How to say “tomorrow” in Japanese
Japanese native speakers would say “ashita”. It is the Japanese word for ‘tomorrow’. In this blog post, I will explain this word in detail based on its kanji expression. And I will explain its heteronym, “asu”, as well. My explanations would help Japanese learners say “tomorrow” properly in Japanese. Let’s get started!
- Definition and meaning of “ashita”
- “Ashita” in kanji
- Definition and meaning of “asu”
- How to say “see you tomorrow” in Japanese
Definition and meaning of “ashita”
Let me start with the definition and meaning of “ashita”.
- ashita – 明日 (あした) : a noun meaning ‘tomorrow’ in Japanese.
Grammatically, this word is a noun. In reality, however, it can also work as an adverb in a sentence. Interestingly, many of Japanese time-related nouns have this trait: working as both a noun and an adverb. Perhaps, this can sound a bit weird to Japanese learners, but it’s not unique to the Japanese language. In fact, the English word, “tomorrow”, can also work as both a noun and an adverb. I think, therefore, that those who are familiar with English can easily understand this point and how to use “ashita” in Japanese.
The meaning of “ashita” is very simple. To understand this word more clearly, however, let me explain its kanji characters in detail, one by one.
“Ashita” in kanji
Below are the kanji characters used in “ashita”.
- 明 – a kanji character used to mean ‘bright’ or ‘light’ in Japanese. In addition, this can also mean ‘to begin’ or ‘to end’ depending on the word used together. This kanji can also be found in other words like “yoake“.
- 日 – a kanji character widely used to mean ‘day’ or ‘daytime’. This kanji can also be found in other words like “tanjoubi” and “mikazuki“.
From these two kanji characters, we can understand that “ashita” literally means the beginning of a day. This seems to be a bit different from what “ashita” really means. Interestingly, however, this kanji concept is completely in line with the old meaning of “ashita”. In the old Japanese language, “ashita” was used to mean ‘morning’. This means that its meaning has changed as time goes on. Then, today, it means ‘tomorrow’ only.
In short, the kanji expression of “ashita” is not in line with its meaning, but with its old meaning. Sometimes this kind of update can happen to Japanese words. So, even when we cannot find out any relations between meanings of words and their kanji expressions, checking their old meanings would be fruitful.
Then, let me explain how to use “ashita” through the example sentence below.
Example #1: how to say “tomorrow” in Japanese
Below are the new words used in the example sentence.
- watashi – 私 (わたし) : a pronoun meaning ‘I’ in Japanese.
- wa – は : a binding particle working as a case marker or topic marker. In the example, it is used after “watashi” to make the subject word in the sentence.
- umi – 海 (うみ) : a noun meaning ‘sea’ in Japanese.
- ni – に : a case particle used to indicate a particular place to which someone or something goes. In the example, it is used after “umi” to indicate the particular place to which “watashi” will go.
- iku – 行く (いく) : a verb meaning ‘to go’ in Japanese.
This is a typical usage of “ashita”. In this example, it works as an adverb at the beginning of the sentence and means ‘tomorrow’. As the translation shows, its usage is quite similar to that of the English adverb, “tomorrow”.
When “ashita” isn’t followed by a particle, most probably it is an adverb. When it is followed by a particle like “ga”, it would be a noun. So, whether it is followed by a particle or not can be the key to understanding its grammatical definition and role. In Japanese conversations, however, speakers quite often omit particles which are not important. And, in most cases, they think that a particle following “ashita” is not important. This means, Japanese speakers tend to use “ashita” as an adverb unintentionally. So, Japanese learners should focus on its usage as an adverb first. It can be inserted almost anywhere in a sentence to say “tomorrow” in Japanese, like “tomorrow” in English.
Japanese learners sometimes confuse “ashita” and its heteronym, “asu”. So, let me explain this heteronym as follows.
Definition and meaning of “asu”
Below are the definition and meaning of “asu”.
- asu – 明日 (あす) : a noun meaning ‘tomorrow’ in Japanese. It has the same kanji expression and meaning as “ashita”, but a different pronunciation.
Basically, “asu” sounds more polite and formal than “ashita”. Japanese native speakers, therefore, tend to say “asu” in formal situations. So, the difference between “ashita” and “asu” is a degree of politeness. We need to use them properly depending on the situation.
Let me paraphrase the last example sentence with “asu” as follows.
Example #2: how to use “asu”
This sentence sounds much more polite and formal than the last one. When we want to say “tomorrow” in a polite way in Japanese, we should use “asu”.
So far, I’ve explained “ashita” and its heteronym, “asu”, in detail. Lastly, let me explain one related expression of “ashita” which Japanese people often use to say “see you tomorrow” in Japanese.
How to say “see you tomorrow” in Japanese
Below are the definition and meaning of the Japanese expression, “mata ashita”.
- mata ashita – また明日 (またあした) : a Japanese expression for ‘see you tomorrow’.
Japanese native speakers quite often use this expression as a greeting to say “see you tomorrow” in Japanese. Perhaps, another greeting, “sayounara” (or “sayonara”), is more famous among Japanese learners. But, “sayounara” sounds way too much formal and serious. So, Japanese native speakers use “mata ashita” more often.
To understand the expression more clearly, let me explain the word before “ashita” in detail.
- mata – また : an adverb widely used to mean ‘again’ or ‘once more’ in Japanese. Depending on the context, it can also mean ‘too’, ‘also’ or ‘as well’.
So, “mata ashita” literally means ‘again tomorrow’. This concept is not completely in line with what the expression means, but still very close, I think.
In this blog post, I’ve explained the meaning of “ashita” in detail based on its kanji expression. And also, I’ve explained its heteronym and its related expression. Let me summarize them as follows.
- ashita – 明日 (あした) : a noun meaning ‘tomorrow’ in Japanese. This can work as both a noun and an adverb.
- asu – 明日 (あす) : a heteronym of “ashita”. It sounds much more polite and formal than “ashita”. So, it is suitable for formal situations.
- mata ashita – また明日 (またあした) : a Japanese expression for ‘see you tomorrow’. This literally means ‘again tomorrow’ in Japanese. Japanese native speakers normally use it to say “see you tomorrow”, as “sayounara” (or “sayonara”) sounds way too much polite and serious.
Hope my explanations are understandable and helpful for Japanese learners.
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