(Level 3) 正しい (Correct) meaning explanation is suspicious

Currently, the explanation for 正しい is:

Meaning Explanation
Ending with an い tells you that this word is an い-adjective. So since you know that the kanji 正 means “correct,” what is the adjective version of that word? Well, it’s also correct.

Why would I look for an adjective version of the word correct, when correct is already an adjective (unless you write to correct to make it a verb)? Is correct as 正 not an adjective in Japanese?

Also, how does this explanation link to the assigned meaning (true) of 正しい?

Any help here will be greatly appreciated! :rocket:

正す is the verb for “to correct” so that’s the comparison, presumably. They’re just being a bit silly in asking an obvious question and answering it. That’s the usual tone of WK explanations.


It sounds to me like you’re maybe mixing the pink (kanji) and purple (vocab)? The pink kanji cards give you the general English meaning/concept of the kanji, but not all kanji can be words alone. WaniKani just chooses a relevant English word for the kanji concept. The English word’s part of speech sometimes feels pretty arbitrary (since we are frequently given verbs/adjectives/nouns made with the same kanji), so I sometimes add the same concept as different parts of speech, so for 正 , I might add something like “correcting.” I haven’t done so for 正 in particular but I can’t remember which kanji I have done.

To be an adjective in Japanese, it does need the additional hiragana to become 正しい. You might see just 正 by itself like on a tv gameshow, but I think it’s a bit more similar to the “ding ding ding” you hear on English gameshows.

Some more examples
赤・the color red (ok as a word alone)
赤い・red (adjective)
青・the color blue (also ok as a word alone)
青い・blue (adjective)
For these ones, WK will give you the same English meaning even though the parts of speech are different.


Edit (first post was too confusing):

They are simply trying to make sure you don’t confuse it with the verb (正す).

Dunno who you’re replying to, but before explaining the basics of Japanese, be aware that @Leebo has already reached level 60 on WaniKani twice, and reset twice, so if something’s not quite coming across clearly in his posts, your best bet is to ask for clarification.

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I didn’t get the sense it was directed at me.

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You’re the newbie around here. @CDR-Strawberry is on level 21. :stuck_out_tongue:


I think Maulrus was refering to the OP not @Leebo


Well, I’m completely inobservant. Could have sworn he was the OP.

Don’t mind me. Blame the big Christmas lunch.


The thread starter :slight_smile: lol. I was confused by what they was asking and thought perhaps that they were asking why does 正しい need an adjective form. I know Leebo knows more than me :upside_down_face:.

Are you sure that you are not the one confusing things? As far as I know an adjective is an adjective, no matter if you use it in an attributive or predicative way. (Or am I the confused one now?)

For the etymology, I presume it’s this: 正 (ただ) is the Japanese root meaning “correct,” and 正す is just 正 + する. 正す goes to 正し, which is basically a noun but is only used in certain verb conjugations (正します, お正しになる お正しします. Pop on an -い and you make it an adjective 正しい.

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I simply meant that adjectives in Japanese can also be used as a descriptive noun is used in English and that one of the reasons why 正しい needs an adjective form.

It is, of course, still an adjective, however that is not what we would call it in English if the word was used that way. Correct is an adjective, but also a noun depending on how it is used; that’s all I meant.

I did not mean to confuse things. I believe I may have misunderstood the question though, I thought the thread-starter was asking why 正しい needs an adjective form.

I changed my post to more directly address the thread-starter’s question. I am far too hasty and should have read through the question better :sweat_smile:; my apologies, I will endeavour to do better in the future.

According to an article I’m reading (which I found because your post made me curious about the etymology too), ただ really just means ‘exactly as such, with no additional elements’, and so in the particular case of ‘correct’, something is ‘correct’ because it’s no different from the standard/model.

ただす is indeed probably ただ+する, but in Classical Japanese, する was just す, so it was quite literally ただ+す.

Not quite. It’s a しい-adjective, and in Classical Japanese, the end-of-sentence form for both い-adjectives and しい-adjectives (which are now just a type of い-adjective) was 〜し. The difference was in how they inflected (i.e. changed forms):
しい-adjectives – 〜し→〜しく
い-adjectives – 〜し→〜く
So actually, it was just ただ+し, which is now ただ+しい.

Side note: more on 〜しい:

Definition from Goo’s dictionary:

My translation:
‘Attaches to nouns, the irrealis [i.e. negative] stem of verbs, doubled words and the like and creates adjectives. Expresses the idea of appearing as such, or being felt in such a manner. おとなしい、よろこばしい、どくどくしい’


To add, there are a bunch of verbs that dictionaries list as ending in す or する. I don’t know which is considered more “correct” in general, or if it depends word to word. For example, 訳す and 訳する. It gives me headaches because there are some overlaps in conjugations (e.g. 訳した), but others are different. So I can’t always tell which is being used when reading. This doesn’t matter for reading comprehension since the meaning is the same, but it does mean I don’t know which of the two versions is being used in case I wanted to use it with a conjugation where they differ.


