505 - と~とどちら

Part of starting out with a language is asking the same boring questions again... and again... and again... to anyone who will talk to you.

Maybe you'll start out with:

お名前は何ですか。
おなまえ は なん です か。
What's your name?
Literally: “お-name + は + what + です + か.”

Maybe a bit later you'll level up to:

好きな食べ物は何ですか。
すきな たべもの は なん です か。
What kind of food do you like?
Literally: “liked + food + は + what + です + か.”

Or maybe you'll ask questions that people like me are never able to answer:

一番好きな映画[本]は何ですか。
いちばん すきな えいが [ほん] は なん です か。
What's you favorite movie [book]?
Literally: “most / number one + liked + movie + [book] + は + what + です + か.”

And, in time, you'll level up to "Which do you prefer, A or B?"

...which just so happens to be this lesson's grammar topic...


JLPT N4: と~とどちら (of A and B, which)

The word どちら can mean a few things...


どちら
which way; which direction; where; who; which one (of two things)


For example, you can say:

どちらの方ですか。
どちら の かた です か。
Where are you [is he/she] from?
Literally: “which way / where + の + person + です + か.”

This is a polite way to ask where someone is from.

But in this lesson we're focusing on when どちら means "which one (of two things)," like in the following conversation...

A:
中山さんはどちらが好きですか。
なかやまさん は いぬ と ねこ と どちら が すき です か。
Which do you like better, Nakayama-san, dogs or cats?
Literally: “Nakayama-san + は + dog + と + cat + と + どちら (=which one) + が + liked + です + か.”

B:
猫の方が好きです。
ねこ の ほう が すき です。
I like cats better.
Literally: “cat + の + way / direction + が + liked + です”

Did you catch the formula there?

It's...

A B どちら
which one, A or B

We had...

どちら
いぬ と ねこ と どちら
which one, dogs or cats
Literally: "dog + と + cat + と + which one."

Not too tricky, yeah?


Let's look at the response to our above question once more.


A:
中山さんはどちらが好きですか。
なかやまさん は いぬ と ねこ と どちら が すき です か。
Which do you like better, Nakayama-san, dogs or cats?
Literally: “Nakayama-san + は + dog + と + cat + と + どちら (=which one) + が + liked + です + か.”

B:
の方が好きです。
ねこ の ほう が すき です。
I like cats better.
Literally: “cat + の + way / direction + が + liked + です”

What's the deal with this 猫の方が?

The cat's direction...?

Not quite.

Remember in the previous N4 lesson on より, when we saw sentences like the following?

花さんは私より若いです。
はなさん は わたし より わかい です。
Hana-san is younger than me.
Literally: “Hana-san + は + I + より + young + です.”

You may recall that I explained that より means something like "more than." Go back and reread the lesson if you need a refresher.

What I didn't mention in that lesson is that より and の方が are pretty much best friends.

For example, in our earlier dialogue, we had this sentence...

の方が好きです。
ねこ の ほう が すき です。
I like cats better.
Literally: “cat + の + way / direction + が + liked + です”

Which we can consider to be an abbreviation of this sentence...

よりの方が好きです。
いぬ より ねこ の ほう が すき です。
I like cats better than dogs.
Literally: “dog + より (=more than) + cat + の + way / direction + が + liked + です”

The reason that we can drop 犬より from this sentence, however, is that it is already clear from context (i.e. from the preceding question "Which do you like better, dogs or cats?") that the speaker is saying that he/she prefers cats to dogs.

Anyway, let's get back to どちら...


In informal speech, which just so happens to be the speech that I use the most often, どちら becomes どっち.

An example:

Mother:
赤い口紅ピンクの口紅どっちが似合うと思う?
あかい くちべに と ピンク の くちべに と どっち が にあう と おもう?
Which do you think looks better on me, red lipstick or pink lipstick?
Literally: “red + lipstick + と + pink + の + lipstick + と + どっち (=which one) + が + looks good on / suits (me) + と + think?”

