817 - さいちゅう(に)

JLPT N3: 最中に(さいちゅうに // in the middle of; while; during

You know the word 最後 (さいご // last; final; end), right? For example, we saw it in the following sentence from [NDL #679] - JLPT N4: ~てもいい (permission):

最後の一個、食べてもいいですか。
さいご の いっこ、 たべてもいい です か。
Is it OK if I eat the last one?
Literally: “last + の + one (little thing), + may eat (=eat [and] + も + good) + です + か.”



If you're preparing for JLPT N3, you should also know the word 最初 (さいしょ // first; the beginning). We saw it in the following sentence from [NDL #177] - Sleepy Japanese:

最初のデートは退屈だったけど、だんだんと楽しくなってきた。
さいしょ の デート は たいくつ だった けど、 だんだん と たのしく なってきた。
Our first date was boring, but it's getting more fun now.
Literally: "first + の + date + は + boring / bored + was + but, + gradually + fun + has become (=become [and] + came)."



Being the kanji lover that you are, you may know that means something like "utmost," "most," or "extreme."

means something like "after," "later," or "behind." So 最後 (さいご // last; final; end) makes sense.

means "first (time)." So 最初 (さいしょ // first; the beginning) also makes sense.

No surprise, then, that putting the kanji , meaning "middle" or "inside," after gives us 最中 (さいちゅう // in the middle of; in the midst of), the use of which is the focus of this lesson.

 



We use 最中 (に) さいちゅう(に)》when describing being "(just) in the middle of" something.

An example:

デート最中に、急にお腹が痛くなったらどうしよう。
デート の さいちゅう に、 きゅうに おなか が いたく なったら どう しよう。
What’ll I do if my stomach suddenly starts bothering me in the middle of my date?
Literally: “date + の + in the middle of + に, + suddenly + stomach + が + hurting / painful + if (it) became + what’ll I do? / what should I do?”



 



👷 Construction 👷

There are two ways that you'll see 最中 (に) being used:

NOUN 最中(に)
V ている最中(に)


We already saw「NOUN 最中(に)」in our first example.

Here is an example of「V ている 最中(に)」:

彼女とは、インドを旅行している最中に出会いました。
かのじょ と は、 インド を りょこう している さいちゅう に であいました。
I met my girlfriend while traveling in India. // I met her while traveling in India.
Literally: “she / girlfriend + と + は, + India + を + traveling + am doing + in the middle of + に + met.”



Fairly straightforward, yeah?

At least, I hope you think so.

More examples may help...

 



 A:  
もう家を出ましたか。
もう いえ を でました か。
Did you already leave your house?
Literally: “already + house + を + exited / went out of + か?”



 B:
はい、今向かっている最中です
はい、 いま むかっている さいちゅう です。
Yes, I’m on my way right now.
Literally: “yes, + now + am heading (there) + in the middle of + です.”



↑ Note that sometimes we shouldn't put after 最中. In this example, since 最中 is at the end of the clause, we put the copula です after it. We'll see this in our next example, too. 

 



Last one:

今、食事している最中だから、あとでかけなおします。
いま、 しょくじ している さいちゅう だ から、 あと で かけなおします。
I’m in the middle of a meal right now, so I’ll call you back later.
Literally: “now, + meal + am doing + in the middle of + だ + because, + later + call (you) back.”



 



That's it. You've done it again!