ちょっと…(=chotto) +あいまい表現(=Aimai hyougen) ambiguous expressions

March 23, 2010 in Japanese culture, Practical, Slang


:P 「マギー先生、ちょっと質問があるんですが..」

(“Maggie sensei, chotto shitsumon ga arun desu ga…)

Ms. Maggie, I have a little question to ask…

:maggie-small: 「う〜ん…今、ちょっと…」

(=Uun… ima chotto…)

Umm …. now??


Today’s key word is ちょっと(=chotto)!!

You might say “I know that! It is eeeeasy!!”

Yes, it’s easy! It is a casual way to say 少し(=sukoshi), a little bit of something,a kind of, a sort of
(=Nihongo wo chotto dake hanashimasu.)
I speak a little Japanese.
(=Okawari ikaga desuka?)
“Do you want a refill?”
(=Jaa chotto dake)
“OK, then I will have just a little bit..”
*You can also use it when you talk to someone.
(=Chotto sumimasen.)
Excuse me!
(=Chotto ii desuka?)
May I interrupt you a bit?
Do you have a minute?
May I bother you for a moment?
Can I say something?
(=Chotto moushiwake nai no desu ga kuruma wo dokete itadakemasu ka?)
I am sorry to bother you, but could you please move your car?
*If you stress ちょっと(=chotto), you can protest to someone showing your anger.
(=Chotto iikagen ni shiteyo!)
Hey! That’s enough!
(=Chotto! Yamete!)
Hey! Cut it out!
ちょっと(=chotto) means “Hey!“, “Come on!” “Sorry but…” here.
In today’s lesson I will “reveal” some of the important secrets of the Japanese language.
Even if you know many 漢字(=kanji) or difficult Japanese grammar, you won’t go further without getting familiar with what I am going to explain in this lesson.
OK, ちょっとずつね!(=chotto zutsu ne. ) little by little!

In many cases, ちょっと(=chotto) doesn’t have any specific meaning but it helps soften what you want to say and/or helps you to avoid being too straight with someone — a very important quality in Japanese. You will hear this particular use of ちょっと(=chotto) all the time.
As I have mentioned in past lessons, Japanese people tend to avoid straight expressions. They prefer to say things in a roundabout 遠回し(=toomawashi) way.
That is why the Japanese language is considered to be 曖昧(=aimai), vague, unclear, ambiguous, obscure, noncommittal, reflecting their personality and culture.

Let’s see some examples here.

•ちょっと困ります。(=Chotto komarimasu.)

I am sorry but it would be a problem for me.
(You are obviously annoyed but by adding chotto, it sounds softer.)
• あの人はちょっとね…。(=Ano hito wa chotto ne….)

That person is a bit… (Usually negative. So we can assume the person is a trouble.)
• 昨日、職場でちょっとあってさあ….。(casual)
(=Kinou shokuba de chotto atte saa….)
There was something happened at work yesterday and…
(It insinuates there was some troubles at work. )
(=Boku no kanojo wa chotto kawaiin dayo)
My girlfriend is quite cute!

(This chotto doesn’t mean “a little”. The speaker is bragging about his girlfriend in a modest way by using ちょっと(=chotto.))

Note :ちょっとした(=chotto shita)adjective

Ex. ちょっとしたことだけど、すごく嬉しい。

(=Chotto shita koto dakedo sugoku ureshii)

It’s a small thing but I am very happy!

Ex. 私の父はちょっとした会社の社長だ

(=Watashi no chichi wa chotto shita kaisha no shachou da)

My father is a president of a quite big/well-known company.

(It hints that the company is big or famous.)

Ex. 彼の作品ってちょっとしたもんだね。

(=Kare no sakuhin tte chotto shita monda ne.)

His work is not bad at all!

(もん(=mon) is a casual way of saying (=mono) things.

ちょっとした物(=Chotto shita mono) could be a small something as its literal meaning but sometimes we use it as “pretty good)

:qq: More 曖昧(=aimai) ambiguous & 遠回し(=toumawashi) round-about, expressions.
1) やんわり断る(=yanwari kotowaru) to decline gently, softly
When someone asks you for a favor and you don’t want to do it, we can decline like Maggie in the picture above.

