Difference between 回答 and 答え

Hello,to whoever may read this ! :smiley:
As the title says,i was wondering about the difference between 回答 and 答え. Both mean “answer” (noun). I can’t seem to figure out the differences.
Thanks in advance !

2 Likes

答え is significantly more common than 回答 (although 回答 is also a very common word). I think overall 回答 is more formal, as is often the case when you have a onyomi/kunyomi word pair. As far as I can tell from a quick internet search, 回答 is more common in official contexts like when talking about polls.

Maybe a bit like “answer” and “response” in English?

If you must remember one of them, it’s definitely 答え which is a lot more versatile.

EDIT: I found this thread about this very question, although I can’t say that I find the accepted answer to be very clear:

7 Likes

May as well throw in 返信 and 返事 as well :slight_smile:

When it comes to the combination of these 4 when seeing them on KaniWani, it drives me nuts.

2 Likes

If you read them in sentences, you will learn what is the difference.

こちらに回答を入力してください
(Literally, “Here at, answer input please”)

It implies a response: You were asked a question - now please provide a response.

The best way to read the above Japanese is, “Please respond here.”

The difference between a response and answer is that a response doesn’t have to be correct.

答え is used as a correct response from a set of possible choices, such as in a test scenario, or when only a selection of responses is adequate.

3と4、何ですか

[答え] (and you would enter your response here, assumed to be correct)

Ref:

2 Likes

I found this answer from HiNative to be helpful.
It does bring up a different 解答 (kaitou) but I think this answers your question better.

Personally, I have only every seen 回答 on tests or forms, and I use 答え everyday (teaching English in Japan). I agree with the HiNative saying that 答え is the most broad way to use the word “answer” which can also mean respond in it’s own way. 回答 seems to refer to forms or documents specifically.

I think a helpful part of this is that when I thought of かいとう I would think of 回答 but my original thought was regarding 解答 which I see on JLPT prep textbooks. Seeing as that third “answer” is specifically for formal tests, it makes sense why I got those two homophones mixed up.

3 Likes

答え doesn’t have to be to a problem or quiz type question, or require restricted options. It can just be a response to being called as well, just as one example of how it’s not limited. 呼んでも答えがない is a dictionary example for 答え, and doesn’t imply right or wrong.

回答 could be used with regard to something that had limited choices, such as answers on a survey.

I don’t see the distinction you’re making.

9 Likes

呼んでも回答がない works better as “I called and got no response”, and my friends who are Japanese natives that I discussed this last night with (at length) seem to agree.

I’d like to see the dictionary you found that in, because I’d like to learn more! Thanks.

1 Like

You’re doubting the legitimacy of that usage of 答え?

It’s デジタル大辞泉.

That’s a usage of 答え that exists.

It would also be totally normal to say “answer” for the equivalent English sentence as well.

1 Like

Nowhere did I imply that I doubted its usage, and I’m sure it works fine. Thanks for your input.

I think with these 2 it’s a little easier. 返信 is specifically a digital reply, 返事 is a reply in general.

1 Like

I would change that to “a reply to physical or digital mail”, no?

手紙や電子メールに対して返事を送る。

1 Like

Mmm, looking up the ngram counts it was closer than I expected:

word count %
回答 305261 24.8%
答え 757623 61.4%
応え 137092 11.1%
33232 2.7%

jpdb puts 回答 at “top 5500” and 答え at “top 800” in its fiction focused corpus.

2 Likes

Yeah I was looking at JPDB mainly, I think since 回答 seems to be used a lot for things like polls and all sorts of standardized forms and tests it may explain why it’s less common in fiction and more common in things like newspapers for instance.

1 Like

Also more common in the workplace, especially in email/chat, maybe?
I did a search in the internal chat used at my company and 答え appears 16 times (but 7 are literally from my messages, before I realize 答え is not very appropriate in this context :sweat_smile:). 回答 and 返信 return both more than 100 hits (it caps at 100, so I don’t know the exact number) and 返事 returns 81 hits.

3 Likes

Now that’s a valuable datapoint in this discussion!

One other thing I noticed is that WaniKani itself uses 答え in the input box for readings, but given what I’ve read so far I think 回答 would be more strictly appropriate in this context?

1 Like

Yes, I understand the differences and the contexts in which each is used. The point I was aiming at was that when I am using KaniWani (or KameSame) and doing reviews these 4 are difficult to deal with. For each of these you are being prompted only with

“answer” or “reply”

Which could be any of the 4 in question.

1 Like