Cool Particle – で – Causality

My brothers came for a visit over the holidays, and we had a small 手巻き寿司 party in their honor. One of my roommates brought his genki new girlfriend, and she brought her own even genkier girlfriend who is extremely interested in conspiracy theories. I don’t know how the subject came up, but it turns out that Treyvaud, also in attendance, is a descendant of a freemason. When she learned this, genki girlfriend’s genkier girlfriend got really excited and proceeded to explain an elaborate conspiracy theory only to be distracted midway through by a particularly tasty-looking slice of maguro.

When she finished eating, Treyvaud prompted her to continue her story with a simple, little で? It was awesome – so simple but perfect for the situation and extremely effective. She then said, “で…” and then continued her story.

This is a great example of the two different roles of で – conjunction and implier of causality.

Today let’s look at how it implies causality. The most common examples are ので and それで。 They have essentially the same role, but ので works between two clauses in a single sentence whereas それで begins a new sentence. Observe:

I drank lots of beer, so I became tired.

In more natural English: I got tired because I drank a lot of beer. (It’s tempting to maintain Japanese sentence order when you first start translating, and I’ve produced some embarrassing examples myself, but I think it’s fine to flip stuff around BECAUSE ENGLISH IS A DIFFERENT LANGUAGE.)

A couple of usage notes:

– You may be familiar with から in a similar role. (ビールをいっぱい飲んだから、眠くなった。) They are very similar. The main difference, according to my Japanese teacher in college, is that ので is more polite than から and should be preferred when talking to people more えらい than your measly self.

– After verbs, all you need is ので, but after nouns you should use なので. For example: 月曜日なので、仕事に行かなくてはならない。 I’s Monday, so I gotta work.

– In spoken Japanese, ので often gets slurred to んで. Example: 明日するんで、心配するな。I got that shit covered tomorrow, yo, so just chill.

And the それで variety:

If you don’t use them, compensatory vacation days expire after three months. So I’m thinking of taking a half day off next Wednesday and going to see a movie.

In both cases, the で acts as a police officer blowing his whistle and pointing an accusatory arm to the left. This! This is why that stuff to the right is happening!

Let us speak of で’s conjunctive abilities next time.

11 thoughts on “Cool Particle – で – Causality

  1. Wouldn’t that be, “I got *sleepy* because I drank a lot of beer”? I sometimes get thrown by the different parameters of tired; sleepy; 疲れる;ねむる。That might make an interesting post.

  2. Well, in English, tired does mean sleepy; it’s just in Japanese where the confusion happens, no?

    “I got that shit covered tomorrow, yo, so just chill.” —> seriously laughed out loud when I read this. I always end up writing translation notes like these in margins.

  3. Yeah, seriously. I’ve picked up a lot of bad speaking habits over here. For one thing, I’ve noticed I tend to say “maybe” a hell of a lot more than I used to.

  4. Your friend used it as a gentle booster to keep the convo moving, but the simple “で” can also be used angrily when calling someone out on a weak excuse.

    As in “So? Keep talking, ’cause that doesn’t sound like an excuse to me…”

    It’s all about the tone of voice/context, though.

  5. Yours is a marvelous bit of writing that turns the mundane into a fascinating read. Thank you!

  6. Julia: Definitely. I’ve actually got something similar in my post for tomorrow, so keep an eye out!

    Mark: Thanks! That made my day.

  7. Pingback: How to Japonese» Blog Archive » Cool Particle – で – Conjunction

  8. Huh…日本語 learner here…finally I think I understand this part in 池袋ウエストゲートパーク when タカシ keeps responding to his gang members with just a sort of snotty, \で?\ over and over (and a dozen other times I’ve heard this used in this way that I don’t recall right now…).

    Thanks. This was interesting and helpful.