Could you provide an example of how not knowing which verb is used might be a problem? I think you’re free to use either verb in your own speaking or writing as long as they’re both in the dictionary. I suspect the version with する is often a slightly more ‘modern’ version, but I doubt that either is wrong. 大辞林 quite happily lists 訳す, for instance, as『「訳する」に同じ』, with the only difference being the conjugation pattern.

As far as I’m aware, the only truly troublesome class of する verbs are the single kanji + する verbs that end in 〜っする. Those have a special conjugation pattern, which I’ll need to look up being getting back to this thread. I haven’t seen them in a while, so I remember nothing other than a certain 〜せられる appearing under one of the forms. I can’t remember which one though. EDIT: Answer found. 〜される is now the recommended passive form, but ~せられる isn’t wrong. See details below.

I’m referring to prevalence of a word, not whether it is technically correct. There are a lot of words from the dictionary (in any language) that you could use and technically be correct, but you could sound very unnatural. If the vast majority of native speakers use one of them for conjugation purposes, you may get looks if you use the other. I’m not saying that is the case, just that it’s been a slight concern of mine.

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I mean, the other possibility is that people get impressed. :stuck_out_tongue: More seriously though, I see where you’re coming from. Here’s what I’ve found, though I don’t know if the ‘rule’ I’m about to explain is universal.

In the process of looking for answers about 〜せられる, I found that there’s apparently a trend towards 〜する (サ変 – a type of conjugation pattern linked to する and the classical す) verbs becoming 〜す (五段) verbs, and not the other way around as I suspected earlier. I guess this might be because 五段 verbs feel better integrated into the language, whereas する verbs are essentially a verbalisation of another word. Here’s my source: 日本語勉強の問題(動詞変形:発せられる) - 言葉が発せられる... - Yahoo!知恵袋 I’ll just extract the relevant bit about the trend, which is right at the end. This trend is mentioned on the Japanese Wikipedia page about サ変 verbs as well.

The short answer: 五段 prevails in the most ‘common’ cases. Structures that require slightly rarer/more literary verb forms (like ば) tend to allow する to take over. Details below:

Quotes from the answer and part of my interpretation

その場合 (i.e. when サ変 and 五段 are competing)どちらが正しいか ではなく、どちらが有力かという観点から語られることが多い といえます。”揺れている語形”というわけです。
(Emphasis mine)

According to the answerer, it’s not so much a matter of which is ‘right’ as which is ‘dominant’/holds greater sway. We could speak of ‘vacillating word forms’.

例えばサ変「略する」は、五段「略す」へと移行中です。 未然形は五段が強く(「略さない」「略そう」など)、終止・ 連体形は五分五分、仮定形はサ変が有力(「略すれば」)、 命令形は五段が有力(「略せ」)、といえます。 よって、仮に「発す」という五段動詞を認めれば、「発される」 の「発さ」は五段の未然形ともいえるわけです。

The example raised is that of 略す.

Here are the general trends according to the answerer:

  • Irrealis (e.g. negation, passive form, volitional form (is this really under irrealis?) ): 五段 pattern (〜さ)
  • Sentence-final/relative clauses: 50-50. Both are common.
  • ば-conditional: サ変=like する (〜すれば)
  • Imperative (commands/orders): 五段

So to answer your question, it seems like 五段 prevails in the most ‘common’ cases. Structures that require slightly rarer/more literary verb forms (like ば) tend to allow する to take over.

As for my own question, again with reference to that Chiebukuro answer,

It seems that in modern Japanese, the 〜される form is recommended. 〜せられる is correct, but feels old, like pre-WWII Japanese, and thus is only used for

  1. Sounding old-fashioned/literary (古風/文語)
  2. The honorific passive form (which can also be expressed with 〜される)

The way I tend to think of it is this:

When a word is introduced to you on WaniKani, you already have some knowledge of the kanji it includes.
The purpose of the mnemonic, therefore, it to guide you from an understanding of the components of a word to the meaning of the word itself.

A kanji can often have a very broad range of meanings and functions. Therefore, the purpose of a wors mnemonic is often to narrow down that range to what the word in question actually describes.

For example, the words 正しい and 正す both use the same kanji, and both have meanings having to do with correctness, but they have different roles in a sentence; one is an adjective describing the property of being correct, and the other is a verb describing the act of correcting.
The purpose of the mnemonics, therefore, is to allow you to look at each of these words and tell which is which.

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