View Full Version : 'Shi' or 'Yon'

25th May 2002, 20:37
Why are there two words for "four"?

25th May 2002, 21:56
The long answer involves vocabulary coming from more than one source, in this case, Chinese and "native" Japanese. The short answer is there just are. Why does English have "twelve" and "dozen" or "twenty" and "score"?

26th May 2002, 01:18
Why does English have "twelve" and "dozen" or "twenty" and "score"?

Good point. I was just wondering if the choice of which word was specific to a certain context, or if they were completely interchangable.

Chris Li
26th May 2002, 01:48
Originally posted by Soulend

Good point. I was just wondering if the choice of which word was specific to a certain context, or if they were completely interchangable.

Nope, you just have to get used to which is used where - there doesn't seem to be any logic behind it :).

In general, 4 is considered an unlucky number because "shi" is also the sound for the word for "death".



29th May 2002, 01:19
There are two words for "four" because "shi" is a homonym for the stem of the verb, "shinu", "to die". Similarly, 9 should be avoided because "ku" is the stem of "kurushimu", "to suffer". But! Counting in Japanese is even more complex than that, since the counting method applied depends on the nature of the object being counted. Thus:
People: Hitori, futari, san-nin...
Sheets of paper: Ichi-mai, ni-mai, san-mai...
Pencils: Ippon, nihon, sanbon...
Dogs: Ippiki, ni-hiki, san-biki...
And the list goes on.

29th May 2002, 10:23
Wow, thanks! Since 'shi' also can mean 'master', is this word also avoided due to the connotation of death?

29th May 2002, 10:46

You've fortotten the worst one:
hitotsu, futatsu, mittsu, mutsu... As soon as you can use those, counting in Japanese is no longer a problem... But the verb-endings remain though! :cry:

29th May 2002, 15:53
Originally posted by Dahlia
You've fortotten the worst one:
Not forgotten; give David time enough to learn. Overload leads to confusion.
I don't understand your comment about verb endings, though; that's comparatively easy. There are only three categories of verbs, each with six bases. Discounting group 3 verbs (irregular), which have to be learned individually, what's the problem? French is way harder! Je sais parce que je suis aussi francophone.
Anyway, never give up on Japanese: Like budo, keizoku wa chikara nari.
:D (Shit-eating grin.)

29th May 2002, 17:30
* fashions small blade out of Japanese language CD's, plunges it into abdomen *

29th May 2002, 21:21

J'ai d prendre des cours l'cole (Japonais est quand mme mieux que l'Espagnol (en tudant dj l'Italien) ou le Latin) mais j'ai abandonn Japonais au moment quand c'tait possible... Par contre j'adore le Francais et je ferais mon BAQ en Francais (et Allemand, Physique et Histoire). La literature Francaise est trop forte! Et la grammaire est absolument simple... :cool:

Demo Nippongo ga daikirai! Totemo muzukashii ga benkyo shite mo heta desu. (Jozu ka? M wakarimasen... :cry: )

29th May 2002, 22:31
Ah, well, each to their own, Darina. Leaving aside the written system, I always thought Japanese was easier gramatically. Now, who can argue with that?

30th May 2002, 10:51
Me! The Japanese grammar is the worst that can happen to you... Just try to pronounce "shinakerebanaranai" and see how far you will come. Then, why the hell is the "must"-form a negaition?

The best joke was when our teacher explained us how the passive form worked... He seemed to be sure that having heard of it once we should be able to use it with any time and any verb form...

Okay, okay, I won't go on... :p

Ben Bartlett
30th May 2002, 12:34
Then, why the hell is the "must"-form a negaition?

Because what it's actually saying is something along the lines of "it would be bad were I not to do this". Or at least that's my paltry understanding of it. :)

P.S. This thread is making me embarressed to be monolingual. :p Although at least I could understand the Japanese so far. :cool:

Ginzu Girl
4th June 2002, 19:36
My Mom helped me remember this concept by explaining how to tell time.
- 1:00 Ichi-ji (Chinese reading)
- 2:00 Ni-ji (Chinese reading)
- 3:00 San-ji (Chinese reading)
- 4:00 Yon-ji (Japanese reading)
- 5:00 Go-ji (Chinese reading)
- 6:00 Roku-ji (Chinese reading)
- etc. . .

5th June 2002, 12:03
Originally posted by Dahlia
Then, why the hell is the "must"-form a negaition?

I guess it must have been 'negotiation'... English can be scary sometimes as well.

Nevertheless, thanks Ben, I still can't pronounce 'shinakerebanaranai' at once! And I'll be answering your PM soon, I sware...

6th June 2002, 05:53
aaahh thank you people.... you have spared me lots of time.. Thanx to this thread I have decided to NEVER try to learn japanese...

Michael Bland
13th June 2002, 04:03


suru = to do
shinai = to NOT do

shinakereba = If (one were) to do

+ naranai = will not become

For example: benkyou (study) shinakereba naranai

Then becomes If (one does) not study, (it) will not become ....

Meaning, that your wish will not be realized.

So, if you don't study, you won't pass a test, or won't get smart, etc.

Therefore, you "must" study.

If that is too complicated, just use "suru-beki" or "su-beki" for "must do". That's also pretty close.


24th June 2002, 05:32
shinakereba = If (one were) to do

しなければ= if one were to NOT do
すれば = if one were to do

しなければならない = if one were to not do, then it will not become, therefore one should/must do (in order for it to become.)

renfield kuroda

24th June 2002, 19:33
Practice some hayakuchi kotoba (tongue twisters) seriously and your issues with shinakereba naranai will go away quickly. Honestly Japanese is not that hard of a language to phsyically speak once you figure out how to the the "r" sound properly (say the name "Eddy" over and over as fast as you can and the "dd" will eventually become the Japanese "r") and you learn to try and talk monotone like a robot to remove those English accent peaks and valleys which seem to destroy most people's pronuncation and make them unintelligible in Japanese. Of course if you are just hanging with your friends you can just say Ȃ and not worry about the whole Ȃ΂ȂȂ business.

25th June 2002, 14:30
Fine, I've finished off lots of tongue twisters... The bamboo thing and the Tokyo one as well. Didn't prevent me of dropping Japanese neither :cool: