Sound smart in Japanese for beginners / 「毎日(まいにち)起(お)きる時間(じかん)」

Illustration by Kanae Asai

By Yohei Arakawa On a cloudy Saturday afternoon(午(ご)後(ご)), Tim is strolling around an electronics retail store in Tokyo's Ginza(銀(ぎん)座(ざ))district for a change. While he is holding a small camera(カメラ)to check out its details, he hears someone calling his name.Speech


Today’s conversation

美(み)和(わ)子(こ) (Miwako): ティム、久(ひさ)しぶり! (Tim, long time no see!) 小(しょう)学(がっ)校(こう)で英(えい)語(ご)、教(おし)えているんでしょ? (You’re teaching English at an elementary school, aren’t you?) 忙(いそが)しいの? (Are you busy?)

ティム (Tim): はい、忙しいです。(Yes, I am.) でも、①毎日起きるの時間が同(おな)じで、それはいいことです。(But as I get up at the same time every day, I think it’s good.)

美和子:ああ、そう? (Oh, really?) ところで、お兄(にい)ちゃんがシカゴ支(し)店(てん)に赴(ふ)任(にん)することになっちゃって、今(こん)度(ど)の日(にち)曜(よう)日(び)に送(そう)別(べつ)会(かい)するんだけど、ティムも来(こ)ない? (By the way, my brother is getting transferred to the Chicago office and we’re going to have a leaving party for him next Sunday. Why don’t you come and join us?)

ティム:はい (Yes, I will.) その日、②私(わたし)は自(じ)由(ゆう)です。(I’m free that day.)Speech


①毎日起きるの時間 → 毎日起きる時間

Every language has various modes to explain something. In modifying “a teacher” (先(せん)生(せい)), for instance, we have a number of ways, such as a gentle teacher, a teacher popular among her students or a teacher who has changed her way of teaching, etc. In Japanese, the principles to modify something are the following two.

First, the part of modification precedes what is modified no matter how long it is. (1)

Second, we add “の” after using a noun as a modifier but we don’t use it in a phrase, usually a combination of a verb and its subject. (2), (3)

1. 私がデパートで迷(まよ)ったときに助(たす)けてくれた先生 (the teacher who kindly helped me out when I lost my way at a department store)

2. 高(こう)校(こう)の先生 (a high school teacher), 物(ぶつ)理(り)の先生 (a teacher of physics)

3. 美和子が会(あ)った先生 (a teacher who Miwako met, not “美和子が会ったの先生”)

Since “毎日起きる時間” is a phrase in which “私が” is hidden, Tim should have taken “の” away in his speech. This rule is applied even when the verb conjugates.

4. 起きた時間 (time I got up, not “起きたの時間”)Speech

②私は自由です。 → 私は空(あ)いています。

Lots of English-Japanese dictionaries explain “free” as “自由な,” but this Japanese word implies freedom, such as political freedom or not being held captive, as shown in 5 below.

5. そのジャーナリストは解(かい)放(ほう)されて自由の身(み)となった。(That journalist was set free.)

Thus, when you want to say a certain day is convenient for you, I recommend you use the phrase mentioned above or add the date before “は都(つ)合(ごう)がいいです.”

6. 木(もく)曜日は都合がいいです。(Thursday is good for me.)

* * *

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


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