And kanji with manga
Saturday, October 29, 2016

Chigau 違う, Chigai 違い, Machigatteiru 間違っている

Sometimes in anime you just know something is chigau 違う... or is it machigatteiru 間違っている? Or is it just a kanchigai 勘違い? Clearly, these words have something in common, but at the same time they are all very different. What's going on, what is their real meaning in the Japanese language?

Chigau 違う

Let's start with the word chigau 違う, and its polite variant chigaimasu 違います, which is the main topic of this article. The verb chigau means literally "to differ," but you never translate it as "to differ" in English because nobody ever says that in English. So it's more like saying "it's different." See:
  • kore wa chigau これは違う
    This is different.
    (this differs)
  • sore wa chigau それは違う
    That is different
  • dou chigaimasu ka? どう違いますか?
    How is [it] different?
    (how does it differ?)
  • doko ga chigau? どこが違う?
    Where is [it] different?
  • tomodachi to doukyuusei wa chigau 友達と同級生は違う
    Friends and classmates are different.
    (friends and classmates differ)
  • chigawanai 違わない
    There is no difference.
    (it doesn't differ)

It's Not That!

Most of the time, however, chigau and chigaimasu are used in anime as an expression to say "it's not what you are thinking" or "it's not what you just said." That is, in the sense that you see chigau from what it really is. It "differs".
  • chigau! 違う!
    It's not what you are thinking!
  • chigau yo! 違うよ!
    That's not it. (practically same meaning)
  • chigaimasu! 違います!
    It's not that!
    (this word is just the polite form of chigau and has the same meaning)

In these cases there isn't much to explain. It's just a word that says "no, this is not it!" in Japanese. So when you hear any character screaming chigau! that's basically what they mean.

Nagai Kei saying chigau 違う from the manga ajin 亜人. nanika... iya... chigau tte... ningen... ningen... boku wa... 何か…いや…違うって…人間…人間…僕は… "Something... no... I'm saying it's not that... human... human... I am..."

Difference with Chigai

Another important thing to note is the word chigai 違い, which comes from chigau. The meaning of chigai is literally the "difference," as a noun. Which is a pretty big difference from chigau from a grammar viewpoint as chigai can be referred to in a phrase.
  • tomodachi to doukyuusei no chigai wa X 友達と同級生の違いはX
    The difference between friends and classmates is X.
  • chigai wo mitomeru 違いを認める
    To acknowledge the difference.
  • chigai wo oshiete kudasai 違いを教えて下さい
    Please teach me the difference.

About that last one, if you ever have any doubts about two terms in the Japanese language, and you know enough Japanese to read Japanese, you can search for X to Y no chigai in Google and it will find relevant results. Examples:

Though in those cases tsukaigata 使い方, "way of usage," and tsukaiwake 使い分け, "division of usage," could also be used in place of chigai 違い

Synonyms of Chigau

Here are a few words to take note of that are synonyms of chigau and chigai:
  • sa
    A distance. (size of the difference)
  • kubetsu 区別
    Distinction. Differences.
  • sabetsu 差別
    Discrimination. Differentiation.
  • betsu no X 別のX
    A different X. Another X.
  • i- 異~
    Different (something) (it's a prefix)
  • isekai 異世界
    Different world.
    (see re:Zero Kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu re:ゼロから始める異世界生活)
  • kotonaru 異なる
    To differ.

Machigatteiru 間違っている

The next word we are talking about is machigatteiru 間違っている, which is just a chigau that was conjugated to its te + iru form, chigatteiru, and then slapped this ma 間 behind. How chigau could chigau be from machigau?

Chigau vs Machigau - Difference

Basically, while chigau means any "difference," machigau is about a difference between right and wrong. A machigai is literally a "mistake," which is chigau from what's right, while a chigai is just a difference. Example:
  • chigai 違い
    A difference.
  • chigai wa arimasu 違いはあります
    There is a difference.
  • machigai 間違い
    A mistake. Mistakes.
  • machigai wa arimasu 間違いはあります
    There is a mistake.
    There are mistakes.
  • watashi no machigai desu 私の間違いです
    It is my mistake.
  • machigai wo okashita 間違いを犯した
    [I] made a mistake. I committed an error.

