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Tendencies tend to be that way

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Various ways of expressing tendencies

In this lesson, we will go over various types of grammar that deal with tendencies. Like much of the Advanced Section, all the grammar in this lesson are used mostly in written works and are generally not used in conversational Japanese.

Saying something is prone to occur using 「~がち」

This is arguably the most useful grammar in this lesson in terms of practically. By that, I mean that it's the only grammar here that you might actually hear in a regular conversation though again, it is far more common in a written context.

With this grammar, you can say that something is likely to occur by simply attaching 「がち」 to the stem of the verb. While, 「がち」 is a suffix, it works in much same way as a noun or na-adjective. In other words, the result becomes a description of something as being likely. This means that we can do things like modifying nouns by attaching 「な」 and other things we're used to doing with na-adjectives. You can also say that something is prone to be something by attaching 「がち」 to the noun.

As the word "prone" suggest, 「がち」 is usually used for tendencies that are bad or undesirable.

Using 「~がち」 as a description of an action prone to occur
All adjectives that are conjugated with 「~がち」 become a noun/na-adjective
Non-Pastなりがちprone to becomeなりがちじゃないis not prone to become
Pastなりがちだったwas prone to becomeなりがちじゃなかったwas not prone to become


(1) 確定申告は忘れがちな手続のひとつだ。
- Filing income taxes is one of those processes that one is prone to forget.

(2) 留守がちなご家庭には、犬よりも、猫の方がおすすめです。
- For families that tend to be away from home, cats are recommended over dogs.

(3) 父親は病気がちで、みんなが心配している。
- Father is prone to illness and everybody is worried.

For more examples, check out the WWWJDIC examples.

Describing an ongoing occurrence using 「~つつ」

「つつ」 is a verb modifier that can be attached to the stem of verbs to express an ongoing occurrence. Though the meaning stays essentially the same, there are essentially two ways to use this grammar. The first is almost identical to the 「~ながら」 grammar. You can use 「つつ」 to describe an action that is taking place while another action is ongoing. However, there are several major differences between 「つつ」 and 「~ながら」. First, the tone of 「つつ」 is very different from that of 「~ながら」 and you would rarely, if ever, use it for regular everyday occurences. To go along with this, 「つつ」 is more appropriate for more literary or abstract actions such as those involving emotions or thoughts. Second, 「~ながら」 is used to describe an auxiliary action that takes place while the main action is going on. However, with 「つつ」, both actions have equal weight.

For example, it would sound very strange to say the following.

(誤) テレビを見つつ、寝ちゃダメよ!- (Sounds unnatural)

(1) テレビを見ながら、寝ちゃダメよ!- Don't watch TV while sleeping!

The second way to use this grammar is to express the existence of a continuing process by using 「ある」, the verb for existence. Everything is the same as before except that you attach 「ある」 to 「つつ」 to produce 「~つつある」. This is often used in magazine or newspaper articles to describe a certain trend or tide.

Using 「~つつ」 to describe a repetitive occurrence


(1) 二日酔いで痛む頭を押さえつつ、トイレに入った。
- Went into the bathroom while holding an aching head from a hangover.

(2) 体によくないと思いつつ、最近は全然運動してない。
- While thinking it's bad for body, haven't exercised at all recently.

(3) 電気製品の発展につれて、ハードディスクの容量はますます大きくなりつつある
- With the development of electronic goods, hard disk drive capacities are becoming ever larger.

(4) 今の日本では、終身雇用や年功序列という雇用慣行が崩れつつある
- In today's Japan, hiring practices like life-time employment and age-based ranking are tending to break down.

For more examples, check out the WWWJDIC examples.

Describing a negative tendency using 「きらいがある」

「きらいがある」 is a fixed expression used to describe a bad tendency or habit. I suspect that 「きらい」 here might have something to do with the word for hateful: 「嫌い」. However, unlike 「嫌い」, which is a na-adjective, the 「きらい」 in this grammar functions as a noun. This is made plain by the fact that the 「が」 particle comes right after 「きらい」, which is not allowed for adjectives. The rest of the phrase is simply expressing the fact that the negative tendency exists.
Using 「きらいがある」 to describe a negative tendency


(1) 多くの大学生は、締切日ぎりぎりまで、宿題をやらないきらいがある
- A lot of college students have a bad tendency of not doing their homework until just barely it's due date.

(2) コーディングが好きな開発者は、ちゃんとしたドキュメント作成と十分なテストを怠るきらいがある
- Developers that like coding have a bad tendency to neglect proper documents and adequate testing.

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This page has last been revised on 2008/8/13