Breakdown of 間に合う

Is this truly a word, or is it more accurately described as a phrase? I’m imagining that potentially the に is a particle instead of being okurigana.

On that note, I’m a little confused about what constitutes valid use of okurigana. My initial understanding is that Japanese words are A: A single Kanji. B: Compound words (jukugo) composed of multiple kanji. C: Words with kanji stems, and okurigana dangling off the end.

Something that doesn’t fit my mapping though, is words composed of multiple kanji, with hiragana between the kanji instead of at the end. Are these words still classified as jukugo, or are they a different class of word? Also, in WaniKani some of these words are really phrases where the hiragana are just particles. Is this sometimes the case and sometimes not the case?

間に合う is definitely more like a word than a phrase, in this case, at least in my opinion. But that doesn’t necessarily make に okurigana, I’m not sure. I get your confusion about the vagueness of the distinctions, but that’s just something that comes with translation in any language pair.

Sometimes it doesn’t really matter what you call it. It undoubtedly started as a phrase, and gained idiomatic status at some point, and is now a defacto word. Some English words that are similar:

meantime ( ← maybe)


Edit: I think 間に合う is definitely more like a phrase…に+verb is a construct that can be a phrasing / idiom. Other examples are 頭にくる or a whole bunch of 気 idioms like 気にする、気になる…アルク is good for looking up things that may seem like a phrase.

As for when something is jukugo - I believe jukugo is strictly the chinese or onyomi readings. Tofugu has a brief write up on this.

Someone actually just posed this question in another thread with the example 入り口(いりぐち). Wanikani teaches the reading for this with the り in between the two kanji characters but it can also be seen as 入口 without any hiragana. いり and ぐち are both kunyomi readings so this is techinically non jukugo.

Another example is 「締切」 and this is how wanikani teaches it. This also uses the kunyomi readings and you can see in jisho that alternate readings are 締め切り・締切り which would be non-jukugo.

I would argue that meantime is a word… I use it, at least.

@charliec364 - thanks for posting this question. While I’ve always thought of it as a verb/compound verb, I’ve learned something from the replies. : D

this always reminds me of 受付 and 受け付け.

I think he’s more unsure of if it had originated from being a common phrase that became a word than if it actually is a word.

Ooh yeah that is a good example too. And certainly a fun one to say. :nerd:

In my mind, the “word versus phrase” distinction is along the lines of “does it get used as its own unit of language or are people constructing it on the fly.” Like, 見に行く is something that get uttered countless times per day in Japan, but it strikes me as people constructing it, where as 間に合う feels like one unit.

It’s just how it feels to me.

I believe I’m on the same page as you.

I think more or less I use “phrase” to describe 間に合う because I see the 合う part of it could be conjugated following regular verb rules. And in my mind “word” is more static like 焼き鳥 or something. :oden:

Although I don’t have much experience actually using 間に合う

Well, yeah, but so can any compound verbs. Like 書き込む.

Now that I just consider a verb…But you have me way overthinking English terminology now :thinking:

Like I always considered ただいま and お世話になります as phrases because…it is just something you say.

Sure, it’s a verb. A verb is a word. A phrase is a collection of words. English has “phrasal verbs”!
The meaning of “to get up” can be unrelated to “to get down” in English, haha.

But yeah, I think what I was getting at in my first post was that the ambiguity comes from trying to categorize Japanese with English concepts.

True, true. Haha yeah half my time spent is trying to consider if what I’m saying actually makes sense in English when it just seems to make sense in my head.

The 気 idioms are were I first started thinking about this issue. For example: 気を付けて means to take care, but I think a more literal translation would be “to attach to the energy”, where energy can of be thought of as “good and proper”. It follows from there that you are attaching yourself to the good and proper way of doing something i.e. doing something carefully. For this particular case I assumed it had to be an idiom, because of the direct object marker. With に however, I can’t so safely assume either way.

The reason I care about the distinction, is knowing these rules helps me properly parse Japanese. Back when I only knew hiragana, I was really frustrated because I couldn’t 100% tell where one word ended and another begins. If all words take the form [Kanji], [kanji][kanji][kanji…], [kanji][hiragana], then parsing out the individual words becomes much more consistent: whenever you see a kanji that isn’t directly preceded by another kanji, you know a new word is starting. If hiragana can appear any/everywhere in a word, that makes things much more ambiguous >_>.

I’m not as bothered by compound verbs, cause you can still break it down into individual words more less just fine; At least as far as I know.

That being said I haven’t formally looked into compound verbs in Japanese yet. Maybe doing some more reading on that topic will clear things up!

Glad to hear I’m not bogging down the forums with spam! XD

Eh… thinking of 気 as “energy” in 気を付けて is unnecessary, I think. 気 has many meanings, and “mind” is one of them. So in this case, “attach your mind” as in “be mindful.”

Unfortunately I have no real tips to distinguish these…

In my experience, in cases like 頭にくる; it just stood out as making no sense directly so I assumed it might be a special construct and looked it up that way.

Imabi has a list of many 気 idioms here.

Looking up “auxiliary verbs” may also get you some useful information on compound type verbs and some hints for those.

In the end you may just surrender and resort to straight up memorization too. :smile: