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さ / み

さ / み

さ / み Japanese Grammar Lesson

Grammar Type: Suffix

Essential Meaning: -ness / -ty


  • (い-Adjective / な-Adjective) Stem + さ
    • E.g. たか [Height]
    • E.g. しずかさ [Quietness]
  • い-Adjective Stem + み
    • E.g. いた [Painfulness]


  • さ is used to nominalize adjectives. For example, the adjective くろい = black, while くろ = blackness, which can be used as a noun. Other examples include: あたらしさ [Newness]、はや [Speed]、なが [Length]、しろ [Whiteness]、おおきさ [Size]、つよ [Strength]、and よさ [Goodness]. Notice that よい is used rather than いい to create the noun form よさ.
  • な-Adjectives are seldom used with さ, but some idiomatic examples include 便利べんり [Convenient-ness]、忠実ちゅうじつ [Faithfulness]、のどかさ [Tranquilness]、正確せいかく [Correctness]、完璧かんぺき [Perfection] and にぎやかさ [Liveliness]
  • When a Japanese adjective has an adjectival antonym (e.g. big vs small, easy vs difficult, deep vs shallow), the positive counterpart tends to acquire the meaning of absolute degree (e.g. おおきさ means “size” and not just “bigness”; おも means “weight” and not just “heaviness”). Other examples include:
    • E.g. あつ [Breadth] vs うす [Thinness]
    • E.g. おも [Weight] vs かる [Lightness]
    • E.g. むずかしさ [Difficulty] vs やさしさ [Easiness]
    • E.g. うれしさ [Joy] vs かなしさ [Sadness]
    • E.g. ふか [Depth] vs あさ [Shallowness]
    • E.g. たか [Height] vs ひく [Lowness]
    • E.g. あつ [Heat] vs さむ [Coldness]
    • E.g. [Density] vs うす [Thinness]
    • E.g. おおきさ [Size] vs ちいささ [Smallness]
    • E.g. ひろ [Size of space] vs せま [Smallness of space]
    • E.g. つよ [Strength] vs よわ [Weakness]
  • み is another suffix that is used to nominalize adjectives. み is used in directly perceptual situations (whereas さ is more analytical and is used to measure some quality). In other words, さ indicates a degree or amount, and み indicates a state of being that is not objectively measurable. In Japanese, nasal sounds (e.g. み, む, et cetera) tend to be associated with concreteness and human perception.
    • E.g. あつみのあるカーペット [Carpet that has a feeling of depth] み indicates a general subjective feeling of depth that is not objectively measurable.
    • E.g カーペットのあつさは3センチです。[The thickness of the carpet is 3 cm.] さ indicates a specific measurement of the carpet’s depth.
    • E.g. あのひと面白おもしろみがないね。[That person doesn’t have a sense of interestingness.]
    • E.g. *あのひと面白おもしろさがないね。[That person doesn’t have a measure of interestingness.] This sentence is strange because “interestingness” is not a measurable quantity. It does not fit with さ.
    • E.g. たのしみにしています。[I’m looking forward to it.]
    • E.g. *たのしさにしています。[I’m looking forward to it.] This sentence is strange because “fun-ness” or “pleasure” is not an objectively measurable quantity. It does not fit with さ.
  • み is used only with a limited number of い-Adjectives. They tend to be adjectives of perception:
    • い-Adjectives of pain / pleasure:
      • E.g. いた [Painfulness]
      • E.g. くるしみ [Painfulness]
      • E.g. かなしみ [Sadness]
      • E.g. たのしみ [Pleasure]
    • い-Adjective of flavor:
      • E.g. うま [Deliciousness / Savoriness]
      • E.g. から [Spiciness]
      • E.g. あま [Sweetness]
    • Other い-Adjectives
      • E.g. あか [Reddishness]
      • E.g. あたたかみ [Warmness]
      • E.g. あつ [Thickness]
      • E.g. ふか [Depth]
      • E.g. よわ [Weakness]
      • E.g. つよ [Strength]

Example Sentences:

このうちのひろさはちょうどいい。[The size of this house is just right.]

富士山ふじさんたかさはどのぐらいですか。[What this the approximate height of Mt. Fuji?]

日本語にほんごむずかしさがよくわかりました。[I keenly understood the difficulty of Japanese.]

アメリカのよさはパイオニアスピリットでしょう。[Perhaps one of America’s good qualities is its pioneering spirit.]

WILD Examples:

At 0:43, listen for this line: あまりのよわ…ショッキング! [The excess in weakness. It’s shocking!] さ implies that weakness is a measurable quantity, and Koiking has a high measure of weakness.
At 2:05, listen for this line: かなしみほしかげに, かなしみつきかげ [Sadness lies in the shadow of the stars, sadness lies in the shadow of the moon]
The first line of this song is: かぜのつよがちょっとこころさぶりすぎて [The strength of the wind is rattling my heart a little too much]

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