323 - がいちばん

Today we're talking about stuff that's #1, or...

一番
いちばん
number one; best; first

Specifically, we're looking at talking about the best/first/most of things.

Imagine, for example, that we're talking to a "Mr. Walker," and we want to ask him what his favorite sport is.

Now, the easy way to ask this would be:

ウォーカーさんは一番好きなスポーツは何ですか。
ウォーカーさん は いちばん すきな スポーツ は なん ですか。
What is your favorite sport, Mr. Walker?
Literally: "Walker-san + は + number one + liked + sport + は + what + ですか."

You actually might want to memorize that sentence pattern:

一番好きな [THING] は何ですか。
いちばん すきな [THING] は なん ですか。
What's your favorite [THING]?
Literally: "number one + liked + [THING] + は + what + ですか."

That's usually my go-to sentence pattern when asking someone what their favorite of something is.

But the grammar we're looking at today is a little more complicated, sadly. (Feel free to cry, if you must.)


Key Phrase:

~の中で
~の なか で
of ~

中 means "middle," or "inside." To explain that formation above a bit better, let's insert some English words.

Imagine I wanted to say a fancy sentence like this in English:

Of sports, which is your favorite?

In Japanese, we could say:

Sports の中で, what is your favorite?

Moving on...


JLPT N4: ~がいちばん


First, an example, POW:

A:
ウォーカーさんはスポーツの中で何がいちばん好きですか。
ウォーカーさん は スポーツ の なか で、 なに が いちばん すき ですか。
What is your favorite sport, Mr. Walker?
Literally: "Walker-san + は + sports + の inside で, + what + が + number one + liked + ですか."

B:
バスケットボールがいちばん好きです。
バスケットボール が いちばん すき です。
Basketball is my favorite.
Literally: "basketball + が + number one + liked + です."

Now, a breakdown...

スポーツの中で何がいちばん好きですか。
Sports in the middle of, what number-one liked is?

I wish we talked like that in English. Alas, no.

If you didn't already guess it, we can replace the word スポーツ with lots of words.

CATEGORY の中で何がいちばん好きですか。

Lots of Words:
映画、ドラマ、漫画、食べ物、お寿司
えいが、ドラマ、まんが、たべもの、おすし
movie, (TV) drama, manga, food, sushi

映画の中で何がいちばん好きですか。
ドラマの中で何がいちばん好きですか。
漫画の中で何がいちばん好きですか。
食べ物の中で何がいちばん好きですか。
お寿司の中で何がいちばん好きですか。
What is your favorite movie / (TV) drama / manga / food / sushi?


Bad News.

Maybe you were thinking, Hey, this isn't so bad.

But things can get quite a bit more complicated. For example, we can use all kinds of phrases after いちばん, and the question word won't always be 何 (なに // what):

家族の中でだれがいちばん背が低いですか。
かぞく の なか で だれ が いちばん せ が ひくい ですか。
Who is the shortest person in your family?
Literally: "family + の inside で + who + が + number one + short (=back が low) + ですか."

And here's another sentence. This time about... food!

魚がいろいろありますが、塩焼きにするにはこの中でどれがいちばんおすすめですか。
さかな が いろいろ あります が、 しおやき に する には どれ が いちばん おすすめ ですか。
There are many types of fish here; which do you recommend for shioyaki?
Literally: "fish + が + various + there are + が + broiled with salt (=shioyaki) + に + do + には + this + inside で + which + が + number one + recommended + ですか."
Note: For example, the speaker might ask this to a person at the fish counter in a supermarket. I didn't translate "shioyaki," because it's a pretty specific way of cooking fish--broiled, often in a pull-out broiler-drawer beneath a Japanese stove, like in the photo above.


Great News.
(Let's stay positive about new, tricky grammar, yeah?)

We won't always use の中で before いちばん. For example, consider this sentence:

ご飯パンパスタどれをいちばんよく食べますか。
ごはん と パン と パスタ と、 どれ を いちばん よく たべますか。
Which do you eat the most often, rice, bread, or pasta?
Literally: "rice + と + bread + と + pasta + と, + which + を + number one + often + eat + か."

Now, you might be wondering which we use the word どれ here instead of 何?

The reason is because we have already listed a limited number of items: rice, bread, and pasta. We don't say "what," because the answer has to be one of these three items. So we say "which," instead, which is どれ.

Also, we put an を before いちばん to go with the transitive verb 食べる (たべる // to eat):

ご飯食べる
パン食べる
パスタ食べる
to eat rice / bread / pasta


Super Advanced Stuff.

Well, maybe not "super" advanced. But I'd like us to believe that we're pretty high level for being able to read this much. I mean, there is a ton of Japanese in this lesson! If you can read any of it, that's pretty impressive. Probably much more than your mom can read... unless she's Japanese...

If you were paying attention thirty seconds ago, you'll know that I said we don't always use の中で.

In the case of things that cannot be divided, we can just say で. For example:

世界いちばん強い動物はなんでしょうか。
せかい で いちばん つよい どうぶつ は なんでしょうか。
What is the strongest animal in the world?
Literally: "world + で + number one + strong + animal + は + what + でしょうか."

There's only one world---or rather, one Earth---so we don't use の中で. Instead, we can just say で.

Now, we're going to get really crazy with this last example. Bear with me:

A:
いちばんいそがしいのは何曜日ですか。
いちばん いそがしい のは なんようび ですか。
What is the busiest day of the week for you?
Literally: "number one + busy + のは + what day of the week + ですか."

B:
そうですねえ。月曜日です。
そうですねえ。 げつようび です。
The busiest day of the week? Monday.
Literally: "そうですね. + Monday + is."
Note: The phrase そうですね often means "That's right" or "That's so." In this case, though, it means pretty much nothing. The speaker is just buying time while thinking of his answer. That's why I put, "The busiest day of the week?", as repeating a question is a great way to buy time in English.

If that のは in sentence A is making you sad/confused, no worries. I guarantee you that we'll have lots of lessons on it in the future. If you want to study ahead (or review, if you're a long-time student), check out this lesson: [NDL #72] - Killing Your Own Chickens, Part II.

Good luck on those JLPT tests, yo.




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