Nov 9, 2011

English is hard!

Although English is not my first language

I still thought that I knew well enough about basic English,

but it still confuses me sometimes ;(

I have two questions about English here.

If anyone can give me some advise, it will be a big help for me!

My question is...

1)Is it true that saying "Maybe" when you are asked questions doesn't sound very nice and it

may offend some people?

Hmm. Let me think in Japanese.

Maybe = Tabun(casual)/Osoraku(formal)

I guess saying just "Tabun" can sound too casual.

It will sound better if you say "Tabun daijyoubu dayo(Maybe it will be ok)." or "Tabun muri.
Gomen ne(Maybe I can't. Sorry)."

Is it the same in English too?

And another one is...

2)Is it true that "Sure" means only 50%?

So if I am asked "Can you help me?" and say "Sure.",

does it mean I may help them at 50% of the time?

I thought Sure = Of course. Is it wrong?


Your help will improve the quality of my subbing...(Hehe)

Thank you in advance xD


  1. 1) "Maybe" doesn't sound rude at all, but I think it's used in casual environment. The more polite one is of course "perhaps", which sounds a little bit archaic if you ask me but definitively the proper choice if you are to meet different people.

    2) "Sure" means, as of my point of view, 100%. It's safe to assume, that he'll help you, if he says "sure". The Japanese equivalent would be "当然 Touzen" because of it relatively casual sound. You can as well use it in formal conversations, but the more formal/archaic would be "certainly". Sounds more badass.

    To your last reference that English is difficult: I can't agree with you. English is quite simple compared to other languages. No cases, just one definite article, 2 indefinite articles (a/an) and quite simple sentence constructions.
    Just always go with the mindset, that there are harder languages, and Japanese is difficult in terms of reading/writing.

    As we say "Don't shit your pants". I think your very good at the English Language. If you are quite unsure about your English skills, you should watch American/English TV-series, to improve your articulation, and knowledge of slang-terms or rather the general knowledge.

    Hope I could help you eChie-chan, there is one more request: As you often write Japanese words in your blog entries, I'd like you (please :D) to use Kanji's as well. After all I'm in the state of learning Japanese, and it would be quite a help to get insight of one language, whilst reading a quite interesting blog and I hope as well you will continue.

  2. "Maybe" isn't offensive, I think that English is just a much more casual and informal language than Japanese. The only time I can think that "maybe" would annoy me is if people use it as a way of saying "no". "Will you come to my party?" "Maybe." This generally means "no" but the person was too scared to say it.

    "Sure" by itself does not mean 50%. "Sure" means "yes" or "of course" or "absolutely". It would be very confusing/disrespectful if someone asked "Can you help me with this homework?" and the person replied "Sure." and then didn't help. Also, "sure" by itself is usually used only as a reply to a request. "Would you please get me a glass of water?" "Sure." If someone asked "Is it going to rain today?" then "Sure" doesn't fit because it sounds almost sarcastic.

    I hope that helps : /

  3. i disagree with the first commenter.
    i think English is difficult!

    for those who grew up in a non-english speaking household, such as myself, compared to other languages, the structure is counter-intuitive. this is especially true when comparing to asian languages.

    pronunciation is difficult. there are countless exceptions to the rules of grammar which cannot easily be memorized without living in an english speaking household. echie just gave us two very examples of how important context is in english.

    it's difficult to spell out words after just hearing them as well. imagine how long it took for me to find out how "strength" was spelled as a kid!

  4. I'm going to give you the short of how I see it, when it comes to the use of "maybe" I believe its all in the tone, its easy to tell if the maybe you are receiving is either sarcastic or a subtle passive "no". All in all its not something that should be considered rude, or taken in a negative way. As for your second question, the meaning behind sure is completely dependent on the person. I have met many people who will when asked to do something or help out, respond with "Sure" and then never even show up to lend a hand; on the other side of it I personally see "sure" as just a casual "yup".

  5. @Anon1,
    Thank you for giving me good ideas!
    I could understand very well.
    I will write kanjis in my posts more often, hoping that it will help you in return ;)

    Thank you!!
    I liked your examples.It is really an interesting part that one word can have multiple meanings in different contexts!


    Thank you for your comment!
    Yes I agree with you that English spelling system and pronunciation are so difficult.


    Thank you!!
    I am now practicing "Maybe" in different tones and I think I get it xD English is fun!

    Thank you so much for your help!
    My great teachers m(_ _)m

  6. My wife had the same question about the use of maybe, as opposed to perhaps. She had been taught that they meant two different things - each expressing a different degree of certitude. In reality, there is no difference and I find that such things tend to confound Japanese speakers, and mountains are made of molehills. That said, here are the answers to your questions:

    Maybe is not rude, but it will make you sound stupid in certain situations because you would be indicating that you are unable to guess the outcome.