(“Maggie sensei, chotto shitsumon ga arun desu ga…)

Ms. Maggie, I have a little question to ask…


(=Uun…ima chotto…)

Umm…. now???

Did you notice that she didn’t finish the sentence? But you can tell what she wanted to say, right?
:rrrr: 今ちょっと忙しいです(=Ima chotto isogashii desu.) I am busy right now.

:l: <How to decline using ちょっと(=chotto)>

•「明日、暇?」(=Ashita hima?) Are you free tomorrow?

:rrrr: X「明日は暇だけどあなたとつきあいたくはありません。」

(=Ashita wa hima dakedo anata to tsukiaitaku wa arimasen.)

I am free tomorrow, but I don’t want to go out with you!

(This answer is toooo straight! :!: )


(=Ashita wa youji ga aru node dame desu.)

I have plans tomorrow, so I can’t go out with you.

(We do say this but it sounds still a bit too straight.)



(=Ashita wa chotto youji ga atte)

I have something to do tomorrow so….


(=Ashita wa chotto isogashikutte.)

I am busy tomorrow so….


(=Ashita wa chotto tsugou ga warukutte .)

I am not available tomorrow so….


「明日はちょっと…」(=Ashita wa chotto) Tomorrow is….(not convenient)

We don’t finish the sentence to make it sound softer. We have to read between the lines which is expressed with “” = 点点 or てんてんてん (=ten ten ten) dot dot dot part.


(=Shuumatsu hikkoshi no tetsudai shite kureru?)

Can you help me move this weekend?

:rrrr: •「週末は忙しいから手伝えません。」

(=Shuumatsu wa isogashii kara tetsudaemasen.)

I am busy this weekend, so I can’t help you. (too direct.)



(=Shuumatsu wa chotto isogashii desu.)

I am a bit busy this weekend.



(=Gomennasai. Shuumatsu wa chotto)

I am sorry but this weekend is…(→not good for me.)


(=Kare to tsukiatte minai?) 

Do you want to go out with him?

:rrrr: 「付き合いたくありません。」

(=tsukiaitaku arimasen.)

I don’t want to go out with him! (too straight.)

Instead you can say


(=Uun chotto enryo shite oku.)

No, thank you! (casual)


(=Chotto taipu to wa chigau kara….)

He is not my type so…



(=Uun chotto…)

I am sorry but…

Note : Of course, there are girls who are very straight forward!


(=muri! muri!!) No way! Impossible! (very colloquial)


(=Muri dakara!)

No way! That’s not happening! (very colloquial)

•ムリ=無理 = impossible

〜(だ)から(=~dakara) very colloquial


(=Raishuu no kinyoubi ni goukon yarundakedo dou?)

”We are going to have a matchmaking party. Do you wanna come?”


:rrrr: その日は、(=Sono hiwa) that day (is)


(=isogashii desu.)



(=tsugou ga warui desu.)

not convenient


(=muzukashii desu.)

it’s difficult



(=Sono hi wa chotto…)

That day is … (I am not available on that day…)


(=Zannen nagara sono hi wa chotto…)

Unfortunately that day is…I am sorry, but I am not available on that day.


(=Gomennasai sono hi wa chotto…)

I am sorry but I am not available on that day…


(=Sono hi wa chotto muri)

I can’t make it that day!

Note : ちょっと(=chotto) a bit + 無理(=muri) impossible might sound strange. Although it isn’t grammatically correct we do hear this phrase often.

•「飲み会がありますが、来ませんか?」(=Nomikai ga arimasu ga kimasen ka?)

Would like to join us for drinks?

(飲み会= nomikai= a drinking party?


(=Ikitaku arimasen.)

I don’t want to go.


(=tsugou ga warui desu.)

I am not available.



(=Konkai wa chotto enryo shite okimasu.)

I’m sorry, but I ‘m going to have to pass this time.


