March 12

気 KI – Some Common Uses

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Japanese Grammar with Risu Press

Japanese grammar! Sometimes so easy, and sometimes so… Japanese. There’s no way around it, though – you need to get used to all sorts of phrases, parts of speech, and general patterns to be an effective Japanese speaker, listener, reader, and writer. We feel your pain! Yesterday was は vs. が and tomorrow it’s keigo. Where do you even begin?

One of our goals at Risu Press is to make you a better at Japanese in general – not just kanji. As part of this commitment, we have started working with a team of Japanese teachers to put together regular lessons on Japanese language topics so you can get ahead of the curve and pick up some cool phrases to try in class, on your date, at a gas station, etc.

Let’s not beat around the bush; it takes exposure to get good at Japanese grammar, and in particular, all the little phrases that crop up where you don’t necessarily expect them. Today, one of the unique phrases we cover involves the kanji 気 and 置けない together to mean something a bit unexpected. We look at a few phrases that use 気 in particular, and hopefully you come away with something useful.

A special shout out to Kumiko Sensei who wrote the explanations for us – she breaks it down step by step, and keeps it short and simple. The English is not a word-for-word translation of the Japanese, but basically carries the same meaning, so use it to follow along. We’ll be putting these types of lessons out regularly going forward, so do your best to take some notes and use the grammar in our daily life!

「気の置けない友人」とは? What does 気の置けない友達 mean? 

Japanese Ema 絵馬

Note** To begin reading, download Rikaichan (Firefox) or Rikaikun (Chrome) so when you mouse over kanji you get the reading and general meaning!

「気」には感情や性質という意味があります。

「気が抜ける」という表現をみてみましょう。試験が終わって気が抜けた、は試験が終わって勉強する気がしない、やる気がなくなった、という意味です。気が抜けたコーラ、はどんなコーラでしょう。この場合「気が抜ける」は味やにおいがなくなることを意味します。気が抜けたコーラはおいしくないですね。

The word 気 carries the meaning of something’s “quality” or “feeling.”

Let’s look at the phrase 気が抜ける. It means something like when you finish a test and you’re just done with that subject. You have no desire to keep studying it, and you don’t want to do anything on that subject anymore. Another way of using the same phrase is regarding a physical thing, like cola. 気が抜けたコーラ has lost its flavor and carbonation. Definitely not a delicious cola!

「気が利く」は細かいところまで気がつくという意味があります。「あなたは若いのにとても気が利くね。」は、あなたは若いのに気配りができる人だね、という意味です。また、「気が利く」にはしゃれているという意味もあるので、気が利いたお店、気が利いた帽子、のように使われることもあります。

The phrase 気が利く refers to (someone) who pays attention to really fine details. For instance, “you’re young, but you really pay attention, don’t you.” The phrase can also be used when talking about things like a store or a hat that has a great level of detail, so don’t be afraid to use it in situations where you want to convey a positive meaning.

「気の置けない友人」とはどんな人でしょう。この表現は日本人でも誤解している人がいるくらい、わかりづらい表現です。「気の置ける」は遠慮をしてしまうという意味なので、その否定形の「気の置けない」は遠慮しなくてもよい、つまりとても親しい関係だという意味になります。

So what type of person is a 気の置けない友人? This is actually a phrase that lots of Japanese people use incorrectly, so it’s a tricky one to use. 気の置ける means to hesitate, so when you change that to the negative 置けない, it means kind of like “without hesitation.” Basically, a 気の置けない友人 is a friend you are really close with; there’s no hesitation between the two of you.

Not so bad, right?

This type of Japanese grammar practice looks really simple, and probably doesn't take too long to read if you've been studying Japanese for a while. You know what the difficult part is? Retention and using it effectively.

I am most definitely the type of Japanese learner to jam a new phrase I learn into any situation I can. This can be awkward, funny, and sometimes surprising to whoever I'm talking with, and often times, that is the key to remembering. If you don't have a Japanese friend or partner to work with on this, I highly recommend keeping a separate notebook just for phrases like this. Any time you encounter one, write it in, and then periodically review the notebook to recall Japanese grammar or phrases you may have forgotten.

If you find this type of content useful, drop a comment below!


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