Sound smart in Japanese for beginners / 「用事があります」

Illustration by Kanae Asai

By Yohei ArakawaTwo days before Tim(ティム)leaves Japan for America, his friends are having a farewell party(送(そう)別(べつ)会(かい))for him in the recreation room of the dorm. He has just finished giving an informal speech, and everyone has given him a big round of applause. Yui(結(ゆい))comes over and talks to him in a loud voice.Speech


Today’s conversation

結:すごくいいスピーチだったよ、ティム。(It was really a good speech, Tim!)

ティム:劇(げき)に出(で)たおかげで、上(あ)がらないようになりました。(Since you gave me a chance to act in a play, now I don’t get stage fright any more.)

結:こちらこそ助(たす)かったよ。(No, it’s you who helped us.) ところで明日(あした)はどうするの?(By the way, what are your plans for tomorrow?)

ティム:ああ、①私(わたし)は用(よう)事(じ)を持(もち)ちます。(Well, I have an errand to do.)

結:じゃあ、今(いま)、これ渡(わた)すね。(Then I’m going to give this to you now.) はい。(Here you are.)

She gives him a small package. He opens it, and his eyes widen. It is a figure of himself playing the role of a lawyer onstage in the play. Miwako then joins them and smiles at Tim.

結:美(み)和(わ)子(こ)と徹(てつ)夜(や)で作ったんだよ。(Miwako and I spent all night making it.) 大(だい)事(じ)にしてね。(We hope you’ll keep it for a long time.)

ティム:結さん、美和子さん、②二人(ふたり)もありがとう!(Thank you for all your kindness!)Speech


①私は用事を持ちます。→ 私は用事があります。

The English verb “to have” has so many different meanings that its Japanese equivalent “持ちます” cannot cover all of them. In particular, to describe someone as having something invisible or intangible, Japanese tend to use “あります” rather than “持ちます.”

1. すみません、今(いま)、お時(じ)間(かん)ありますか。 (Excuse me, but do you have time now?)

2. いとこの健(けん)介(すけ)は力(ちから)があります。(Kensuke, my cousin, is a strong man.)

Since chikara also means “authority” as well as “strength,” the sentence above may mean Kensuke is influential in a certain field, say, politics, depending upon context.

3. アダムズ氏(し)は金(かね)があります。(Mr. Adams has plenty of money.)

Some of you may wonder whether money is invisible or intangible, but this sentence usually means that Mr. Adams is a rich man. He has wealth, though not necessarily a wad of bills on hand.



②二人もありがとう! → 二人ともありがとう!

とも, written as 共 (together, both), is a small word, but few Japanese learners can use it with ease. It comes after “number + noun” and means all of them are in the same condition.

4. このパソコンは5台(だい)ともマックです。(These five computers are all Macs.)

5. 彼女たちは3人とも未(み)成(せい)年(ねん)だった。(The three women were all underage.)

This is the final installment of “Sound smart in Japanese.” Thank you for having read my column until now. Sayonara!

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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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