(=Konkai wa chotto enryo sasete kudasai.)

I’m sorry, but let me a pass this time.



(=Konkai wa chotto enryo shite okuyo) for men (casual)

I’ll pass this time.

Note : The ending with ~おくよ(~okuyo) is for man. The ending with ~しておくわ(~shite okuwa) is for women.


(=Gomen! Konkai wa chotto kanben shite!)

I’ll pass this time. Let me pass this time. (casual)

And you apologize,

•ごめんなさい。(=gomennasai) I am sorry

•すみません。(=sumimasen) I am sorry

•ごめん!(=gomen) Sorry! (casual)

Then you can follow up :


(=Mata no kikai ni onegai shimasu.)

Please ask me again, Next time, Give me a rain check!


(=Mata no kikai ni!)

Next time!


(=Mata sasotte kudasai.)

Please invite me again.


(=Mata sasotte!)

Invite me again! (casual)

:rrrr: This is the typical “procedure” of declining someone’s invitation.

:ee: <How to receive annoying phone call for sales.>

:rrrr: •「今、ちょっと手が離せないので…」(=Ima chotto te ga hanasenai node.)

I am tied up right now so…

:n: Extra Information : In a romantic situation

When you ask a girl for a date :


(=Nichiyoubi doraibu ni ikanai?)

Do you want to take a drive this Sunday?


(=Kondo no yasumi dokoka asobini ikanai?)

Do you wanna go out with me next holiday?

and if she says


(=minna to issho dattara…)

If it is in a group…(→I prefer to go out in a group.)

That means she is not comfortable being alone with you, and there is less chance for a romantic relationship (yet).

Also when you ask her for a second date and she says


(=Kondo wa minna de ikimasho!)

Why don’t we go out in a group next time!

Again, this probably means the romantic outlook is… not sunny. Sorry! ;-)

:i: <How to avoid giving people your personal information>

When you don’t want to say anything personal you can also use ちょっと(=chotto)


(=Dochira e odekake desu ka?)

Where are you going?

:rrrr: 「ちょっとそこまで」

(=Chotto soko made)

I will just go somewhere around here.

Note : You don’t have to specify the place you are going.


(=Dou ka shita no?)

What is wrong?

:rrrr: 「ちょっといろいろあって…」

(=Chotto iroiro atte)

Many things happened so…. / I had some problems so.. / for many reasons

:rrrr: 「ちょっとごたごたしていて」

(=Chotto gotagota shite ite.)

I have been busy for many things so…. / I have been having some problems so..

Also when you don’t want to ask all the personal details,



(=Iroiro taihen deshita ne.)

I feel sorry that you have been through many things

Please go check 労るレッスン(=Itawaru ressun)

In the lesson, I mentioned a line which you can say to a person who has just lost their family

•(この度は、)ご愁傷様でした。(=goshuushou sama deshita.)  Sorry for your loss. My condolences.

You could also just say,

:rrrr: •この度は…(=Kono tabi wa…)

Note : この度(=konotabi) means “this time

Because Japanese language is 曖昧(=aimai) ambiguous and we use 遠回しな言い方(=toomawashi na iikata ) round about expressions, sometimes it causes misunderstanding with people who are not familiar with this custom.

For example, you made some business proposal to a company and they say :


(=kangaete okimasu)

We’ll think about it.


(=Sukoshi kangae sasete kudasai.)

Let me(us) think a little. Give us some time to think about it.


(=Kentou sasete kudasai.)

Let us review/go over this.

As many of language resources might say, it doesn’t always mean they actually think about it, and it could be indirect way of saying “No!” or at least that there is not much of a chance.

We try to avoid saying “No!” to people immediately face to face and tell them we will think about it.

But there are cases when we actually need time to take matters into consideration and say these quotes. So it depends on the situation. I guess we have to observe the speaker’s facial expressions and everything.

Note : Sometimes we add 前向きに(=Maemukini) positively to add more possibility.


(=Maemuki ni kentou itashimasu.)

