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Friday, August 11, 2017

Hope in Japanese

希望という表現

Sporadic missile tests by North Korea, especially over the past few months, and the equally hot words now flying over the Pacific in their wake are giving rise to both fear of war, and hope for a solution.

Hope in Japanese


Hope is always in ready supply in those who care about the future, and so we're going to look at how this wonderful state of mind is expressed in Japanese.

Japanese, of course, has it's word for the noun "hope," which is 希望 kibo. That's what you'll find in the dictionary, but it's not what you'll often hear in conversation.

The way kibo is used, it is usually closer to "wish" or "desire" - i.e., something that will benefit you personally, than to the expansive emotion that is hope. For example, メーカー希望価格 meh-kah-kibo-kakaku is "recommended retail price" or, literally "manufacturer's wished for price"; or 希望の学校 kibo no gakko is the school you are aiming to enter.

The more usual way to express hope is using the pattern dattara ii. dattara is the conditional form of the verb "da" (the closest thing Japanese has to a "be" verb) and "ii" means "good". In other words "it would be good if..." but attached to the end of the sentence, not the beginning. The "da" verb is used here as the standard example, but the transformation applies to whatever verb is being used.

So, "I hope the North Korean threat will blow over" is "Kita Chosen kara no kyoui ga sugisattara ii ne." 北朝鮮からの脅威が過ぎ去ったらいいね. sugisaru means "blow over", and becomes the conditional sugisattara, or "if [something] blows over." By the way, the "ne" at the end is the almost mandatory invitation to assent that comes at the end of so many spoken Japanese sentences. So, literally translated: "If would be good if the North Korean threat blew over, wouldn't it."

Or, "I hope Trump tones his rhetoric down a bit" becomes "Torampu ga goki wo sukoshi yawaragetara ii ne." トランプが語気を少し和らげたらいいね. The infinitive yawarageru (to soften, to tone down) becomes the conditional yawaragetara.

So expressing hope in Japanese requires that you first sit down and study your conditional tense. Here are some commonly used verbs:
da → dattara, or, more politely,
desu → deshitara (be)
kuru → kitara (i.e., an irregular transformation) (come)
iku → ittara (go)
kureru → kuretara (give - from someone else to you)
yameru → yametara (quit, lay off doing something)
kau → kattara (buy)
kiru - kitara (wear)

Try making a few of your own. Put them as comments below if you want some feedback!

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