The words chigau and machigau differ in the same way. See:
  • kore wa chigau これは違う
    This is different. (it's not that, it's something else)
  • kore wa machigatteiru これは間違っている
    This is wrong. (it's not right)
  • kono sekai wa machigatteiru この世界が間違っている
    This world is wrong!
  • kono sekai wa chigau この世界は違う
    This world is different. (not like the other worlds)
  • yahari ore no seishun rabukome wa machigatteiru. やはりの青春ラブコメはまちっている
    My teen love comedy is wrong as I thought. (oregairu)
  • danjon ni deai wo motomeru no wa machigatteiru darou ka ンジョンに出会いを求めるのは間違っているだろうか
    Is it wrong to to hope for an encounter in a dungeon? (danmachi)

Machigau vs Machigatteiru - Difference

Next we have the problem: we've been comparing chigau to machigatteiru, but why not chigatteiru and machigatteiru or chigau and machigau?

Basically, if chigau means literally "to differ," chigatteiru would mean "to be differing." Nobody ever says to be differing in English and nobody ever says chigatteiru in Japanese.

Now, the difference between machigau and machigatteiru is that machigatteiru is used to talk about a state of being while machigau is used as an action. What this means, in practice, is that machigau is only ever used as an adjective to something:
  • machigatta houkou e michibiku 間違った方向へ導く
    To guide [someone] towards the wrong direction. (wronged direction)
  • michibiita houkou wa machigatteita 導いた方向は間違っていた
    The direction guided was wrong.
  • machigatta ji wo kaita 間違った時を書いた
    Write the wrong letter. (wronged letter)
  • kaita ji wa machigatteita 書いた字は間違っていた
    The letter written was wrong.
  • machigau koto wa nai 間違うことはない
    There is nothing mistaken.

Machigau vs Machigaeru - Difference

Next we have the word machigaeru 間違える. It is a very important word because it means "to make a mistake." Yep, that's right. The difference between 間違う and 間違える is that 間違う means "to turn into a mistake" while 間違える means "to make a mistake."

When you talk about something being wrong, you use machigau 間違う, machigatta 間違った, etc. But when you talk about making mistakes, you have to use machigaeru 間違える, machigaeta 間違えた, and so on.
  • ji wo machigaeta 字を間違えた
    I mistook the letter. I wrote the wrong one.
  • taagetto wo machigaemashita! ターゲットを間違えました!
    I mistook the target!
  • machigaenakatta 間違えなかった
    [I, you or he] made no mistake.

But that's not all. You see, there's a very slight nuance when either verb can be used interchangeably:
  • jinsei wo machigatta 人生を間違った
    I made my life turn wrong. (it was right once)
  • jinsei wo machigaeta 人生を間違えた
    I mistook my life for something else.
  • kotae wo machigatta 答えを間違った
    I made the answer wrong. (it was right once)
  • kotae wo machigaeta 答えを間違えた
    I picked the wrong answer.

Another note are these words about mistaking things with your sense. They use machigau 間違う when it's a noun and machigaeru 間違える when it's a verb.
  • mimachigaeta 見間違えた
    To see wrong. To mistake by seeing.
    (miru 見る means "to see")
  • mimachigai 見間違い
    A mistake by seeing. (literally the above in noun form)
  • kikimachigaeta 聞き間違えた
    To mishear. To hear wrong.
    (kiku 聞く means "to hear)
  • kikimachigai 聞き間違い
    Mishearing. (literally the above in noun form)