We will think about this (and see if we can make this work out).

We also hear the followings in a business situation:


(=Zensho itashimasu.)

We’ll see what we can do./We will try to deal with the matter in an appropriate manner.


(=Doryoku itashimasu.) 

We will do our best.


(=Doryoku shitai to omoimasu.)

We will try to do our best.

OK, after buying some time to decline, finally they may say,


(=Iroiro kentou shita nodesu ga…)

After reviewing ..


(=Kangaesasete itadaita no desu ga…)

We thought about this but..

•考えたんだけど(=Kangaetan dake do)

I thought about this but… (casual)

They might say things s little bit more clearly,


(=Yahari konkai wa muzukashii toiu ketsuron ni itarimashita.)

As we had expected, we came to a conclusion that it would be very hard to do/accept this time.

(=This means NO!)

You can also finish in the middle of the sentence ;


(=Taihen moushiagenikui no desu ga)

It is very difficult to tell you but…(=It means NO!)

:jjj: <How to response when you disagree>

It is all matter of intonation.

•そうですねえ…(=Soudesunee…) Well….

•おっしゃることはわかるのですが…(=Ossharu koto wa wakaru no desuga…)

I know what you mean but…

If you really want to say it is really difficult to achieve, you can say,

•それはちょっと厳しいですねえ。(=Sore wa chotto kibishii desunee…)

It seems a bit difficult/tight.

:s: <Other 曖昧+ぼかし表現(=aimai +bokashi hyougen) +Ambiguous + obscure expressions>

There are many more words that make our statements purposely ambiguous. I will teach you some of them here and include very slangy expressions.

*こちら/そちら/あちら(=kochira/sochira/achira) I, we, our side/you, they/they

We sometimes omit pronouns and substitute them with こちら(=kochira)/こっち(=kocchi) I, we, our side, more casual, そちら(=sochira)/そっち(=socchi) you, they, more casual, and あちら(=achira)/あっち(=acchi) they more casual


(=Achira san mo iroiro taihen mitai desune.)

They seem to have a lots of problems…


(=Kochiramo chotto isogashikutte….)

We(I) have been a bit busy as well and…


(=Kocchi wa iikedo socchi wa dounano?)

We (My side is/I am ) are OK but how about you(them)?

*(~=hodo) Even if you know the precise number, you add (=hodo) and make it sound vague.

•一週間旅行に行きました。(=ishuukan ryokou ni ikimashita.)

:rrrr: 一週間程旅行に行ってきました。(=isshukan hodo ryokou ni itte kimashita.)

I went traveling for a week.


お茶を一緒に飲まない?(=Ocha wo issho ni nomanai?)

Do you want to have a cup of tea with me? (=Do you want to go to a coffee shop or something?)

:rrrr: お茶でもどう?(=Ocha demo dou?)

How about having a cup of tea?

映画に一緒に行きませんか?(=Eiga ni issho ni ikimasenka?) Do you wan to go see a movie with me?

:rrrr: 映画でもどう?(=Eiga demo dou?) How about going to see a movie?

〜でも(=~demo) makes your suggestion sound very light.

:h: More colloquial expressions :

The following expressions are very colloquial and many of them are all grammatically wrong but you will hear these often in daily conversation especially among young people.


*〜とか(=~toka) (colloquial)


(=Kare to deito shita?) 

Did you go out with him?

:rrrr: 彼とデートとかした?

(=Kare to deito toka shita?)

So? Did you go out with him or something?


(=Doraibu ni ikimasen ka?)

Do you want to take a drive somewhere?

:rrrr: ドライブとか行く?

(=Doraibu toka iku?)

How about taking a drive somewhere?


(=Ashita wa hima desuka?)

Are you free tomorrow?

:rrrr: 明日とか暇?(=Ashita toka hima?) Are you free tomorrow or…?

Usually 〜とか(=~toka) means “etc.”. We use this to make it sound like there are other choices.

You can also use it when you suggest something.

•この方法でやってみるとか(したら?)(=Kono houhou de yatte miru toka(shitara)…)

How about giving this (way) a try..?

or tell someone what you have assumed.

