You know what really grinds my gears? 先 and 近

What lies ahead

Last week

in a few days

recent years

How can something denote future AND past at the same time?
This hot garbage has been bugging me for forever, and after missing it once again, I decided to rant.


It doesn’t denote future and past at the same time. Something that comes ahead of something else on a timeline is in the past.

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前 is the one that gets my goat. It’s front but before/previously. (When actually thinking about the vocab they kind of make sense but I don’t wanna think that hard :tired_face:)


Let me get this straight.
“What is going to come”
“What has already passed”
isn’t different? lol

Again, think of a line. Someone in front of you in a queue comes before you.

先 doesn’t denote something that is to come.


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Okay, maybe this link helps?

When 先 is used in relation to time, it basically means a specific time in the future.
先 also means ‘first’ as in “You should do it first.” あなたはそれを先にやった方がいい。
When you use 先の~, it means ‘recent’ as in ‘the recent minister’. 先の大臣

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I think what @athomasm is trying to say is that the translation of 先 into future/past is limiting/improper.
It may be more like, “timeline” than before or after. So depending on context it may mean past or future. Like it’s more common to talk about the next few days than the next few years.
I’m sure someone more advance will be able to chime in.


That link only adds fuel to the fire. lol

When you use 先の~, it means ‘recent’ as in ‘the recent minister’. 先の大臣

In addition, 先の could mean ‘in the future’. 先のことは分からない。

Not to mention they said this:

When 先 is used in relation to time, it basically means a specific time in the future.

Yet most of WaniKani displays everything as ‘previous’, despite other places saying it can also mean future.

I find it hard to think of it in any other way when you have words like 先週 and 来週 literally meaning ‘previous week’ and ‘coming week’, and then flipping the script and saying 先日 to mean ‘in a few (coming) days’. Are these words not the ones we use to point in a chronological direction?

That’s not what 先日 means. 先日 means something like ‘the other day’ or ‘a few days ago’. 近日 would mean ‘in a few days’ or ‘coming days’.

Yeah. I definitely got that wrong, because this shit is confusing, thus this post. lol

Then maybe try another link? The first answer even uses a timeline maybe in a better way than I tried to do.

Yes, this is word can have conflicting meanings in certain contexts (these are called auto-antonyms), but I honestly think you may be making this harder for yourself then it needs to be.


Inflammable means flammable? What a country!


Yeah, the easy thing to do is ‘just memorize it’, but that doesn’t make it any less confusing. I wouldn’t be surprised if people have to ask to clarify if the person speaking means past or present with how often parts of sentences get dropped in Japanese.

That second link is really really good though, so thank you for that.


I fully understand and it is not always a satisfying answer to just be told to ‘just memorize it’, but even learners of English get told the same thing sometimes. As mentioned above, think of the word inflammable. By normal English rules that should be ‘not flammable’ but it actually means flammable. :thinking:

You’re welcome! Glad I could find you something that was helpful.

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先 just means “ahead.” You can think of 先生 as “one who came before me.” 先週 is the week that already came, ahead of 今週. この先 uses it as a noun, literally saying “this ahead.”

近 just means “near.” Does “near days” sound like past, or future? “Near years” is the only one that seems a little bit ambiguous, but even then I get the impression that people talk about the past recent years more than they talk about several upcoming years at once.

It’s just a matter of perspective. 先週 is the week that came before. この先 is what lies before you. Same word can be used in English, it’s just a change of perspective.


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