860 - ~ながら (although)

JLPT N2: ~ながら (although; even though; while)

The first usage of ~ながら that most of us will have learned is "while ~ing," as we saw back in this N5 lesson: [NDL #420] - JLPT N5: ~ながら (while).

There are a few other uses of ~ながら, though.

As we'll see in this lesson, ~ながら can be used to contrast something that is different than one would expect. In other words, it is used to say "although" or "even though."

I don't think this should come as that much of a shock. After all, we can use "while" in a similar way:

While he doesn't have a lot of money, he does have a lot of friends.

 

Here's an example of this Japanese:

彼は大金を稼いでいながら、なぜか借金まみれだ。
かれ は たいきん を かせいでいながら、 なぜか しゃっきん まみれ だ。
Even though he makes a lot of money, for some reason he’s up to his ears in debt.
Literally: “he + は + a lot of money + を + although (he) is earning, + for some reason + deeply in debt (=debt + -covered in) + だ.”


稼ぐ(かせぐ // to earn [e.g. money, a salary]
↓ ↓ ↓
稼いでいる(かせいでいる // is earning
↓ ↓ ↓
稼いでいながらかせいでいながら // although [he] is earning

 

👷 Construction 👷

You might be thinking that ~ながら just attaches to the ます-stem of verbs.

Alas, no. Unlike the ~ながら we saw in N5, there are a few patterns in which this ~ながら can be used:

V ますながら
i-adjectiveながら
NOUN / na-adjectiveながら
NOUN / na-adjectiveでありながら


We'll see all of these patterns in this lesson.

 

Here's another example:

代々木公園は大都会のど真ん中にありながら、豊かな自然を楽しむことができます。
よよぎこうえん は だいとかい の どまんなか に ありながら、 ゆたかな しぜん を たのしむ こと が できます。
Although Yoyogi Park is in the center of a giant metropolis, it is a place where you can enjoy bountiful nature.
Literally: “Yoyogi Park + は + big metropolis + の + very center + に + although it is (located), + bountiful / abundant + nature + を + enjoy + thing + が + can do.”

 

And another:

彼女は背が低いながら、バレーボール部のエースとして活躍している。
かのじょ は せ が ひくいながら、 バレーボールぶ の エース として かつやく している。
Although she’s short, she’s the star of the volleyball team. // Even though she’s short, she’s the best player in the volleyball club.
Literally: “she + は + although (she is) short (=stature + が + low + although), + volleyball club + の + ace / best player + as (=として) + activity + is doing.”

 

And another:

あのホテルはビジネスホテルでありながら、内装がおしゃれで朝食も豪華だ。
あの ホテル は ビジネスホテル でありながら、 ないそう が おしゃれ で ちょうしょく も ごうか だ。
Although that hotel is just a business hotel, it's stylishly designed, and it features a fantastic [luxurious] breakfast.
Literally: “that + hotel + は + although (it) is a business hotel, + interior design / decoration + が + fancy / stylish + で + breakfast + も + extravagant / wonderful + だ.”

 

There are a number of words that frequently pair up with this usage of ~ながら.

Some of these pairings are so common that they're pretty much standalone words, complete with their own dictionary entries.

One example of this you may have seen before is 残念 (ざんねん // disappointing) pairing up with ~ながら to give us the meaning of "unfortunately" or "I'm sorry to say:"

残念ながら名物の海鮮丼は売り切れだった。
ざんねん ながら めいぶつ の かいせんどん は うりきれ だった。
Unfortunately, the famous sashimi [seafood] bowl was sold out.
Literally: “unfortunately (=although disappointing) + famous product / specialty + の + sashimi bowl / seafood rice bowl + は + sold out + was.”


Here's a picture of 海鮮丼, by the way:



It's a mix of (raw) seafood atop a bowl of rice.

 

Aside from 残念ながら, you might encounter some other unique pairings somewhat less frequently, as in the following set phrase:

遅ればせながら、新年のご挨拶に参りました。
おくればせながら、 しんねん の ごあいさつ に まいりました。
I came to offer my belated New Year’s greetings.
Literally: “belatedly, + New Year + の + greeting + に + came (=[humble]).”


↑ Since 遅ればせ (おくればせ) is technically a noun, I could have highlighted 遅ればせながら like this: 遅ればせながら.

You'll probably never see it without ~ながら attached, though.

 

It will also be somewhat rare for you to see an adverb attaching to this usage of ~ながら, but it does happen:

彼女の日本語はゆっくりながら着実に上達している。
かのじょ の にほんご は ゆっくりながら ちゃくじつ に じょうたつ している。
Her Japanese is improving steadily, albeit slowly.
Literally: “she + の + Japanese (language) + は + although (it is) slow + steady + に + improvement + is doing.”

 

Finished!

You'll come across this usage of ~ながら quite a lot in everyday life, so this lesson is worth reading a few times.

Good luck making it all stick! ^^
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