709 - 上に(うえに)

JLPT N3: 上に (うえに // on top of; in addition to; aside from)

上 (うえ) means "above" or "on top of," yeah?

If you have a Japanese textbook sitting around, I'm guessing they've got a sentence like this in it:


テーブルの上に本があります。
テーブル の うえ に ほん が あります。
There is a book on top of the table.
Literally: “table + の + above / on top of + に + book + が + there is.”

The English phrase "on top of" can have figurative as well as literal meanings.

Literal: There is a book on top of the table.
Figurative: On top of being expensive, it's hard to get an appointment at that salon.

The same is true of the Japanese version of the phrase "on top of," 上に.

We saw the literal meaning in that sentence above. Here is an example of the figurative meaning:


あの美容院は高い上に、予約も取りづらいから、もう行かない。
あの びよういん は たかい うえに、 よやく も とり づらい から、 もう いかない。
On top of being expensive, it’s hard to get an appointment at that salon, so I’m not gonna go there anymore.
Literally: “that + beauty salon + は + expensive + on top of (=上に), + reservation + も + hard to take + because, + (not) anymore + won’t go.”

The speaker in the above sentence wants to make two points:

1)
あの美容院は高い
あの びよういん は たかい
That salon is expensive
Literally: “that + beauty salon + は + expensive ”

2)
予約も取りづらい
よやく も とり づらい
And it's hard to get an appointment (there)
Literally: “reservation + も + hard to take”

These two phrases are combined using 上に (うえに), "on top of":

あの美容院は高い上に、予約も取りづらい
あの びよういん は たかい うえに、 よやく も とり づらい
On top of being expensive, it’s hard to get an appointment at that salon
Literally: “that + beauty salon + は + expensive + on top of (=上に), + reservation + も + hard to take”

And all of that is said in order to reach the conclusion "so I'm not gonna go there anymore":

あの美容院は高い上に、予約も取りづらいから、もう行かない。
あの びよういん は たかい うえに、 よやく も とり づらい から、 もう いかない。
On top of being expensive, it’s hard to get an appointment at that salon, so I’m not gonna go there anymore.
Literally: “that + beauty salon + は + expensive + on top of (=上に), + reservation + も + hard to take + because, + (not) anymore + won’t go.”

We've studied another way to make a phrase like this before: し, which can be used when listing the reasons for something.

So we also could have said:


あの美容院は高い、予約も取りづらいから、もう行かない。
あの びよういん は たかい し、 よやく も とり づらい から、 もう いかない。
That salon is expensive, and it’s hard to get an appointment, so I’m not gonna go there anymore.
Literally: “that + beauty salon + は + expensive + and (=し), + reservation + も + hard to take + because, + (not) anymore + won’t go.”

The version with 上に sounds a little more emphatic than the version with し, but generally speaking the two sentences mean the same thing. I'd say that you hear し more often than you hear 上に, but both are valuable phrases to learn.

By the way, you can refer to this lesson for more info on し: [NDL #344] - JLPT N4: し (and, besides).


👷 Construction 👷

The word directly before 上に will be in plain form.

So if the word coming before 上に is an i-adjective, just leave it as it is. If it's a verb, make sure it's a plain-form verb.

When that word happens to be a NOUN, either the particle or である will be inserted before 上に.

When that word happens to be a na-adjective, either the particle or である will be inserted before 上に.

Summary:

i-adjective上に
Plain-Form Verb上に

NOUN上に
na-adjective上に

NOUN / na-adjectiveである上に

Ow, my brain.

Trying to think about all of that stuff when making sentences tires me out. Instead, I prefer to learn these kinds of things organically via exposure to the language. But it does help to read these breakdowns at least once when learning a new grammar point.


Our following examples, while perhaps not too complicated, might seem a bit lengthy to you.

Unfortunately, that's kind of unavoidable for sentences with 上に. They tend to have multiple clauses, which makes them longer.

Take things one word at a time, and I think you'll be all right...


タイは性的マイノリティに寛容上に物価も安いので、とても住みやすいです。
タイ は せいてき マイノリティ に かんような うえに ぶっか も やすい ので、 とても すみ やすい です。
In addition to people being open-minded toward gender minorities in Thailand, the cost of living is low, so it’s a really nice place to live.
Literally: “Thailand + は + (relating to) gender + minority + に + tolerant / open-minded + on top of (=上に) + cost of living / price of commodities + も + cheap + because, + very + easy to live + です.”

↑ As you can see here, we don't necessarily need to use the phrase "on top of" in our English translations.


Last of all, note that sometimes the in 上に will be dropped. The meaning does not change:


彼は保育士である、五児の父でもあるので、子供の扱いがうまい。
かれ は ほいくし である うえ、 ごじ の ちち でもある ので、 こども の あつかい が うまい。
Aside from being a nursery school teacher, he also has five kids, so he’s good at dealing with children.
Literally: “he + は + nursery school teacher + である (=is) + on top of (=上), + five children + の + father + also is (=でもある) + because, + children + の + handling / dealing with + が + skilled.”


去年は恋人に振られた、仕事もくびになって、つらい一年だった。
きょねん は こいびと に ふられた うえ、 しごと も くび に なって、 つらい いちねん だった。
Last year was rough. On top of getting dumped by my girlfriend [boyfriend], I also got fired from my job.
Literally: “last year + は + significant other / lover + に + was dumped + on top of (=上), + job + も + get fired (and) (=neck + に + become [and]), + painful / difficult + one year + was.”


That's all for 上に, but that's not all for in general, as it shows up in quite a few N2 grammar points.

Here are past lessons on two of them:
- [NDL #311] - JLPT N2: 上で (after having)
- [NDL #360] - JLPT N2: 上で (in order to)

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