Language | WELL SAID

Redoing things with the help of naosu and kaesu

by Akemi Tanahashi and Hiromi Tashiro

Contributing Writers

Sakki no shorui, tsukurinaoshita-n-desu kedo, mite itadakemasu ka?

Those documents from before, I’ve done them over again. Could you take a look for me?

Situation 1: Anna speaks with Ms. Tamachi, one of her senior colleagues.

アナ: 田町さん、さっきの書類、作り直したんですけど、見ていただけますか。

田町: うん。…ああ、全体的によくなったね。

Anna: Tamachi-san, sakki no shorui, tsukurinaoshita-n-desu kedo, mite itadakemasu ka?

Tamachi: Un. … Aa, zentai-teki ni yoku natta ne.

Anna: Ms. Tamachi, those documents from before, I’ve done them over again. Could you take a look for me?

Tamachi: Yes. … Ah, overall these are much better.

Today we’ll look at the difference between two compound verbs: ~直(なお)す and ~返(かえ)す. The former of the two, 直す, on its own means to repair or fix. So when added to the end of another verb in its masu form (“X”), it conveys the idea that you are redoing an action with the intent of fixing it: X直す. It’s also important to note that “X” must be an intentional verb that can be repeated, such as with the 作(つく)り直す (make again) in Anna’s remark. Other examples include:

申込書(もうしこみしょ)を書(か)き直した。 (I rewrote my application form.)

何(なに)が言(い)いたいかよくわからなかったので、手紙(てがみ)を読(よ)み直した。 (I read the letter again because I didn’t understand what it said.)

のちほど電話(でんわ)をかけ直します。 (I’ll call you back later.)

The word 出(で)直す means “to come see someone again (because he or she could not accomplish their purpose the first time)” and its idiomatic expression 一(いち)から出直す means “to return to the starting point, and make a fresh start” because you could not do something well the first time.

Situation 2: Mr. Sere is talking about his grandmother with his colleague Mr. Mita.

セレ: 留学で国を離れるときに祖母から手紙をもらったんだけど、今でもときどき読み返しているんだ。

三田: へえ、すてきな話だなあ。そんな家族がいるって、すばらしいね。

Sere: Ryūgaku de kuni o hanareru toki ni sobo kara tegami o moratta-n-da kedo, ima demo tokidoki yomikaeshite-iru-n-da.

Mita: Hē, sutekina hanashi da naa. Sonna kazoku ga iru-tte, subarashii ne.

Sere: I got a letter from my grandmother when I left the country to study abroad, and I sometimes read it over again even now.

Mita: Wow, that’s a nice story. It’s wonderful to have such (a nice) family.

The word 返す literally means to return or give back, and when it is attached to a verb (“X”) in its masu form, 返す conveys the idea of repeating an action, as in 思(おも)い返す(to think something over again). X返す is similar in meaning to X直す, but X返す has the nuance of doing “X” repeatedly, while X直す implies “X” has been done for an improvement. X返す also contains the idea of returning as in 言い返す(to talk back) and 聞(き)き返す (to listen again or to ask something back).

Bonus Dialogue: Continued from Situation 1.

アナ: すみません、やり直しが多(おお)くて。私(わたし)、この仕事(しごと)に向(む)いてないんだと思います。

田町: 一年目(いちねんめ)なんだから、しかたないよ。 気(き)にしないで。私も初(はじ)めてプレゼンをしたときは、全然(ぜんぜん)うまくできなくて。今(いま)思い返しても恥(は)ずかしくなるの。

アナ: ほんとうですか?

田町: うん、声(こえ)が小(ちい)さくて、何度(なんど)も 聞き返されて。

アナ: へえ、今の田町(たまち)さんからは想像(そうぞう) できません。

田町: 会社(かいしゃ)に入(はい)る前(まえ)に、ビジネスの勉強(べんきょう)をしていて、できると思ったんだけど、実際(じっさい)にはそうじゃないことに気づいたの。それで、一から出直そうって思って、先輩(せんぱい)に教(おし)えてもらったり、全部(ぜんぶ)勉強し直したのよ。

アナ: 田町さんでもそんなころがあったんですね。私も考(かんが)え直してみます。

Anna: I’m sorry, there have been so many corrections. I don’t think I’m suited for this job.

Tamachi: Since this is your first year, it can’t be helped. Don’t worry. When I gave a presentation for the first time, I couldn’t do it well at all. Remembering it now I get really embarrassed.

Anna: Really?

Tamachi: Yes, my voice was small [quiet], and I was asked [questions from the audience] over and over.

Anna: Well, [knowing] you now, I can’t imagine it.

Tamachi: Before entering this company, I was studying business, and I thought I’d be able to do [the job], but actually I became aware that wasn’t the case. So, I decided to make a fresh start, asked my senior colleagues to teach me things, and studied everything all over again.

Anna: Tamachi-san, even you had such a [difficult] time. I will try considering [my situation] again.