•この時間は銀行やっていないとか(=Kono jikan wa ginkou yatteinai toka…)

I have a feeling that the banks are closed around this time…

*〜の方/ほう(=~no hou) (colloquial)

You can hear this at a convenience store or restaurant as well as their way of “formal” Japanese.


(=Oryouri wa mou omochi shitemo ii desu ka?)

:rrrr: お料理の方は、もうお持ちしてもいいですか?

(=Oryouri no hou wa mou omochi shite mo ii desu ka?)

May I bring out your dishes now/already?


(=Obentou wa atatame masu ka?)

:rrrr: お弁当のほう、温めますか?(=Obentou no hou atatame masu ka?)

Do you want us to warm up your lunch (food)?

(Please check the coffee shop conversation lesson!)


(=Kekkon seikatsu wa umaku itte imasuka.)

:rrrr: 結婚生活の方は上手くいっていますか?

(=Kekkon seikatsu no hou wa umaku itte imasuka?)

How is married life?

*的には(=tekiniwa) very colloquial


(=Watashi wa sou omoimasu.)

That’s what I think.

:rrrr: 私的にはそう思います。

(=Watashi teki niwa sou omoimasu.)

That’s just what I think.


(=Maggie wa dou omou no?)

What do you think, Maggie?

:rrrr: マギー的にはどう思うの?

(=Maggie teki niwa dou omou no?)

What about you, what do you think, Maggie?

You add 的には(=tekiniwa) to the subject to make it sound softer.

*っていうか(=tte iuka) /つーか(=tsuuka) /てか(=teka) actually very colloquial


(=Jissai no tokoro maggie sensei wa ii sensei nano?)

Is Ms. Maggie actually a good teacher?

:rrrr: 「っていうかさあ、マギー先生はいい先生なの?」

(=Tteiuka saaMaggie sensei wa ii sensei nano?) )

Is Ms.Maggie actually a good teacher? (very casual)

(っ)ていうか(=(t)tteiuka) /つーか(=tsuuka) てか(=teka) are originally from というか(=toiuka) or rather / rather to say. We use this when we want to take back our words and rephrase them, add something, or deny what someone has just said.

Also we start a sentence with this when we want to explain something,

“What I mean is..”/ ”I mean..”/ “I know what you mean but..”/ “You know..”

or simply when you change the subject like

それはいいけど(=Sore wa iikedo) / それはおいといて..(=Sore wa oitoite)

I know what you mean but/be that as it may


(=tte iuka ashita dousunno?)

That’s fine, but what are you going to do tomorrow?

Ex. 明日、っていうかこれからどうするの?

(=Ashita, tte iuka korekara dousuru no?)

What are you going to do tomorrow, I mean now (that we’ve just talked, etc.)?

*〜みたいな….。(=~mitaina…) like, I think… very colloquial


(=Kare mo mouchotto ganbareba yokatta noni..mitaina…?)

I mean like..he should have tried a little harder or something…..

(You say this after you express your opinion or feeling and add 〜みたいな….。(=~mitaina…)and finish the sentence.)

frenchbulldogマギー先生より(=Maggie sensei yori) From Maggie-sensei


(=Kono ressun no hou doudeshitaka?)

How did you like this lesson?


(=”Chotto” toiu teema deshitaga chittomo “chotto” dewa nakatta desune.)

The theme was “Chotto” but it was not “chotto” at all , huh?

私的にはとっても役に立つと思うんだけど…(=Watashi teki niwa tottemo yaku ni tatsu to omoundakedo…)

I personally think it is very useful but…

日本人の話し方の奥深さがわかるみたいな…(=Nihonjin no hanashikata no okufukasa ga wakaru mitainana..)

Like you know..it could help you to understand the depth of the way Japanese people speak..

→自分でも書いていたらちょっとイラっとしてきちゃった...(=Jibun demo kaite itara chotto iratto sihte kichatta..) Umm…somehow I’m getting annoyed by writing this…