So Many Words That Almost Mean "Soon"

There are a few words that mean “soon” or something close to that: 早く, 近々, 間もなく, and 近日. But then there’s 早々, which means “as soon as,” despite looking like something between 早く and 近々. And then there are 早速 and 今すぐ, which almost mean “soon.” I realize I could just add my own definitions and make them all “soon,” but I don’t want to do that because I know that there’s nuance to these words. I know that 早速 and 今すぐ are the most immediate words (which is why they mean “immediately”), and I know that 早く can also mean “early” or “fast.” Does anyone have advice for keeping them straight?

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Context sentences, I think. There is a bit of an overlap between some of these and some are more or less synonymous, but context will help with sorting that out.

Also, be aware that some expressions are more formal than others. For instance, 少々 is a fairly formal way of saying “a little” or “a bit”, but that doesn’t mean ちょっと can’t be used in certain scenarios.

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This is a good point. Because of the hierarchical structure of Japanese society, Japanese probably has more synonyms for some things than other languages because of the varying levels of politeness.

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grammar is the same, I just got to know like 5 or 6 ways to say soon or “as soon as”

I got really sad, my memory doesnt help, most of them I never heard before in anime or other media.

same to whenever, ever since, although… many ways to say

For me, I use the same meaning to make it easier to remember. The main priority is to get the word into long-term memory as soon as possible. This would sound like a piece of bad advice. You will learn the nuance when you get more reading experience and know which word should be suitable for particular sentences. Of course, you can always add more synonyms in the future to accommodate your learning experience. Like a child trying to learn a language, you go from easier words instead of juggling with complex words which harder to remember and explain.

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there will undoubtedly be some who disagree with this idea, but I think you should probably just go the easy route — answer ‘soon’ for 早く, 近々, 間もなく, and 近日, and just construct some mnemonic for the other two to avoid confusion — something like

早々 - 早速 - 早く:
adverbial of 早い (early) > early (adv)/soon
早々 has repetition mark so has repeated word: “as soon as
早速 cf. others, or speed > driving > turning left/right > right away (eh. pretty bad, ik.)

今すぐ is the longest (orthographically speaking) so it gets the answer with the word with the most letters — immediately. You can think of it in terms of ‘complexity’ too, I guess.

tbh, I wouldn’t worry too much about these. Some people might say that this is abuse of WK override/double-check but I think it doesn’t really matter as long as you understand that they’re temporal adverbials with some connection to the immediate or near future.

The thing is, WK on its own will never get you to full literacy, understanding all the nuances of every word you read. No SRS system can do that, really, because of the limitations of the system itself. The only way you can gain this level of comprehension is by reading and listening content in the target language.

edit: re. UltraViolet’s claim that the hierarchical structure of Japanese society influences the lexicon to such a degree — I don’t think it’s necessarily untrue, but speech registers exist in practically every language. Japanese is not really unique in having many synonyms for simple concepts such as temporal relation — even English has synonyms (or near-synonyms) such as “soon”, “in a bit”, “shortly”, “immediately”, “instantly”, “in a minute”, “in a sec”, “in a jiffy”… the list goes on. You need only crack open a thesaurus.

Even on the personal pronouns — Japanese with its endless variety is, of course, not unique in that regard. Many Indo-European languages retain T-V distinctions; English is an outlier in that regard. However, it is rather illogical to say that the amount of synonyms would rise as a natural consequence of speech registers — does that also mean that speakers of such languages with less stratified social structures would be unable to articulate and differentiate between such levels of formality? Formality is not only encoded in the utilized words (as synonyms), but also in rhythm, structure, and phrasing.

It sounds almost Sapir–Whorfian. Does the fact that Hawaiian does not distinguish ‘father’ from ‘uncle’ mean that they have no way of conceptualizing the difference?

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早速 also has a more metaphorical meaning of being quick or to the point when doing something or talking about something (早速ですが。。。). Probably that’s why the main meaning in WaniKani is “without delay”.

間もなく I’ve heard only in more formal contexts (letters/emails, train announcements, etc.).

Out of all of these, I would probably leave 近日 as “coming days” or similar、because its meaning is a little more nuanced.

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I don’t know enough about their usage forms to interject anything :wink: but tbh I really can’t imagine a beginner having to keep all that in their head when reading — the WK answers are called glosses and not definitions for a reason.