Child:
お母さんはピンクの方が似合うよ。
おかあさん は ピンク の ほう が にあう よ。
Pink (lipstick) looks better on you.
Literally: “mother + は + pink + の + way / direction + が + looks good on / suits (you).”

(Extra motivated students: Try to guess how you would add より to the child's response.)

We're making good progress. Let's keep at it...


Here's another example:


A:
このソファあのソファどちらが安いですか。
この ソファ と あの ソファ と どちら が やすい です か。
Which sofa is cheaper, this one or that one?
Literally: “this + sofa + と + that sofa + と + どちら (=which one) + が + cheap + です + か.”

B:
どちらも同じ値段です。
どちら も おなじ ねだん です。
They’re both the same price.
Literally: “both (=どちら + も) + same + price + です.”

As you can see in this dialogue, although どちら means "which one (of two things)," saying どちら means "both."

Be careful, though, because どちらでも (or どっちでも) means "either (one)."

Take a look at this nice and casual conversation:

A:
食べ放題か単品かどっちにする?
たべほうだい か たんぴん か どっち に する?
Which should we get, all-you-can-eat or individual orders?
Literally: "all-you-can-eat + か + individual items (i.e. not part of a set [meal]) + か + which + に + do? ”
Note: Usually I would have translated this as something like, "Do you think we should get all-you-can-eat?" but I wanted to stick with the "Which... A or B?" format for this lesson.

B:
どっちでもいい。
どっち でも いい。
Either way is fine.
Literally: “either one (=which one + でも) + good.”


I haven't explicitly mentioned this yet, but the words coming before と in our と~とどちら formation will always be NOUNS:


NOUN#1 NOUN#2 どちら
which one, NOUN#1 or NOUN#2


Hey, also, what's the deal withcoming after どちら/どっち?

Will we always includeafter these words?

Well, not always. We've already seen a sentence where が is not following どっち:

食べ放題か単品かどっちにする?
たべほうだい か たんぴん か どっち に する?
Which should we get, all-you-can-eat or individual orders?
Literally: "all-you-can-eat + か + individual items (i.e. not part of a set [meal]) + か + which + に + do? ”

However, when you're asking, "Which one, A or B?" then you're quite often going to have a が after どちら.

You know how we sometimes call が an "identifier particle?" Well here we have が because we want the listener to identify which one, A or B, is... [whatever].

For example, the speaker in this sentence wanted the listener to identify which one he/she preferred, dogs or cats:

中山さんはどちら 好きですか。
なかやまさん は いぬ と ねこ と どちら が すき です か。
Which do you like better, Nakayama-san, dogs or cats?
Literally: “Nakayama-san + は + dog + と + cat + と + どちら (=which one) + が + liked + です + か.”

Oh, and here's an extra tip for all of you that are always stressing out about は and が:

We know that は cannot come after どちら because it is a question word, and は NEVER comes after questions words like なに (what), どこ (where), etc.


A:
あなたは休日は出かけるの家で過ごすのどちらが好きですか。
あなた は きゅうじつ は でかける の と いえ で すごす の と どちら が すき です か。
Which do you prefer to do on your days off, go out or stay at home?
Literally: “you + は + days off / holiday + は + go out + の + と + house + で + spend time + の + と + どちら (=which one) + が + liked + です + か.”


B:
その日の気分によります。
その ひ の きぶん に よります。
It depends on how I feel that day.
Literally: “that + day + の + feeling + に + depends on.”

Whoa, whoa, whoa. I thought you said that only NOUNS came before と.

Yes, I did. And that's true.

Here, the particle の is nominalizing (=making into nouns) the verbs 出かける and 過ごす.

Compare this to how, in English, we can nominalize words that aren't NOUNS by adding -ing (jump → jumping) or putting "the" before them (poor → the poor).


Finished!

This lesson was packed to the brim with useful information. Read it, reread it, master it.

There are many points that were made in this lesson that would have saved me from countless headaches (and embarrassing mistakes) if only someone had explained things to me properly when I was at a lower level. I hope you have an easier time with all of this Japanese than I did. ^_^




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