Friday, February 10, 2023

ka no you ni かのように - Meaning in Japanese

In Japanese, ka no you ni かのように means someone does something "as if" something else were true. Syntactically, this is (likely) the ka か particle turned into a no の adjective qualifying you 様 followed by the ni に adverbial copula. Other conjugations include: ka no you na かのよう, ka no you da かのよう, and ka no you desu かのようです.

  • tenshi da
    [It] is an angel.
  • tenshi ka no you da
    [It] is as if [they] were an angel.
  • {tenshi ka no you na} kao
    [They have] a face [that] {is as if [they] were an angel}.
    They have a face that makes you think they're an angel.
    They have a face like that of an angel.
  • {tenshi ka no you ni} sora wo tobu
    To fly {as if one were an angel}.


This pattern includes you (you da, you na, you ni, etc.), so a lot of its grammar is explained in the article about you 様 instead. This article will focus on what's different, and some examples.

Both no you ni のように and ka no you ni かのように can translate to "like." The difference is as follows:

  • Without ka か: A is similar to B, or A mimics B.
  • With ka か: A is similar to B despite not being B.

For example:

  • {tenshi no you ni} kawaii
    [They] are cute {like an angel}.
    • A is similar to an angel.
    • Or A is deliberately mimicking how an angel would be.
  • {tenshi ka no you ni} kawaii
    [They] are cute {like an angel}.
    • A evokes the image of an angel, but you know they aren't one.

The important thing is the ka か, used as a doubt marker. Phrases like above seem related to:

  • kore wa tenshi ka?!
    Is this an angel?!

So ka no you ni かのように is used when a similarity evokes doubt, maybe makes you do a double take, see an illusion, despite you knowing that's not the case.

  • {nanimo shiranai ka no you ni} hanashite-ita
    [He] talked {as if [he] didn't know anything}.
    • From the way he talked, he looked like he didn't know anything, but you know he knew something.
  • ani no sumaho wo {jibun no mono ka no you ni} tsukatte-iru
    [She] is using [her] older brother's smartphone {as if [it] were [hers]}.
    • That's not even her smartphone, and she's just... using it as if it were hers!
    • c.f.: {jibun no mono no you ni} tsukau
      To use [it] {the same way as [you would use] something that is [yours]}.

Whatever comes before ka か must not be true, or at least believed to be contrary to the fact by the speaker, making sentences like these counterfactual analogies.

  • sekai ga owatta
    The world ended.
  • sekai ga owatta ka no you da
    It's as if the world had ended.
    • The world had, in fact, not ended.

Things get trickier in situations where what the speaker knows for a fact may not be what's actually true. For example:

  • {nanika shitte-iru ka no you na} ii-kata
    A way-of-speaking [that] {is as if [he] knows something}.
    He talks like he knows something.

Above, the "facts" known by the speaker is that "he" does NOT know anything (e.g. he is innocent), and he is behaving contrary to this known fact (e.g. as if he was guilty).

In other words, from the evidence so far, he SHOULD not know anything, and yet it SEEMS he knows. Without evidence, we can't say for sure that he knows what he seems to know, so we end up having our doubts.

Thus we have a situation where nanika shitte-iru could be true, where things are as they seem, even though at this point in time we're not certain about that.

At Sentence End

Sometimes, ka no you ni かのように occurs at sentence final position, this occurs in two different cases.

First, when we have a dislocation and the adverb ends up after the main clause. For example:

  • hanashi-kakete-kita. nanigoto mo nakatta ka no you ni.
    [They] came talk to [me]. As if nothing had happened.
    • c.f.: nanigoto mo nakatta ka no you ni hanashi-kakete-kita
      (same meaning.)

In the sentence above, we can imagine someone is telling a story about how something happened, perhaps an accident or a fight, and how someone else came talk to them AS IF nothing had happened.

The adverb ends up after the predicate hanashi-kakete-kita because the event of the story was told before its modifier: "they came talk to me, just as if nothing had happened." This order is opposite to how Japanese is normally spoken, but Japanese allows it just as English allows:

  • As if nothing had happened, they came talk to me. (modifier before event.)

The second case when ka no you ni かのように is sentence final is when we have an incomplete sentence. In this case the missing predicate can easily be filled by a generic verb of behavior or of feeling used to describe situations.

A sentence with just a lone ka no you ni is unusual. Typically, it will be accompanied by marude まるで, literally "entirely," when giving such impressions, so the sentences don't actually end up smaller.

  • marude {tenchou ka no you ni}!
    [He] X just {as if he were the manager of the shop}!
    • ~ka no you ni furumau
      [He] acts [just] as if [he were the manager]!
    • ~ka no you ni mieru
      [He] looks [just] as if [he were the manager]!
    • ~ka no you ni kikoeru
      [He] sounds [just] as if [he were the manager]!


なにこのハイペースなボケ・・・ まるで私のツッコミを待ってるかのような・・・・・・ ダメ!ツッコんだらだめよ!! なんだよ水上 2コもメガネしてんじゃん ハハハ 田中のヤロー!!! 私のツッコミを・・・・・・ 私だけに許された最高のツッコミを!!! ボクッ はっ いやちがうちがう 私んじゃない それは私のツッコミじゃないから!!
Manga: Nichijou 日常 (Chapter 28)
  • Context: Aioi Yuuko 相生祐子 always does a tsukkomi when Minakami Mai 水上麻衣 does a boke, however, feeling this isn't a proper relationship for two high school girls to have, Yuuko decides she won't do a tsukkomi anymore, no matter what happens, prompting Mai to do even stupider boke's, like coming to school wearing two glasses, and looking for her glasses on the floor as if she had lost them while still wearing both of them.
  • nani kono {hai-peesu na} boke...
    What is this {high-paced} boke...
  • marude {watashi no tsukkomi wo matteru} ka no you na......
    It's as if {[she] is waiting for my tsukkomi}......
  • dame! {tsukkondara} dame yo!!
    [Don't do it]! {If [you] make a retort} [you lose]!!
  • nanda yo, Minakami
    [What's wrong], Minakami.
  • ni-ko mo megane shite-n-jan
    You're wearing two glasses.
    • shite-n-jan - contraction of shite-iru no dewanai しているのではない.
  • hahaha
  • Tanaka no yaroo!!!
    Tanaka, [you bastard]!!!
  • watashi no tsukkomi wo......
    My tsukkomi......
    (incomplete sentence: "[you] [stole] my tsukkomi.")
  • {watashi dake ni yurusareta} saikou no tsukkomi wo!!!
    The greatest tsukkomi [that] {was only allowed to me}!!! (literally.)
    (incomplete sentence.)
    • In the sense of "only I, and not anyone else, was allowed to make a retort, how dare you take that from me!"
  • boku'
    *pencil snapping.*
  • ha'
    Hah! (her snapping back from a moment of utter jealously.)
  • iya chigau chigau
    No, [that's wrong, that's wrong].
  • watashi-n-janai
    [It] isn't mine.
    • Contraction of watashi no janai.
  • sore wa watashi no tsukkomi janai kara!!
    That's not my tsukkomi!!
    • In this scene, Yuuko resisted the urge to do an epic tsukkomi on Mai's boke, allowing Tanaka to do a pretty weak tsukkomi on it before her: "you're wearing two glasses, hahaha."

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