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第50課: Absolute Time I: Basic Phrases

          Absolute time expressions indicate a relatively exact time frame and are often sensitive to tense. They are generally adverbial nouns. This means that they usually can either function as nouns or adverbs depending on context. So, pay attention to how this affects particle usage.  

Absolute Time

The following table shows many single word absolute time phrases in Japanese. Patterns to be discussed in this lesson help fill in the gaps. Take note of patterns. There are word notes after the chart. So, be sure to not overlook them.

Chart Note: Variants are listed from most to least polite. ▽ stands for rare. 

 時間帯 2...ago Last... This... Next... 2...from now
 Day 一昨日
 こんじつ ▽
 Morning  昨朝 
 こんちょう ▽


 Evening 一昨晩
 Night 一昨夜
 Week 先々週
 さくしゅう ▽、せんしゅう
 Month  先々月
 Year 一昨年


Word Notes:

1. 先日(せんじつ) means "the other day". 本月(ほんげつ) (this month) and 本年(ほんねん) (this year) exist, but they are very formal and typically in written addresses. However, note that although 本朝(ほんちょう) exists, it means "our nation" instead of "this morning". 

2. Changing 一昨(いっさく) to 一昨々(いっさくさく creates "3...ago". However, the Chinese readings are not used in the spoken language and should be reserved for the written language. For the native words おととい and おととし, you can さき to get さきおととい (three days ago) and さきおととし (three years ago) respectively. It is these native readings that should be used in actual practice.  

3. "3 days from now" can be 明々後日((しあさって・みょうごにち))or 明日(あした)翌々日(よくよくじつ)

4. 今年 may be read as こんねん in certain contexts such as in the phrase 今年度 (this fiscal year). 

5. It's funny to note that 明々後日 exists too, and its native counterpart is やのあさって. These words are not really used that often because 4日後 is much easier.  

6. 昨 can sometimes be very formal. For instance, 去年 will be used most of the time when speaking. The words 昨春, 昨夏, 昨秋, and 昨冬 are all 書き言葉. 

 Making other Absolute Time Expressions

     The following expressions are very important when you can't use a specific, one word time expression like the ones above. Some of these expressions are not really used and some may be more formal than others. All of these details are discussed in the word notes following the chart.

 3...ago 一昨昨+Time Word 2...ago 一昨 Last... この前の
 This/next... 今度の Today's... 今日の Next... この次の
 1 after next 翌々(の) Day 日 Morning 朝, 午前
 Evening 夕方, 夕べ, 夕暮れ, 晩, 夕 Night 夜, 夜間 Week 週(間)
 Month 月, 月間 Year 年, 年(間)  

Word Notes:

1. 夜間, 週間, 月間, and 年間 are all formal and more likely to be used in the written language. 週間 and 年間 are common in the spoken language, but they are still more formal.

2. The differences between the words for "evening" are subtle. 夕べ  is often poetic, but it may also refer to an event held at night. So, "music night" would be 音楽の夕べ. 夕 is essentially the same as 夕方, but it's often used in set phrases. 夕暮れ is very commonly used, and as the character 暮 suggests, it especially refers to the time when the sun is actually going down. Lastly, 晩 is the closest equivalent to the generic English word "evening" and is a commonly used word. 

3. You may use よく~ for "next" for expressions that use らい~. Frequency of use depends on the expression. The difference between 翌週 and 来週 would be the same as the difference between "the next week" and "next week" in English. This is the same for the other expressions. 

4. 翌々 is usually used without a の. You can use it with days, months, and years. Something like 翌々2016年 would it equate to "2016, the year two years from now". The word is not quite that common, and you are more likely to see it in writing.  

5. 一昨々 has the reading いっさくさく. It is not used in the spoken language, and neither are other Sino-Japanese phrases made with it such as 一昨々日いっさくさくじつ and 一昨々週いっさくさくしゅう. For 一昨々日 and 一昨々年, there are the native readings さきおととい and さきおととし respectively, and they're actually used. So, say you wanted to say Monday three days ago, you would need to say 一昨々日さきおととい月曜日げつようび

6. 一昨 for "2...ago" is read as いっさく and is rare. This is mainly due to the fact that it is Sino-Japanese. When it is used, it is appended without the particle の to a time phrase. So, you get phrases like 一昨3日みっか meaning "the third, which was two days ago". 

