的: A very useful ally

While the word 「てき」 usually means “enemy”, that’s not the word we’re talking about today. The word I’m going to talk about uses a completely different Kanji from the 「敵」 meaning “enemy” and is in fact a very useful and helpful ally.

If you’ve studied Japanese for a while, you’re bound to have encountered the 「的」 kanji. While this kanji by itself is read as 「まと」 and means a “target”, its usefulness really shines as a noun suffix. This kanji can be attached to countless number of nouns to easily change them to a na-adjective. In this case, you read the kanji as 「てき」 and you’ll see it all over the place: 一般的、圧倒的、感動的、習慣的、技術的、基本的、and on and on.

Let’s take the word 「感動」 meaning “deep emotion” and say we want to say the following sentence.

That movie was very moving.

Unfortunately, since 「感動」 is a noun, we can’t just say, 「あの映画はとても感動」 because the movie is not a deep emotion. So you’re going to have to say something complicated like the following:

あの映画を見て、感動した。- I saw that movie and I was moved.

But wait! We can just use 「的」 to make 「感動」 into an adjective!

あの映画は感動的だった。- That movie was very moving.

あれは感動的な映画だった。- That was a very moving movie.

What could be argued as even more useful is if you use the 「に」 target particle with 「的」, you can make the noun into an adverb! (Actually, this applies to all na-adjectives)

それは技術的無理です。 – That’s technically impossible.

朝ご飯は習慣的毎朝食べます。 – I customarily eat breakfast every morning.

In fact, without 「的」 there are just so many things that can’t be expressed. I would definitely put this kanji on my top ten 50 list.

アメリカでは、車で通勤するのが一般的だ。 – In America, people generally commute by car.

客観的な視点から考えたほうがいい。 – It’s better to think of it from a objective viewpoint.

10 thoughts on “的: A very useful ally

  1. This is what I love about your blog. I have a spare five mins and take a quick look and find something you wrote over 3 years ago which is really useful. I thought I’d already checked all your highlights section ages ago and I must have just read the ‘The difference between 「は」 and 「が」’ and then forced back to my day job!

  2. Funny, I knew this word in Chinese but wasn’t sure how it was used in Japanese, and I’d also heard 「てき」 added on words to make adjectives, but had never put the two concepts together! Glad this is in the highlights–I’ve learned a lot of my Japanese through informal conversations, so sometimes it helps to have some technical stuff to back up what I hear or infer.

  3. Wow, this post is so old it still links to my old geocities account! I thought geocities was shutdown but I guess not the jp domain.

  4. “In fact, without 「的」 there are just so many things that can’t be expressed. I would definitely put this kanji on my top ten 50 list.”

    So does this kanji belong in your top 10 or top 50 list? Haha..

    • Ha ha, probably a typo but I left it. With the large number of Kanji, you probably need a top ten list of 50.

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