    I know that Japanese people have a hard time saying "No" because they want to maintain tatemae, and say "Maybe", or "I don't know" instead. In this sense, many English speakers will feel that you are being rude because it can be interpreted as telling a lie. For example, if you answer "Maybe" to the question "Do you want to go see the Seattle Mariners?", you will appear stupid because it indicates that you don't even know what you want to do.
    Continuing with that example, if you answer "Maybe, but the tickets are expensive" because you don't really want to say "No, I'm not a fan of baseball", then your friend may later feel that you have been rude because you didn't clarify when they offered to buy your ticket for you. Just say no. Your friend will undertstand, or ask for clarification.
    Don't feel bad about offending people. If they are offended, it's their problem. If you feel bad about offending your friends with your true feelings, then it's your problem. Don't let it be your problem.
    As for the use of "Sure", it depends on the situation. If you are talking about something right now, and your friend says "Sure", they are saying yes. If you are talking about something in the future, your friend may be saying "yes (definitely)", or they could be saying "yes (but I might change my mind, depending on what happens between now and then)". However, there is no 50% rule about Sure. You just have to accept that people can't always keep future promises.
    Of course, your friend might just be saying Sure, because they want you to shut up and change the subject.

  7. I think you're just mixing the different uses of "sure". You're mixing the one way like "I'm not sure about this", which is basically saying you don't know if you're right or wrong about something. Maybe that's where you got the 50% thing as opposed to something being either wrong/no (0%) or correct/yes (100%), so you're equalizing a non-certain with 50%. So in that sense, yes, "sure" means uncertainty on the speakers part. But when you use sure as an answer to something, it is basically a more casual way of saying "yes" or "of course". If someone asked you to help with something and replied "sure", you're agreeing to help them 100%.

  8. the way i see it maybe is rude when used in that manner what i mean is that it can be used as a comeback or a way to complain or sobber up the person your talking to
    sure means its doable and i wouldn't mind doing it and again it can be otherwise if the person is being cynical maybe that is what confused you
    like when your car breaks down and your late so say "great" or "perfect" it takes it out of its original meaning otherwise use it normally

  9. just to simplify what ppl have been saying.....maybe :P. Maybe isnt rude at all, saying it can be rude when used in certain ways is a little redundant because any word can be used to be rude.

    To be sure of something is to be 100% about it. "I'm sure that grass is green". what makes sure confusing is that its often used like "im pretty sure" or "im quite sure" which obviously isnt as reliable as a "sure". Often used as statements of optimism. "im pretty sure it will be sunny tomorrow"

  10. Generally speaking, that is normally the issue with text as it depends the tone in which you speak maybe can change.

    Maybe = Uncertain of outcome but many use it for teasing, mocking etc

    Sure = Certain, true, 100% though again, your trusting that person to not be forgetful, busy etc at the time.

  11. JusttryingtohelpJan 9, 2012, 11:30:00 PM

    Hi eChie,

    In colloquial(informal) conversation, many a time sure or maybe or whatever you say could in fact lose its intended meaning. The person might just be just finding a word that could represent what he/she is trying to convey.

    For more effective communication, try to understand the setting(informal, formal, subject of the conversation, etc) of the conversation, for instance understanding what is he trying to say before and after that 'maybe' or 'sure'. That should give you a better idea.

    E.g. Person A: Hey could you run an errand for me in a cold and rainy night?
    Person B: Sure! (This could probably mean a high level of reluctance, but he is trying to not disappoint his friend)

    But lorondos is right, the actual definition are there. But understand the real underlying meaning behind the message is what communication is all about.

  12. For the first one, with regards to the examples you gave, maybe sounds a bit out of place. Some other ways you can use to soften what you want to say can include "It will probably be okay" or "It should be okay", and "I don't think I can" or "Probably not".

    For the second one, I usually take sure to be 100%, or close to it, but it may depend on the responder, so you may need to know the person you are asking somewhat well to know what his "sure" means.

  13. I completely agree that English is a very hard language. Especially pronounciation. All of the vocals have many different pronounciations. This is very hard at least at the beginning for at least me (Finnish native) and Japanese natives. Finnish and Japanese both follow 1 letter (or kana) = 1 sound.
    For example the english word hard has two finnish "a-sounds (haad if written in the finnish pronounciation)" in it,
    cat has the finnish "ä-sound (kät)" in it and
    take has the finnish "e and i-sounds (teik)" in place of the "a".
    Japanese is similar but ofcourse instead of 1 sound each kana has 2 sounds I guess (ka = k+a) but they are always the same pronounciation.
    I could have added the IPA sounds so you could understand the finnish sounds better but it shouldn't be too necessary to see the difference. I hope this wasn't too boring to read (if anyone reads it, I realize I posted quite late).

  14. i wish my primary language is japanese(nihonggo)


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