Japanese

What Is The Japanese Word For “About”?

There are a lot of useful words out there that get used every single day. One of those words in both English and Japanese is the word “about.” You no doubt know this word from an English speaker’s perspective, but what is the Japanese word for about?

There are four sections below and each one covers a different situation where this word can be used. Read below to find the one you are looking for, or check them all out so that you know exactly how to use this word.

Using について (ni tsuite)

One way to say the word “about” is with the expression について (ni tsuite) in Japanese. This is the same word that you would use for situations where you could alternatively say “in regards to” or where you could use the word “concerning.”

In other words, when you’re talking about some subject matter or some item in question, then this is the word that you can use.

In order to help make this usage a little clearer, let’s use an example.

  • 勉強について
  • benkyou ni tsuite
  • about studying
  • regarding studying

So if there was a video on YouTube or just a post on someone’s blog that was talking about the action or habit of studying, then this is the word that they would use in the title.

Or let’s say that you wanted to talk to someone about a new book that you just read. As you hold up the book so that they can see it, you start off by saying この本について (kono hon ni tsuite) which means “about this book…” or “concerning this book…”

This expression is almost always written entirely in hiragana like I’ve shown above, but there are a couple of kanji that can be used if you wanted to use them. They are:

  1. に就いて
  2. に付いて

They mean the same thing, they are just spelled differently. Since writing it in hiragana is the most common way to see it, I always just stick to that.

Using 頃 (koro), くらい (kurai), and 約 (yaku)

The next word has to do with time. It is the word 頃 (koro) and gets attached on to other words as a suffix.

This word can be used to say “about 5 o’clock” when you want to give a general time instead of an exact one. Another way to phrase this in English would be by saying “approximately 5 o’clock.”

  • 午前5時頃から
  • gozen go ji koro kara
  • from about 5 AM

While 頃 has to be used with the time of day, the next word on our list くらい (kurai) can be used for other quantities.

So for example, let’s say that you’re throwing a party and your best friends asks if they can also invite some people. You want to get a general idea of how many people they plan on bringing, but since they aren’t sure who all can make it they give you a general number.

  • 6人くらいです。
  • roku nin kurai desu.
  • It’s about six people.

This word can also be used when talking about an amount of money, such as 10ドルくらい (juu doru kurai) which means “about $10” or when talking about an amount of time like 二時間ぐらい (ni ji kan gurai) for “about two hours.”

Note that this is different from giving a time of day which requires 頃 instead.

Also, sometimes the word くらい will change into the word ぐらい for phonetic reasons.

Now let’s talk about the final word in this section, which is 約 (yaku). Unlike the first two words in this part, the word 約 actually appears before the number and noun that it is counting.

However, just like the first two it means “about” or “approximately” when translated into English.

Let’s say that you weren’t sure how much money was left in your shoe box at home, so you asked your spouse to check it out real quick and let you know.

They might come back and say that there’s about $200 in there, give or take a buck.

  • 約200ドル
  • yaku ni hyaku doru
  • about $200

Using 大体 (daitai)

The word 大体 (daitai) is pretty common and means “roughly; about; approximately” and the like.

This might be the word you’re looking for when you want to say “about” but you’re not talking about a number of things or the time that an event is supposed to take place at.

That’s why I think the word “roughly” is a good interpretation of 大体. If you can exchange the word “about” with the word “roughly” and the sentence still makes sense, then it’s probably a good fit.

  • 彼らは大体同じ年齢です。
  • karera wa daitai onaji nenrei desu.
  • They are about the same age.

(Reverso Context)

This word also has a lot of other meanings, so if you see it while reading Japanese then there’s a good chance that it could mean something other than what we’ve been covering so far.

Hopefully the context of the sentence or the situation will provide enough information so that you can determine this particular word’s meaning.

Using 辺り (atari)

The Japanese word 辺り (atari) can also be used for “about” but is usually understood to mean “around” when it is used in reference to the location of something.

For example, the phrase 辺りを見回す (atari o mimawasu) means “to look about” or to look around your physical location.

(Hi Native)

This word is also seen as part of the expression ここら辺り (kokora atari) which means “about here” and is used when people are talking about something in their neighborhood.

That’s About All

That’s all that I’ve got for you in today’s lesson.

We’ve covered quite a few different ways to say “about” in Japanese depending on the context of the situation. Some of them can be used interchangeable, but others are reserved for specific situations. Hopefully the explanations and examples have helped you understand them.

If you’ve got any questions or comments that you would like to make in regards to this topic, then please feel free to do so by entering them into the box below.

Thanks!

2 Comments

  • Paul

    Great post-Nick on the many subtilties of the Japanese language.

    I do not speak Japanese, but I do speak French. It is my first language and I can relate easily to your description and use of the word “about”.

    As you mention, cross-referencing words between languages helps to improve both languages for the learner.

    Thanks, and keep up the great work. Very well written and interesting.

    Paul

    • Nick Hoyt

      Hey Paul, thank you for the kind words! And it’s pretty cool that you are bilingual! So you’ve got a pretty good understanding on how languages work. Unfortunately it’s kind of hard to appreciate it when you only know one language. I’ve always said that I learned more about English from studying Japanese than I ever did in school, lol!

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