"What is the plural of cactus?" <- what is the equivalent tricky question for Japanese?

I had this question in an interview for a job (and aced it, btw :smirk:), and I was wondering what might be an equivalent question for a job involving Japanese? Something that is at the same time very well known to all learners (plurals and how they usually work in English), but at the same time something only people that have immersed in the language A LOT know (I suspect that a lot of native speakers might not know this, as well). Oh, it’s cacti, btw.

The plural of cactus

It can be “cacti”, “cactuses” or “cactus”

The only question that came to my mind that’s at this level is “when do you use は and が?”; every learner knows about this but only more advanced ones and natives know really when to use which one


Interestingly enough “cactuses” (or according to Merriam-Webster even just “cactus” - though I’ve never seen it used as a plural) is a valid plural as well. It’s also not really tricky, more of a question of “do you know this tiny bit of etymology or not” - it’s a word of Latin origin, so singular -us becomes plural -i except in some exceptional cases.

As for tricky questions… the first thing that comes to mind is the ol’ は vs. が. That still sparks debates and long essays whenever it’s asked :grinning_face_with_smiling_eyes:

I could also see a case for translating uses of 訳, maybe? It has a few uses that can sometimes be a bit tricky to translate.


That crossed my mind as well, but I guess I was hoping about something else idk. Also, when do you use one and when the other? :thinking:

Hmm, interesting thing about wake, you mean this: Jisho.org: Japanese Dictionary ?

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That’d be the one, it’s used in a few grammatical constructs that aren’t always completely in line with those translations. For instance: https://jlptsensei.com/learn-japanese-grammar/わけだ-wake-da-meaning/

The example sentences already show a variety of possible meanings/interpretations, and context is what’s gonna distinguish between them.

Reading these examples gave me my own idea what a tricky Japanese question could be! Which adjective is a na adjective and which is an i adjective! Because some seem as the other, but are actually not! Or which verbs that don’t look like godan verbs are actually godan verbs! Can’t think of an example rn, tho…

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Examples of godan verbs that might look like ichidan verbs - 帰る、要る、切る(but it has ichidan “friend” with the same reading - 着る)


Kanji reading or writing questions are commonly used for “tough” Japanese questions.


How do you pronounce “worcestershire sauce”? :grinning_face_with_smiling_eyes:


That’s easy when you know the kanji, though. Aside from (きら)い none of the な-adjectives end in い when written out kanji and all (as far as I know). There’s words like 綺麗(きれい)有名(ゆうめい)安静(あんせい), but when you see them with kanji it’s obvious they’re not い-ajectives.

So like the cactus question it feels more like “do you know the right bit of trivia” than “do you have a firm grasp of the language”

“Lea and Perrins”

Next question :grinning_face_with_smiling_eyes:


How to distinguish kanji in these kinds of hanko fonts


That’s super easy: ソース


“Tricky” kanji readings? Like 兎も角 or 出汁?


Rekt, didn’t know about that, but I checked Wikipedia rn.

嫌い is a good example, though maybe a bit easy?

Left and right arm come to mind to me, as well, going off of leebo’s input. It’s usually hidariude and migiude, but for baseball players they often say sawan and uwan.

Ooh, Napthalene is typing, I’m curious what she’ll say!


Tsk, tsk, not that part.

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This one brought to you by an ad in the subway showing a dude on a date humiliating himself by failing to read that word.
(It was an ad for the 漢字検定 by the way)


No, really :grinning_face_with_smiling_eyes:



Going off blind: errrr isagimokaku? Shukkyuu?


tomokaku and dashi respectively :wink: