Difference between 友達 and 友?

友 kanji means “friend”, right? So if i write 友 instead of 友達, does it also mean friend or not? I saw similar situations before, too. A kanji in the vocab gives the exact meaning. So why do we use the remaining part(達 in this case.) Now i think 友 as a prototype for friend and all “friend” based words will use 友 in it. Does it how Japanese work? (Sorry for bad English :confused:

友 (とも) and 友達 (ともだち) both mean “friend”. I think it is comparable to the English words “tie” and “necktie”. They can both mean the same, but “necktie” is more clear, because “tie” can also have other meanings - like a tie in a game.


But have you ever seen the single usage of 友? I didn’t. I think they don’t use it singular. Other usage i saw was 友だち, hiragana attached form. So it seems it is a bit different from tie-necktie, right?

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There is a lot of cases like this, it is just that they are different words. Usually the difference is a nuance / formality / or generation thing.

See: https://hinative.com/en-US/questions/2127182
and: https://hinative.com/en-US/questions/421741

The differences in usage are listed.

As for 友だち this is exactly the same as 友達, writing it like that is just a style choice and sometimes used to emphasize part of a word.

A search in a dictionary seems to indicate that 友 (とも) is a word.


Links helped a lot. ありがとう.

Wow! That was awesome. And detailed.

…and then there’s 友人. Get used to seeing lots of different words meaning the same thing. WK is loaded with them.

Yes. Japanese has synonyms, if that was your question. Some of them are more common than others. They don’t just have one word for every concept.

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In a correction to a mock postcard I had written on italki, a native speaker told me that the kanji 達 has a “solid” look, and so 友だち was more “friendly” in a casual written context.

I don’t think 友達達 is used very often (if at all). 友達 is singular and plural.

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It’s interesting how this is almost always a hangup point/point of disbelief for language-learners, despite similar “issues” existing in their own language.

And it’s not just for Japanese-learners surprised by synonyms existing here. Kids in my English classes in Japan are equally shocked by the existence of synonyms, as well as homonyms.

“Bat (baseball) and bat (animal) are the same word? How do you know which is which?”

Me: Wtf; Japanese is like 90 percent homonyms. You know the same way you know whether someone’s talking about housework or a house fire in Japanese.


There is a Love Live song that uses the On’yomi for 友, but is more in the terms of “friendship” then just friend. The song is 友情ノーチェンジ. (Insert shameless Love Live reference)

While I love your contribution to the discussion, I do have to point out that I just asked a coworker if he ever says 友達たち and he bluntly replied “no.” I also read a yahoo answers post in Japanese (clearly a definitive source, lol) and one person says that while 友達たち isn’t 100% false, it definitely isn’t a pretty word. Here is the link: https://detail.chiebukuro.yahoo.co.jp/qa/question_detail/q1329815428

Another person notes that while “友達” is already plural and thus doesn’t need an extra 達, 子ども is another word that implies plurality, but Japanese people often say 子どもたち.

For the record, my coworker also said that saying 友 definitely emphasizes singularity, while 友達 can be singular or plural. Another teacher told me that 友 is the most polite word (awkwardly polite actually), followed by 友人 and finally 友達. For kids or intimate friends we can also say 仲良し (bff) and 仲間 (your “gang” or “club” of friends.)

Also, that’s perhaps without using quotes, with using quotes you get far fewer results including the top one saying it is awkward and rare. If you must specifically say plural, 友人たち is a better choice.

Perfect synonyms are actually kind of rare, though, especially depending on context or formality. I think the OP was just asking if the two words were interchangeable, or if there was a nuance they should be aware of (which there totally is, actually.)

As was noted, adding quotes brings that total way down, and the top results of the search are all discussions about if it’s okay or exists. I certainly wouldn’t recommend people use it.

Even if people mean that, they for some reason have a habit of framing the question as something like “both of these kanji mean [whatever] why do I have to learn both / why do they exist?” which is kind of a silly question most of the time. Especially when the question is based on the fact that they both are translated as the same word in English, which is a meaningless standard to measure by.

This is totes true, I agree. I mean, learning one functional word for what you need to say is totally acceptable, but don’t act put out when native speakers use tons of synonyms just because they don’t know which word you happened to learn, haha.

And yeah, questioning the existence of synonyms is dumb.

I guess I just piped up because I didn’t get that vibe from this particular OP’s question.

This is exactly true, as per my Japanese teacher (who’s Japanese himself.) He does say 友達たち, while in theory correct, is not used - people just say 友達 for both singular and plural.

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