Sound smart in Japanese / I’ll come to your station.

Illustration by Kanae Asai

By Yohey Arakawa George grew up in a town close to the Colorado mountains in the United States, so even in Japan he finds it hard to contain his passion for skiing. He found an artificial ski resort in Saitama Prefecture and telephoned Sakura to ask if she’d like to go with him. George wants to become better friends with Sakura, so he was happy she agreed to his plan. Now he’s looking forward to showing her his skills on the slope.


◆This month’s conversation

桜(さくら):池袋(いけぶくろ)駅(えき)で乗(の)り換(か)えだから、そこで待(ま)ち合(あ)わせる?(Shall we meet at Ikebukuro Station, since we’ll change trains there?)

ジョージ:あの、桜(さくら)さんは三鷹(みたか)駅(えき)の近(ちか)くに住(す)んでいますよね。(Well, you live near Mitaka Station, don’t you?) ①僕(ぼく)がその駅(えき)へ来(き)ます。(I’ll come to your station.)

桜(さくら):ありがとう。(Thanks.) あと、料金(りょうきん)っていくらだっけ?(Also, how much does it cost to ski there?)

ジョージ:②スキーウェアのレンタルを入(い)れて6000円(えん)ごろだと思(おも)います。(It’ll cost around ¥6,000, including rental ski wear.)

桜(さくら):あたし、あんまりスキーしたことないけど大丈夫(だいじょうぶ)かな?(I wonder if I’ll be OK. I’m not an experienced skier.)

ジョージ:大丈夫(だいじょうぶ)。本当(ほんとう)に面白(おもしろ)いですから。(You’ll be fine. It really is fun.) ③一回(いっかい)行(い)けば、今(いま)にも毎年(まいとし)スキーをやりたくなります。(Once you try it, you’ll soon want to go skiing every year.)

桜(さくら):本当(ほんとう)?(Really?) じゃあ、ゆかりやトシくんも誘(さそ)わない?(So, how about inviting Yukari and Toshi to go with us?)

ジョージ:あ、あー、いいですね...。(Uh, I suppose that’s a good idea …)


① 僕(ぼく)が駅(えき)へ来(き)ます。→僕(ぼく)が駅(えき)へ行(い)きます。

In many cases, the Japanese verbs “行(い)く” and “来(く)る” correspond to the English “to go” and “to come.” As sentence A indicates, coming means moving toward the speaker, while going means moving away from the speaker.

A. このサーカス団(だん)はロシアから来(き)て、来月(らいげつ)は香港(ほんこん)へ行(い)きます。(This circus came from Russia and is going to Hong Kong next month.)

However, when you move closer to the person you’re speaking with, you should not use “来(く)る” but “行(い)く.” The basic meaning of “来る” is someone/something moves closer to the speaker. One simple rule helps avoid confusion: You cannot use “私(わたし)は来(き)ます” in the present/future tense.

B. スティーブ(Steve):もしもし、小野(おの)さんですか?(Hello, is that you, Mr. Ono?) 今度(こんど)の水曜日(すいようび)に貴社(きしゃ)に伺(うかが)う予定(よてい)ですが、お会(あ)いできますか? (I’m coming to your office next Wednesday, so can we meet then?)

② 6000円(えん)ごろだと思(おも)います。→6000円(えん)ぐらいだと思(おも)います。

To state an approximate time, you can use either “ごろ (ころ)” or “ぐらい (くらい)” after the time. The former applies only to time. When you want to indicate an approximate quantity such as a price or number, you should use only the latter.

C. ライブのチケット、500円(えん)ぐらいに設定(せってい)しない?(Why don’t we set the price of a ticket to our live show at about ¥500?) 100人(にん)くらい来(く)れば5万円(まんえん)ぐらいの売(う)り上(あ)げになるよ。(If we can get an audience of around 100, our revenue will reach about ¥50,000.)

You may also have heard “だいたい” and “約(やく)” used similarly to “ごろ” and “ぐらい.” They come before nouns and imply “on the whole.” You can use “だいたい” with “ごろ” and “ぐらい” in colloquial speech, but “約” is a one-man band and slightly formal.

D. この電車(でんしゃ)に乗(の)ればだいたい1時間(いちじかん)ぐらいで大阪(おおさか)に着(つ)くんじゃない? (If you take this train, you’ll arrive at Osaka in about an hour, I think.)

E. 皆様(みなさま)、この飛行機(ひこうき)は約(やく)3時間(さんじかん)で関西国際空港(かんさいこくさいくうこう)に着陸(ちゃくりく)いたします。(Ladies and gentlemen, we will be arriving at Kansai International Airport in about three hours.)

In addition, since “ごろ” is used exclusively for time, it appears in compound words like “このごろ” and “近(ちか)ごろ.”

F. 祖父(そふ)(grandfather):近(ちか)ごろの若(わか)い者(もの)は甘(あま)やかされているな。(Young people these days are so spoiled.)

孫(まご)(grandchild):おじいちゃん、自分(じぶん)が若(わか)い頃(ころ)にそう言(い)われたんでしょ?(Grandpa, weren’t you told the same stuff when you were young?)


→ 一回(いっかい)行(い)けば、今(いま)に毎年(まいとし)スキーをやりたくなります。

“今(いま)” (now) is a basic word, but its variations “今に” and “今にも” have different meanings. “今に” does not refer to the present — it refers to someone’s guess or resolution in the (near) future.

G. 今(いま)に分(わ)かるよ。(You’ll understand before long.)

“今にも” is used when something is about to happen.

H.妹(いもうと)は今(いま)にも泣(な)き出(だ)しそうだった。(My sister was on the verge of tears.)

In the dialogue, George mixed up “今(いま)に” with “今にも.” Sakura revealed she was not good at skiing, so “今に” is an adequate choice in this case.


◆ This month’s kanji:年(とし、ネン)

1.1月(いちがつ)1日(ついたち)からの365日(にち) (year)

・来年(らいねん)はもっといい年(とし)にしたいです。(I want to make next year better than the last.) 

2.年齢(ねんれい) (age)

・松田(まつだ)さんと私(わたし)は同(おな)い年(どし)です。(Mr. Matsuda and I are the same age.)

3.老齢(ろうれい)・成熟(せいじゅく)した年齢(ねんれい) (aged, at this age)

・少(すこ)し走(はし)っただけで疲(つか)れてしまうなんて、もう年(とし)だな。(I must be getting old — I get tired after just a little running.)


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Arakawa is a professor of Modern Japanese at Institute of Japan Studies, Tokyo University of Foreign Studies. He is also a language supervisor for “Japan-easy” on NHK World TV.Speech

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