It’s definitely useful to know this, don’t get me wrong! But I think the best way to learn these nuances is through consuming native content, not through an SRS like WK.

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Hahaha, I’m afraid I have to agree with you on this :smiley: . Unfortunately, my perspective is already quite biased. Apologies for that!


Detailed is a different PoS and the meaning of a kanji, so this should probably be blocked

Apparently it can also be used as a な-adjective with that meaning though. In any case the difference is not substantial, and since WK offers a strictly JA > EN (recognition) SRS you would identify the correct part of speech from context anyway.

Oh dear, if you try to match part of speech you will not get far - simply put they just don’t map very well across the two languages, because you’ll get in an argument between two camps, for example with “na adjectives” you get the ones who say “if it translated in english as an adjective it’s an adjective” and the ones like me who say “if it acts like a noun it’s a noun”
Same with WK’s handling of verbs forcing you to write them with “to” in front, because of the bizarre conception that the dictionary form of a Japanese verb is like an infinitive in english? Which, just, no. Grammatically the english infinitive maps much better onto the て form - 食べる should be translated as “eat” not “to eat”. And this will practically never cause confusion because it’s very easy to see that something is a verb - for starters very few nouns end in u.

TLDR don’t worry too much about parts of speech in WK answers, I often add user synonyms for other parts of speech in English because trying to remember which one it arbitrarily wants is a waste of time

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Just out of curiosity — what’s the reasoning behind

I don’t think I’ve heard this claim before.

Incidentally I don’t think the WK team is really claiming that the infinitive is the best equivalent, anyway. It just so happens that, when teaching English verbs, many will present them in the form “to ~”, to disambiguate the verbal form from any otherwise identical words that belong to different parts of speech. For example, “forge”, “dispair”, “stain”. In this way the infinitive form signals the verb PoS. Plus, beginners might not know the final-kana general rules of how -/(C)u/ finals are verbs, -/((ra)si)i/ are adjectives, and such.

It’s actually kind of interesting how many of these verbs also act as adjectives when in the past tense — quite similar to the equivalent construction with い-adjectives in Japanese.

The function of the english infinitive is for the most part to form chains of verbs - only the verb is conjugated and any other verbs in the chain are in the infinitive. e.g. Please try to eat (infinitive) → 食べてみてください. which could be literally translated as Please give to see to eat.
Of course some of its other functions straight up have no equivalent in english and the i-stem also can and often does function in this way, but one thing we can agree on is that the dictionary form never does anything like this. It pretty much exclusively means almost the same thing as English’s “present” tense - I put that in air quotes because that tense is also badly named in English - I eat steak doesn’t usually mean that you are presently eating steak, it means that in general you eat it, and it has more relevance to the future than the present. If you want to clearly specify the present you do the exact same thing as Japanese and switch to a “am eating” structure that’s very analogous to the -ている structure.

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This is a very good point about how WK works in general. Their system is very fine-tuned to the needs of beginners but doesn’t allow the necessary customization options that can that can remove the childproofing for advanced users

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近く… Oh it means near? Oops.

I see. I suppose that point makes sense — many modal verbs in English go with the infinitive. However, I don’t really see why the fact that the infinitive isn’t really commonly used by itself is important here — while the simple present tense might usually be used to carry a “frequentative” (sorry, forgot the correct terminology) modality, by itself it doesn’t really carry that.

One point I think is important to consider is the context here — that these infinitives are being used as glosses for Japanese verbs in a SRS flashcard system. If you consider the Japanese dictionary form of a verb to be the “stem” (loosely speaking), then you can construct a standard for the glosses of each verb. I think we disagree here — I don’t really see the harm in using the infinitive as the gloss for the dictionary form, because even though you do have to type an extra "to " in every entry, it helps clearly mentally disambiguate the verb from the other PoS.

I just don’t think it’s really relevant that the infinitive has a grammatical and contextual function that’s distinct from the Japanese dictionary form — WK isn’t really built to teach grammar, anyway, and the infinitive is the most obvious choice for if not a grammatical, then morphological (?) equivalent. I don’t know if this standard is universal, but the infinitive is often used in dictionary entries for the same disambiguating purposes as I propose WK is using them for.