Machigainai and Machigai Arimasen

Next we have the meaning of machigainai 間違いない and machigai arimasen 間違いありません, the latter being the polite variation of the former. They both mean the same thing: "no mistake." And are used when there is simply no mistake.
  • aitsu wa uragirimono da! machigainai! あいつは裏切り者だ!間違いない!
    That guy is a traitor! There is no mistake!
  • kore wa machigai arimasen ka? douiu koto nano deshouka? これは間違いありませんか?どういう事なのでしょうか?
    Isn't this a mistake? What exactly is going on?
  • tashikani kiken desu. machigai wa arimasen. 確かに危険です。間違いはありません。
    It is indeed dangerous. There is no mistake.
  • machigainee! ano yarou da! 間違いねぇ!あの野郎だ!
    There's no mistake! It's that bastard!

Now that there are no mistakes left about this, let's go to our next word.

Something Chigai

Next I'm going to talk about other words ending with chigai 違い in Japanese. These words often mean that something is different from normal, so it's a mix of chigai and machigai plus something else.

Kanchigai 勘違い

Starting with the trickiest one, and also the one most often in anime, the word kanchigai 勘違い is the mix of kan 勘, meaning "intuition," with the word chigai, which would mean a chigau intuition.

It's often used by characters to say they thought something was happening but it was just their imagination.
  • are wa bakemono ka?! iya. ore no kanchigai ka. あれは化物か?!嫌。俺の勘違いか
    Is that a monster?! Nevermind. It's just my imagination.

Hitochigai 人違い

The word hitochigai 人違い is a mix of hito 人 meaning "person" with the word chigai. It is used when the person is chigau, that is, when we see a different person than we expected.

This is often used by characters when they call someone but it's someone else. A look-alike. You know, mistaking people on the streets.
  • are wa bakemono-san ka? iya. hitochigai ka. あれは化物さんか?嫌。人違いか。
    Is that bakemono-san? Nevermind. Wrong person.

Bachigai 場違い

The word bachigai 場違い combines ba 場 meaning "place" with the word chigai. It is used when the place expected is chigau, that is, when something seems out of place.

It can be a person who is in a party he's not invited into, or belly dancers performing on tatami whilst wielding Wild West style revolvers and singing La Macarena, or something like that.
  • naze bakemono-san ga koko ni iru?! chou bachigai da yo! なぜ化物さんがここにいる?!超場違いだよ!
    Why is bakemono-san here?! He's super out of place!

Danchigai 段違い

The word danchigai 段違い joins the word dan 段, meaning "level," as in those dan in karate, with the word chigai. It's used when the level between two things is just chigau.

In anime you may hear this word when a new group of villains shows up and one of them is "a level above" or "a level different" from someone else and they want to brag about it before ultimately getting their asses kicked.

Ketachigai 桁違い

Finally, the word ketachigai 桁違い joins the word keta 桁, which means an "order of magnitude" (as in numbers, like 10 to 100) and the word chigai. It's used when, obviously, the order of magnitude is different.

This is also used in anime like danchigai, specially when we are talking about an enemy not 2 times stronger, but 100 times stronger. That's when we say "this guy is an order of magnitude different from the other guy." Though the word can also be used for other magnitude differences, of course.


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  1. douiu koto deshouka?

    may be, "douiu koto *nano* deshouka?"

  2. Replies
    1. Looks like I made a mistake, the romaji doesn't match. Thanks for telling. :)

  3. If the sentence is simply to state it’s different, you can replace ga with ha. So in this case, ga and ha are interchangeable. “Chigai ha arimasu” and “chigai ga arimasu” are both correct. Also, using “ha” can add emphasis to the “chigai” and “arimasu” meaning it’s definitely mistaken/wrong/incorrect.

  4. There's a typo in the "Chigau vs Machigau - Difference" section. 間違はあります should be 間違いはあります. Note the missing い.

  5. Also i think 間違った時を書いた should be 間違った字を書いた instead - and it's using the wrong kanji for "ji".

  6. I think it's worth to add that "Chigaimasu" is often used as a negative answer to some question... except when question ends with adj+desu ka, or verb+desuka