Language | WELL SAID

Joining Japanese sentences is easy if you learn the difference between 'sore de' and 'soko de'

by Akemi Tanahashi and Hitomi Tashiro

Contributing Writers

Sore de, risutora o shinakereba naranaku narimashita. (Therefore, I have to do some restructuring [of personnel]).

Situation 1: The president of ABC Co. is giving a speech to the employees of the firm.

社長: 今回の新製品の失敗は、わが社のような零細企業には大きな痛手でした。それで、しかたなく、若干名のリストラをしなければならなくなりました。

Shachō: Konkai no shinseihin no shippai wa, waga sha no yō na reisai kigyō ni wa ōkina itade deshita. Sore de, shikatanaku, jakkanmei no risutora o shinakereba naranaku narimashita.

President: The failure of this new product was a big blow to a small company like ours. Therefore, reluctantly, I have to do some restructuring of a small number of personnel.

The terms それで and そこで both translate as “therefore,” “and so” or “and then.” But while they can be used in similar situations, they have very different functions. For instance, それで can be used in the pattern: “X. それで, Y,” in which both X and Y are sentences. The “Y” sentence expresses the naturally occurring or inevitable consequence as a result of what happens in the “X” sentence, and “Y” can not be an instruction, suggestion, invitation or a guess:

鍵(かぎ)をなくして帰宅(きたく)したら、だれもいなかった。それで、家族(かぞく)が帰(かえ)ってくるまで外(そと)で2時間(にじかん)待(ま)たなければならなかった。 (I lost my key and when I got home, nobody was there. And so I had to wait outside for two hours until my family came home.)

Situation 2: The president of ABC Co. is giving the same speech as in Situation 1 but with a different conclusion.

社長: 今回の新製品の失敗は、わが社のような零細企業には大きな痛手でした。このままでは倒産もないとはいえません。そこで、わが社はこれをバネとし、新規プロジェクトを立ち上げることにしました。

Shachō: Konkai no shinseihin no shippai wa, waga sha no yōna reisai kigyō ni wa ōkina itade deshita. Kono mama de wa tōsan mo nai to wa iemasen. Soko de, waga sha wa kore o bane to shi, shinki purojekuto o tachiageru koto ni shimashita.

President: The failure of this new product was a big blow to a small company like ours. If things continue like this, I cannot say it will not lead to bankruptcy. Therefore, our firm has decided to use this as a stepping stone to launching a new project.

そこで follows the same pattern as それで: “X. そこで, Y.” In this case, however, the “Y” sentence contains a suggestion, new idea or action proposed and executed by the speaker toward what happens in “X,” or to solve a problem “X” has presented, as in:

鍵をなくして帰宅したら、だれもいなかった。そこで、駅前(えきまえ)に戻(もど)って飲(の)み屋(や)で時間をつぶすことにした。 (I lost my key and when I got home, nobody was there. And so I decided to go back to the station and kill time in the pub nearby.)

Bonus Dialogue: Mr. Mita asks Mr. Sere what he should do to get his girlfriend, Yuri, to stop being angry with him.

セレ: メッセージの返事(へんじ)はくれるけど、全然(ぜんぜん)会(あ)ってくれないんだ…。

三田(みた): あ、じゃあ、ぼくにいい考(かんが)えがある。

セレ: えっ、教(おし)えて、教えて!

三田: まず、ゆりちゃんと初(はじ)めて会った場所(ばしょ)と時間を指定(してい)して、「ここで、ゆりが来(く)るまで何時間(なんじかん)でも待っています」とメッセージを送る。

セレ: それで?

三田: ゆりちゃんはセレくんを何時間も待たせるなんてできないから絶対(ぜったい)来るよ。そこで、ゆりちゃんが現(あらわ)れた瞬間(しゅんかん)、土下座(どげざ)して、ただ「ごめん!」って言(い)うんだ。

セレ: それはいいけど…。

三田: プライドなんか捨(す)てなきゃだめだ。ゆりちゃんが大事(だいじ)だろ?

セレ: それはそうだけど、ぼくたちが知(し)り合(あ)ったのは、銀座(ぎんざ)通(どお)りの交差点(こうさてん)の真ん中(まんなか)だよ。すれ違(ちが)いにハンカチを落(お)としたのを拾(ひろ)ってくれたんだ。

三田: あ、それは困(こま)った…。

Sere: She replies to my messages, but won’t come meet me at all …

Mita: Ah, well, I have a good idea.

Sere: Eh? Tell me, tell me!

Mita: First, specify the place and time you met Yuri for the first time, and send the following message to her, “I’ll be waiting here until you come Yuri, no matter how long it takes.”

Sere: And then?

Mita: Yuri will definitely come, since she’ll find it unbearable to make you wait for hours. And then, the moment she appears, you throw yourself on the ground and just say, “I’m sorry!”

Sere: That’s fine, but …

Mita: You have to just toss away your pride. Yuri is your dearest, isn’t she?

Sere: That’s true, but the place we first met is in the middle of an intersection in Ginza; as we were passing by each other she picked up the handkerchief I dropped by accident.

Mita: Oh, that’s trouble …