Language | WELL SAID

Don't forget to use 'sokonau' to mark your failings in Japanese

by Akemi Tanahashi and Hitomi Tashiro

Contributing Writers

Ikō to omotte-ita-n-da kedo, misokonatchatta. (I was going to go, but I missed it.)

Situation 1: Ms. Gray is chatting with her friend Ms. Yamada.

山田: あの映画、見た?私、3回も見ちゃったんだ。

グレイ: ああ、行こうと思っていたんだけど、見そこなっちゃった。

Yamada: Ano eiga, mita? Watashi, sankai mo michatta-n-da.

Gurei: Aa, ikō to omotte-ita-n-da kedo, misokonatchatta.

Yamada: Did you see that movie? I totally saw it three times.

Gray: Well, I was thinking of going, but completely missed it (I failed to see it).

Two useful sentence patterns that express not doing something despite your intentions are X+そこなう and X+忘(わす)れる.

The X+そこなう pattern is used when you “fail to do(X)” or “make a mistake in doing X,” where “X” is a volitional verb in pre-masu form:

話(はなし)の大事(だいじ)なところを聞(き)きそこなった。 (I failed to catch [hear] the important part of the speech.)

カーブを曲(ま)がりそこなうと、大変(たいへん)だ。 (If you fail to take the curve in the road, it’ll be terrible.)

シュートしそこなって、点(てん)が取(と)れなかった。 (I missed the shot, and we couldn’t get the point.)

お礼(れい)を言(い)いそこなっちゃった。 (I utterly failed to convey my gratitude.)

X+そこなう can also have the nuance of failing to do something because you were busy or there was a problem:

寝坊(ねぼう)をして、9時(くじ)の新幹線(しんかんせん)に乗(の)りそこなった。 (I overslept and missed [failed to ride] the 9 o’clock shinkansen.)

最後(さいご)の「ゲースロ」を見(み)そこなった。 (I missed [failed to see] the finale of “Game of Thrones.”)

見そこなう additionally means to lose confidence in someone, as in 平気(へいき)でうそをつくなんて、彼(かれ)のことを見そこなった。 (He tells lies so casually, I’ve lost trust in him.)

Situation 2: Mr. Mita barely makes it to the office on time. Mr. Sere has a word with him.

セレ: ぎりぎりだけど、間に合ったね。

三田: うん、昨日の夜、目覚ましをかけ忘れたんだ。

Sere: Girigiri da kedo, maniatta ne.

Mita: Un, kinō no yoru, mezamashi o kake wasureta-n-da.

Sere: Cutting it close but you made it, didn’t you.

Mita: Yes, I forgot to set my alarm clock last night.

The X+忘れる means to “forget to do X,” where “X” is an volitional verb in pre-masu form, as in 手紙(てがみ)を出(だ)し忘れた (I forgot to send the letter) or 手紙を書(か)き忘れた (I forgot to write the letter) and so on.

Bonus Dialogue: Mr. Sere is talking with his friend Mr. Seto.

瀬戸(せと): 最近(さいきん)、忙(いそが)しくて。おとといは、お客(きゃく)さんがひっきりなしに来(き)て、昼(ひる)ごはんを食(た)べそこなったよ。

セレ: そうか。大変だなあ。

瀬戸: 昨日(きのう)は電車(でんしゃ)で居眠(いねむ)りしていて、自分(じぶん)の駅(えき)で降(お)りそこなっちゃったんだ。あわてて次(つぎ)の駅で戻(もど)った。

セレ: 疲(つか)れていると、そういうこともあるね。

瀬戸: うん。… あ、ポストがある。手紙を出さなきゃ。昨日からずっと手紙を出し忘れていていたんだよ。昨日も夜(よる)、電気(でんき)を消(け)し忘れてそのまま寝(ね)ちゃったんだ。

セレ: ねえ、ちゃんと寝ていないだろう?少(すこ)し仕事(しごと)を減(へ)らしたらどう?

瀬戸: でも、ここで儲(もう)けそこなうと後悔(こうかい)するからね。

セレ: うーん、難(むずか)しいところだ。

Seto: I’ve been so busy recently. Two days ago it was just nonstop customers coming in, so I couldn’t even get a chance to eat my lunch.

Sere: Really? That’s tough, man.

Seto: Yesterday, I was asleep on the train and totally missed my station. I scrambled at the next station to get back (to my stop).

Sere: When you’re tired, these things happen.

Seto: Yeah. … Oh, there’s a mailbox. I have to send a letter. Since yesterday, I keep forgetting to send this letter. Last night I forgot to turn off the light and just went to bed like that.

Sere: Hey, you’re not sleeping properly? What about cutting back on work a little?

Seto: But if I fail to make those profits, I’ll regret it.

Sere: Yeah, that’s a difficult spot (you’re in).