

お電話でのお問(と)い合(あ)わせは受(う)け付(つ)けておりません。ただし、下記(かき)のメールアドレスからはお問い合わせいただきます。 (We don’t accept inquiries by telephone. However, you can contact us by email via the following address.)

Situation 2: Ms. Mita is looking for a restaurant to take his date to and asks his colleague Mr. Sere what he thinks.

三田: このレストラン、どうかなあ?

セレ: ああ、そこはいいよ。もっとも、ぼくは行ったことがないけど。

Mita: Kono resutoran, dō kanā?

Sere: Aa, soko wa ii yo. Mottomo, boku wa itta koto ga nai kedo.

Mita: How about this restaurant?

Sere: Ah, it’s nice. But, I’ve never been there though.

The word もっとも means “though” or “but,” and the sentence that follow it supplements the previous the one that comes before it by partly conveying the idea of an exception or problem, adding the speaker’s comment or feeling. もっとも has a similar meaning to ただ, but ただ tends to be used to imply objectivity while もっとも expresses subjectivity.

Where X is a sentence, the construction もっとも、Xが/けど is usually used in spoken Japanese. Also, the word 最も (もっとも)means “most” and is a different word from もっとも (尤も), a conjunction whose kanji isn’t used very often.

Bonus Dialogue: Ms. Gray is looking for an apartment at a 不動産屋 (ふどうさんや), real estate office. [Note: 部屋 (へや) translates as “room” in English but is also used to mean “apartment.”]

不動産屋: この辺(へん)の地域(ちいき)を探(さが)されているんですね。ええと、こちらのアパートは新築(しんちく)で、日当(ひあ)たりもいいです。

グレイ: あ、よさそうな部屋ですね。ただ、駅(えき)から20分(にじゅっぷん)かかるのはちょっときびしいです。

不動産屋: じゃ あ、こちらはいかがでしょうか。建物(たてもの)が古(ふる)いので、家賃(やちん)が割安(わりやす)なんです。部屋も結構(けっこう)広(ひろ)いです。もっとも私は新(あたら)しい部屋をお勧(すす)めしたいんですが。

グレイ: ああ、大地震(おおじしん)が来(き)たとき、ちょっと不安(ふあん)ですね。

不動産屋: その通(とお)りです。じゃ あ、こちらのマンションはいかがですか。7階(ななかい)の部屋で、ここからのながめは最高(さいこう)です。ただ、建設中(けんせつちゅう)のとなりのマンションが完成(かんせい)してしまうと見(み)えなくなってしまいますが。

グレイ: うーん。いい部屋を見つけるのはむずかしいですね。

Estate agent: You’re looking around this area aren’t you? Hmm, this apartment is new and gets a lot of sun.

Gray: Oh, it looks good doesn’t it? But it’s 20 minutes from the station, which is a bit harsh.

Agent: Well, how about this one? The building is old, so the rent is comparatively cheap. The room (apartment) is also pretty spacious. However, I’d like to recommend a newer room though.

Gray: Ah, I’d also feel a bit anxious (thinking of) when a big earthquake comes.

Agent: You’re quite right. Well, how about this apartment building? There’s a room on the seventh floor and the view is superb. However, when the condominium under construction next door is completed, you won’t be able to see (the view) anymore.

Gray: Right. It’s tough to find a good room.