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    Default Plural???

    How do you make words plural in the Japanese language? Somewhere I read that you add -tachi, but in other places i read that you don't add plural... i'm confused!
    In the Japanese DNAngel (englis subtitles), Daisuke said "ichigo" when he was saying "strawberries," but in Full Moon wo Sagashite (again, Japanese version), the rabbit-girl (i forgot her name, gomen!) said "Takuto-tachi." A thing above in English subtitles said that -tachi is used for a group of something, and she was referring to Takuto as a group.
    I'm confused! Please help me!


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    In fact, there's no real plural construction in Japanese. Yes, the idea of plural exists, but it's generally not directly and grammatically expressed in the Japanese sentences. You have to rely on the context of the sentence, and the rare little clues the sentences can give you, to guess if a word is intended to be singular or plural in the sentence.


    In fact, in Japanese, the context is absolutely VITAL : you CAN'T translate a Japanese sentence 100% accurately without it.
    I'll just give you a very simple example to prove it to you.

    Take, for example, the sentence : 学生です。
    That extremely simple sentence can mean, in English, either :

    - It's a (male) student.
    - It's a (female) student.
    - They're (male) students.
    - They're (female) students.

    So, you need a context to translate accurately. Like, for example, this short dialogue :

    - ね、ね。 あの女の子を見てきださい。
    - あのきれいな子か?
    - そう。二人は学生です。

    Here's a translation :

    - Hey, hey. Look at these girls.
    - Those pretty girls ?
    - Yup. The two of them are students.

    In that dialogue, you only get the certain clue that the person is refering to several girls, two to be more precise. When he says "二人は" ("futari wa" = two, both.) Before that last sentence, you can't guess if there's only one girl, or more, and if more, how many of them.

    You'll also note the second person says 子 instead of 女の子. The Japanese love to shorten their sentences to the max, so, they often shorten the 女の子 (girl) and 男の子 (boy) to 子 (litterally, "child", "a person who's not yet an adult"). You only get he implies 女の子 (girl) because the first person said it before.

    Yes, Japanese indeed demands a lot of context and little clues.


    To answer about the "-tachi" bit, it's a way to give a plural to a word, indeed (like, for example, 学生たち, "the students"). But for what I've seen, it's not that frequently used in Japanese (if overused, it sounds a bit heavy).

    It's also used in the case you want to talk about someone's band/gang (and not in a way to tell an element in plural form).

    Example : シグルドたち .
    Here, it can be translated as "Sigurd and his group", "Sigurd and the others". The meaning is, we're talking about Sigurd (in Fire Emblem 4, a medieval-themed Tactical RPG, Sigurd is the leader of an army), the main person we're talking about, and his friends around him, his group (his army and companions).


    Hope I've been clear enough, and if I made mistakes, please don't hesitate rectifiying me : as said in an other post, I've only began my 3rd year of Japanese a few months ago, so I still have a long way to go in that language.
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    Yeah Japanese isn't too strict on plurals. You have to remember instead that Japanese is a language of omissions. They like to drop parts of the sentence that you don't really need, or are "understood", even if they're the important part of the sentence, like the subject. This makes Japanese a little hard to translate if you don't know what they're talking about, like if you just jump in on a sentence. Like the sentence:

    この本は?
    Kono hon wa?

    Can translate into either:
    What is this book?
    - OR -
    What are these books?

    Usually, it only refers to one book, but it's perfectly natural to be standing in front of a bookshelf full of books and be asking about all of them with the same sentence. Unless you're actually there to see the book(s) the speaker is referring to, or see follow-up or context sentences, there's no real way to tell.

    Also note the omissions I talked about. The complete Japanese sentence if you're asking about a plural set of books would be:
    これらの本は何ですか?
    Korera no hon wa nandesuka?

    It's not often that people use "これら". Even in polite speech, it's acceptable not to use it.

    I hope that helped enlighten you.

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    In case any of you want to correct, question, comment on, or suggest anything to me regarding my translations or use of Japanese, please do. My sources of learning have all been listening to people and kinda forcing my brain to interpret, rather than actually translate like a dictionary.
    I understand I'll make many mistakes (I'd be surprised if I translate something mistake-free) but you have to understand that I'm doing my best.

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    My understanding is (read: I asked my Japanese teacher about this and she said) that "-tachi" is used only when talking about people. For example, if you're talking about a guy and then you wanted to reference a group that included him, you would say "karetachi", or a girl "kanojotachi". If you want to use a proper name, it would be "[name]tachi", or a group of your friends "tomodachitachi". However, if you were talking about a bunch of books, you wouldn't say "hontachi", because a book isn't a person. You would just say "hon", and it would be expected to be understood that it's plural by the context. You can also use "tachi" when referring to something that's an analogy to people. Stars are often used like this (see *~Asterisk~ by Orange Range, Nagareboshi by Home Made Kazoku), so you might sometimes hear "hoshitachi". But in general, "tachi" is only for people (not animals, just people).
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    Just to add,

    There's also '-ra' as human plural along with '-tachi'. Polite human plural is '-gata'.
    Last edited by AzureDark; 11-15-2007 at 06:15 AM.

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    Not much more can be added, but it should be noted that adding a plural suffix to anything--whether human or otherwise--tends to place much more focus on the thing the suffix is added to, with possible exceptions in kare and kanojo. Saying [name]-tachi would indicate that the most important person in the group you're referring to, at least in the context of what you're saying, is [name]; frequently, it'll indicate that you see that person as the leader of that group. It seems to me, at least, to have a similar effect when used with items; "これら" puts emphasis on this item, while including the group of items that you're referring to.

    Then again, I could be completely mistaken here, as this is just what I've picked up from context.

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