522 - そばから

This is my favorite type of N1 lesson: non-obscure language that is actually used in everyday life.

Sometimes studying N1 grammar feels like you're just studying for a test.

With grammar points like this one, though, we can feel that we're studying simply to improve our ability to use and understand this mysterious language. ^^

Go time.


JLPT N1: そばから (as soon as; the second)

Aside from being useful, this grammar point is also straightforward and easy to use.

そばから basically means "as soon as" or "the second."

That is, it is used to say "as soon as I do A, B happens." It's typically used in situations where B is something undesirable.

Case in point:

子供たちは、私が片付けるそばから家中をぐちゃぐちゃにしてしまう。
こども たち は、 わたし が かたづける そばから いえじゅう(うちじゅう) を ぐちゃぐちゃ に して しまう。
The kids (always) turn the whole house into a mess as soon as I’ve tidied it up.
Literally: “children + は, + I + が + tidy up + そばから + all over the house + を + messy / in shambles + に + end up doing.”

片付ける (かたづける) is "tidy up; clean up."

Add そばから and we get 片付けるそばから, "as soon as I've tided up."

Then we follow it with an undesirable thing that happens: 家中をぐちゃぐちゃにしてしまう, "they turn the whole house into a mess."

Let's read it again. Please ensure that you're reading every line, including every word in the literal breakdown:

子供たちは、私が片付けるそばから家中をぐちゃぐちゃにしてしまう。
こども たち は、 わたし が かたづける そばから いえじゅう(うちじゅう) を ぐちゃぐちゃ に して しまう。
The kids (always) turn the whole house into a mess as soon as I’ve tidied it up.
Literally: “children + は, + I + が + tidy up + そばから + all over the house + を + messy / in shambles + に + end up doing.”


If you're approaching N1 level, constructing these sentences will be very easy.

All we need to do is attach そばから to a plain form verb in present or past tense.


V るそばから

V たそばから

Examples follow...



お父さんと飲むと、飲み干すそばからまた注がれるので、次の日必ず二日酔いになります。
おとうさん と のむ と、 のみほす そばから また つがれる ので、 つぎ の ひ かならず ふつかよい に なります。
Whenever I drink with my dad, he fills my drink up the second I finish it, so I’m guaranteed to get a hangover the next day.
Literally: “father + と + drink + と, + drink up / drain (a cup) + そばから + again + have poured + ので (=because), + next + の + day + without fail / certainly + hangover + に + becomes.”



韓国語の単語はどれも似ていて覚えづらい。覚えたそばから忘れていってしまう。
かんこくご の たんご は どれも にていて おぼえ づらい。 おぼえた そばから わすれて いって しまう。
Korean words are hard to memorize because they’re all so similar. I forget them as soon as I learn them.
Literally: “Korean (language) + の + vocabulary words + は + all of them + are similar (and) + hard to memorize. + learned + そばから + end up forgetting.”

↑ This describes me perfectly. Korean words all sound the same! But maybe Japanese felt like that at some point, too... maybe...



彼は本当に口が軽い。誰にも言わないと約束したそばから誰かに言ってしまう。
かれ は ほんとう に くち が かるい。 だれ に も いわない と やくそく した そばから だれ か に いって しまう。
He really can’t keep his mouth shut. As soon as he promises not to tell anyone something, he goes and tells someone.
Literally: “he + は + truly + has a loose tongue / can’t keep a secret (=mouth + が + light). + (to) anyone (=who + にも) + won’t tell + と + promise + did + そばから + someone + に + ends up telling.”


All done, yo.

Next time you're complaining about something that gets messed up the second you do it, try and use this grammar point.

Even if you totally mess it up, that will certainly help improve your ability to use it in the future. I find that shame is a great sensei.