Vocab meaning & usage questions

Hello everyone :slight_smile:

There’s a topic for short vocab questions but I haven’t found a topic for quick questions on vocab usage. There are a few topics for separate words so I almost created another one just for 1 word.

But I’m sure many of other learners have vocab-related questions that are too small for a stand-alone topic. And since correct vocab usage is not less important than grammar and is often hard to understand from a dictionary, I’d like to start this topic.

And the first vocab I’m struggling with is:
せっかく (折角, but commonly written in kana) - WK gives provides a meaning “with trouble”. So does jisho.org and some other sources. But most of the examples don’t really translate it this way. My tutor said the it’s should be translated as “precious”. But this also doesn’t seem to be the full extent of this word’s meaning.

Could you help me understand when one should use this word? What kind of connotation does it possess?

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せっかく is a flexible word whose meaning or translation can vary depending on the context in which it’s used. It’s generally used in a situation where there has been effort put forth, or there is some opportunity that exists, and that it would be a shame to waste it. For example:

せっかくケーキを焼いたのに、誰も食べてくれなかったから、がっかりした。

This is someone expressing how they went through the trouble of baking a cake, but they were disappointed because no one ate it. “Precious” isn’t a very natural English translation in this case.

I have seen sentences where the translation was more along the lines of what your tutor said.

仕事でせっかくのクリスマスが台無しになった。
My precious Christmas was ruined because of work.

So it just depends on how it’s used in the sentence and what type of scenario is being expressed. It’s one of those words that’s definitely not 1:1 with English.

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It looks like one of those slippery words that don’t really have an exact one-to-one translation. The example sentences here are interesting:

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This is usually taught as a grammar point, not as a vocab on its own.

http://www.jgram.org/pages/viewOne.php?tagE=sekkaku

BTW, I’ve never seen it written in kanji in real life.

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It’s generally used in a situation where there has been effort put forth, or there is some opportunity that exists, and that it would be a shame to waste it.

Thanks for the brilliant summary, I understand it much better now.

@Leebo yeah, I see how it can be a grammar point. Thanks for the link, that site looks useful!

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