Language | WELL SAID

Despite the fact 'noni' is difficult for some, it's still a particle you should learn early

by Akemi Tanahashi and Hitomi Tashiro

Contributing Writers

Boku wa chanto shiken benkyō shita noni …

Even though I studied properly for the exam …

Situation 1: Mrs. Okubo finds her son’s exam paper, which has a very bad grade on it.

母: 光男、この点数はどうしたの?!

光男: ぼくはちゃんと試験勉強したのに、ぼくが勉強しなかったところばかり先生が選んで出したんだよ。

Haha: Mitsuo, kono tensū wa dō shita no?!

Mitsuo: Boku wa chanto shiken benkyō shita noni, boku ga benkyō shinakatta tokoro bakari sensei ga erande dashita-n da yo.

Mother: Mitsuo, what happened with this grade?!

Mitsuo: Even though I studied properly for the exam, the teacher decided to put all the points I didn’t study (on it).

The particle のに (despite/in spite of/ even though) is similar to けど (but) or が (but) in the way it is used, but can have the additional nuance of conveying the speaker’s feelings (reproach, surprise or embarrassment). In the pattern XのにY, “X” is something that has already taken place, while “Y” is something that has also happened but is contrary to what was naturally expected from “X”:

全然(ぜんぜん)勉強(べんきょう)しなかったのに、トップだった。 (I got the top score in spite of the fact I didn’t study at all.)

このステーキは高(たか)いのにおいしくない。 (Even though this steak is expensive, it tastes bad.)

The pattern can also express a contrast between “X” and “Y”:

昨日(きのう)は暖(あたた)かかったのに今日(きょう)は寒(さむ)い。 (Although it was warm yesterday, it’s cold today.)

Situation 2: Mr. Sere is talking to his girlfriend on the phone.

セレ: ごめん、急に出張が入って、来週の旅行、行けなくなったんだ。

ゆり: えーっ、楽しみにしていたのに!

Sere: Gomen, kyū ni shucchō ga haitte, raishū no ryokō, ikenakunatta-n da.

Yuri: Ē, tanoshimi ni shite-ita noni!

Sere: Sorry, a business trip came up suddenly, I can’t go on next week’s trip anymore.

Yuri: Ehhh? I was looking forward to it (though)!

のに can also be used at the end of a sentence to emphasize the speaker’s feelings just as it does when it acts as a conjunction. In Situation 2, it points out Yuri’s disappointment. It can also convey a strong feeling, such as anger:

だから、だめだって言(い)ったのに 。 (That’s why I said no already!)

Bonus Dialogue: Mr. Sere and Yuri are out for a walk together.

セレ: 冬(ふゆ)なのに、暖かくて春(はる)みたいだ。こんな日(ひ)を小春日和(こはるびより)って言うの?

ゆり: 正確(せいかく)には、その言葉(ことば)が使(つか)えるのは12月(がつ)までらしいよ。

セレ: へえ、そうなの! 日本語(にほんご)には、季節(きせつ)の言葉がたくさんあるね。まるで詩(し)みたいな言語(げんご)だ。

ゆり: たとえば俳句(はいく)は、季節の言葉を並(なら)べただけの17文字(もじ)なのに、ちゃんと詩になっているよね。

セレ: そうだね! 美(うつく)しいとかいう言葉を1つも使わないのに、すごくきれいな景色(けしき)が思(おも)い浮(う)かぶから不思議(ふしぎ)だ。

ゆり: 一方(いっぽう)で、季節の言葉を入(い)れない俳句も有名(ゆうめい)よ。「松島(まつしま)や、ああ松島や、松島や」。松島は有名な島(しま)の名前(なまえ)なんだけど、あまりにきれいな景色だったので、これしか言葉が思い浮かばなかったそうよ。

セレ: あ、ぼくは、もっといいのが浮かんだ。「ゆりちゃんや、ああゆりちゃんや、ゆりちゃんや」。ゆりは最高(さいこう)にきれいだから、これ以上(いじょう)の言葉が出(で)ない。

ゆり: うふふ、ありがとう! 私(わたし)が90歳(さい)になっても、そう言い続(つづ)けてね。

Sere: Even though it’s winter, it’s warm and seems like spring. Is this kind of day called “koharu biyori” (Indian summer)?

Yuri: To be precise, it seems that word can only be used until December.

Sere: Oh, really! The Japanese language has a lot of seasonal words. On the whole it’s a poem-like language.

Yuri: For example with haiku, despite the fact it’s just seasonal words side by side with 17 characters, it becomes a proper poem.

Sere: That’s right! It’s wonderful because words like “beautiful” aren’t used once, but we can imagine very beautiful scenery.

Yuri: On the other hand, haiku that don’t include seasonal words are also famous. “Matsushima, ah Matsushima, Matsushima.” Matsushima is the name of a famous island, it was rather beautiful, (the poet) couldn’t think of a word beautiful enough (besides the name of the island itself), it seems.

Sere: Oh, a better haiku just came to my mind. “Yuri-chan, oh Yuri-chan, Yuri-chan.” Since you’re the most beautiful, Yuri, there are no other words.

Yuri: Tee hee, thank you! Even when I’m 90 years old, keep saying that, OK?

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