Wild Nihongo!
~たり~たりする

~たり~たりする

~たり~たりする Japanese Grammar Lesson

Grammar Type: Phrase

Essential Meaning: Do thing such as X and Y / Sometimes X and sometimes Y

Construction: 

  • (Verb / い-Adjective / な-Adjective / Noun + Copula) informal past + り(する)
    • E.g. はなしたり(する) [X does things such as speaking]
    • E.g. べたり(する) [X does things such as eating]
    • E.g. たかかったり(する) [X is sometimes expensive]
    • E.g. しずかだったり(する) [X is sometimes quiet]
    • E.g. 先生せんせいだったり(する) [X is sometimes a teacher]

Notes:

  • ~たり~たりする expresses an in-exhaustive listing of actions or states (implying that there may be additional unstated actions or states.) For an exhaustive listing, the regular て-Form is used instead. する follows the ~たり~たり structure regardless of the part of speech that is being listed in order to indicate the tense and formality of the sentence.
    • E.g. このレストランのステーキはおおきかったりちいさかったりする。[This restaurant’s steaks are sometimes large and sometimes small.] This sentence states that the steaks are sometimes large and sometimes small, and it also implies that the steaks are sometimes somewhere in between. Also note that する is used as the main predicate in this example even though the items being listed are adjectives.
  • Typically, only two actions or states are listed with ~たり~たりする, but it’s possible to list more. It’s also possible to list only one action or state.
    • E.g. ほんんだり、映画えいがたり、テープをいたりして日本語にほんご勉強べんきょうしている。[I’m studying Japanese by doing such things as reading books, watching movies, and listening to tapes.] In this example, three actions are listed. Also note that the ~たり~たりする clause can take the て-Form to connect with another clause.
    • E.g. 新聞しんぶんんだりして友達ともだちがくるのおっている。[I’m doing thing such as reading the newspaper while waiting for my friend to come.] In this example, only one action is listed.
  • When ~たり~たりする is not the final segment of a sentence and the main predicate is an adjective (i.e. not a verb), する may be omitted. If the main predicate is a verb, する can NOT be omitted.
    • E.g. うたったりおどったりとてもたのしかった。[Doing things such as singing and dancing was really fun.] In this example, ~たり~たりする is not the main predicate and the main predicate is an adjective. Thus, する can be omitted.
    • E.g. *わたしたちはテニスをしたりおよいだりあそんだ。[I enjoyed myself by doing things such as playing tennis and swimming.] This sentence is ungrammatical because する was dropped from ~たり~たり when the main predicate is a verb.
  • The slightly altered construction ~たり~たりだ is sometimes used to describe someone or something’s inconstant state (i.e. “A is sometimes X and sometimes Y“). These differing states are often polar opposites, indicating the subject’s inconsistency, unreliability, et cetera.
    • E.g. A: 毎日まいにちテープをいていますか?B: いいえ。 いたりかなかったりです。[A: Are you listening to the tape every day? B: No. I sometimes listen to it, and I sometimes don’t.]
    • E.g. 石川いしかわさんはたりなかったりでてにならない。[Ishikawa-san sometimes comes and sometimes doesn’t, so he’s unreliable.]

Example Sentences:

このレストランのステーキはおおきかったりちいさかったりする。[This restaurant’s steaks are sometimes large and sometimes small.]

わたしたちはうたったりおどったりした。[We did things such as singing and dancing.]

A: 毎日まいにちテープをいていますか?B: いいえ。 いたりかなかったりです。[A: Are you listening to the tape every day? B: No. I sometimes listen to it, and I sometimes don’t.]

わたしはニューヨークでミュージカルをたりコンサートをいたりした。[In New York, I did things such as watching musicals and listening to concerts.]

トムはたりなかったりする。[Tom sometimes comes and sometime’s doesn’t come.]

明日あしたあめったりんだりするでしょう。[I think it will rain off and on tomorrow.]

このみせさかなあたらしかったりふるかったりする。[This shop’s fish is sometimes fresh and sometimes old.]

日本語にほんご先生せんせい日本人にほんじんだったりアメリカじんだったりします。[Japanese teachers are sometimes Japanese and sometimes American.]

石川いしかわさんはたりなかったりでてにならない。[Ishikawa-san sometimes comes and sometimes doesn’t, so he’s unreliable.]

WILD Examples:

At 1:12, listen for this line: ほんんで、部屋へやかべいたり [Reading books that catch my eye, drawing pictures on the walls of my room (among other things)] This is an example where only one action is listed with ~たり.
Listen to this line from 0:49:「おまえ綺麗きれいだなぁ」ってってみたりする、どこかむねがぎゅっとなってけたりするの [I say things such as “You’re beautiful”, and I feel tightness somewhere in my chest and I begin to cry]

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