7. If you want to realistically go past two units of time either direction (past or future), it is more practical to say things 5年前 (five years ago) or 3日前みっかまえ (three days ago). Of course, sometimes one of these cooler phrases like さきおととい (= 3日前). Nevertheless, #+ Time Phrase +  前(before)/ (after) is more frequently used once you leave the sphere of the common words like きのう, きょう, あした, etc. 


1. 昨夜、10た。(More common)
   I went to sleep at 10 last night.

2. アニメクラブは7時から零時れいじまでです。
    Anime club is from 7 to midnight.  

3. きのう仕事を休みました。
   I took a break from work yesterday.

漢字 Note: Words like きょう and きのう are frequently written in ひらがな.

4. 彼女は一昨年まれました。
    She was born the year before last.

5. 翌日の授業(じゅぎょう)予習(よしゅう)をする。
  To prepare for the next day's lessons.

Classroom Note: You should always 予習 before your Japanese class to get more out of what your teacher says.  

6. 今朝はたいそう寒かったですね。
   This morning was quite cold, wasn't it? 

7. この前の火曜日におもしろい映画(えいが)を見ましたよ。
  I saw an interesting movie last Tuesday!

8. 明日の朝8時に()こしてください。
  Please wake me up at 8 o'clock tomorrow morning.

9. その人は瞬時(          しゅんじ)に(して)さるになった。
    That person became a monkey in an instant. 

10. 「今年(ことし)(ふゆ)(さむ)くなるでしょうか」「天気予報(てんきよほう)を見ていないので寒いかどうか分かりません」
“Will this winter be cold?” “I don't know whether or not it's going to be cold in the weather forecast"


Times (Frequency): The Counters ~度 VS ~

Many Japanese speakers when asked what the difference between 一度いちど and 一回いっかい are often said to be the same. However, natives unknowingly make distinctions. What might those distinctions be? First, consider the following sentence where they are completely interchangeable. 

11. 私はあの本を{2度・2回}読んだ。
   I read that book twice.

12. {2度・2回}目の不渡ふわた
Second bouncing/non-payment

Despite the fact that they both count the number of times an action occurs, there are instances where you choose them liberally. One restriction is that ~度 can't be used with だい~ or ぜん~. ~度 is also not used with decimals. 

13. 6回連続(れんぞく)参加さんかしている。(6回 → 6度 X)
   I've been participated six times consecutively.

14. 今年はまつりが2度ある。(2度 → 2回 ?)
   This year, the festival will come twice.

15. 第4回の関係閣僚協議(かんけいかくりょうきょうぎ) (第4度 X)
   The fourth relations cabinet conference

16. 平均週3.7回
   An average of 3.7 times a week 

17. ぜん20回のセミナー
   All 20 seminars 

18. 2度の体験(たいけん)をよい経験として()かす。(2回 ?)
   To use the second experience as a good lesson. 

When the number is more than 10, some of these restrictions go away. It's also interesting to note that ~度目 is used twice as much as ~回目. Remember that example with 6回連続? Something like 5年連続100度目 would be completely fine. For instances where they are interchangeable, 回 is more common. However, 度 is particularly common with the number 2. Also, as the number gets larger, 回 is less frequent. So, if a headline were to have "third non-payment" in it, odds are that it would have 3回. If a company somehow did this for the 15th time, we would expect to see 度.

When counting the frequency/repetition of an action in a particular time frame, use ~回. This is in terms of years, days, etc. and doesn't take on details such as minutes, etc. In such case, you'd expect 度. Something like 月に三度 is possible, but this doesn't show frequency.

19. 毎年、この村では祭りを3回行います。
   We have festivals three times annually in this village.

~度 would count repetition that is uncertain and or irregular. Other expressions that deal with series or segmenting statistically prefer ~回. One last thing to consider is that ~度 is often used in regards to things that are hard to predict and ~回 is preferred overwhelmingly when the number of times of something can be known beforehand.

20. 10度目の優勝(ゆうしょう)目指(めざ)す。
    To aim for the tenth victory.

21. 3年連続れんぞく3度優勝ゆうしょう
The third consecutive victory in three years

Frequency Note: Remember that ~度目 is generally twice as common as ~回.

22. 4度目の復活(ふっかつ)は難しい。 
   A fourth restoration is difficult.

23. 3回めのセミナー
    The third seminar

24. 6回目の核実験かくじっけん
The sixth nuclear tests after restart


Next Lesson → 第33課: 時, 間, & 内

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