I´m sorry for writing in English, I´ve been studying Japanese only for a few days…
The LingQ-translation says that “友達” means “friend”.
Wikipedia says that “友” means “friend” and “達” is a plural marker…
So, does “友達” mean “friend” or “friends”?
It means friend (Singular). I’ll let the natives explain the rest.
I´ll wait for a native then
You beat me to it, Iri:)
You can confidently use it as a word for friend. It’s one of the first words I learned at school back in '75 (yep, I was learning Japanese before some of my native lecturers were born!). Actually, as Iri said, I see it used for both friend and friends, just like 本（ほん）can mean book or books, but it’s most commonly listed as friend in any dictionary.
eg. I met your friend last week. 先週私はあなたの友達に会いました。
Both Ken and Meg are my friends. ケンもメグも私の友達です。
Yes, one of 達’s usages is as a plural suffix (especially for people and animals); however, my understanding in the case of ともだち is that historically the 達 part was used as an honorific suffix (showing respect). Some words in modern usage kept their historical component/s, like the word for friend.
Now, for someone who’s only been studying Japanese for a few days, Paule…you’ve made amazing progress!
My wife (a native) agrees with Iri and Julz. Hwoever she said it is fine to use 友達たち mean “friends” if the plural is not clear from the context.
Thanks for your help!
I think I get it now…although it´ll probably take a lot of exposure to fully understand stuff like that.
Using the plural in order to honor somebody seems to be pretty common somehow…
In German, the plural form and “you (polite)” are often identical.
Same thing in French and somebody told me that it´s like that in Russian, too.
In Swedish, there´s the word “Ni” which was the plural of “you”…but is now only used to adress the queen.
What´s your take on that? Coincidence? “Universal Grammar”?^^
@Paule - harnessing all of my pearls of wisdom and life experience…my answer is, “Dunno!” Haha:)
(This is my first Forum posting. I have also submitted this for correction. I appreciate your generous and strict corrections.)
It’s a shame that so far, no native speakers have responded to the question Paule raised - well, I’m a native Japanese speaker and I hadn’t even noticed the issue before Paule’s post. As well, I didn’t know the historical background of how “友達” came to be used as singular before Julz explained. Shame on me again!
As Paule mentioned we can see similarities among several languages in the use of the plural in order to honor somebody, but I’m not sure if it’s a coincidence or Universal Grammar.
Here’s another Japanese example of a word whose plural has come to be used for both plural and singular, that is “子供”.
“共 or 供（ども）” was originally used as a plural for inferiors (e.g. "悪党共（あくとうども）"＝villains), and thus when used to talk about yourself, your family, a group you belong to, etc. it is used as honorific by presenting oneself as inferior(e.g. "私ども（わたくしども）“＝"we”- when you say “we” to your superiors, customers, etc. ).
But in my eyes, this has a bit different touch from “達” and the examples Paule raised.
Then how about English?
You might say “I went to the mountains last weekend”, even if you went to a specific mountain like Mt. Fuji.
And maybe you say “I’m going to go to the movies this weekend.”, even if you’re only planning to see a single title.
I assume these expressions have nothing to do with the honorific.
Hmm…, this is a complicated but very interesting issue, isn’t it?
I always took わたくしどもto mean “us” when talking about our company, and I used it all the time. Some people I dealt with even used to say 手前ども to refer to themselves although I never used it.
By the way, when I lived in Japan, I thought I often heard 私 pronounced わたくし, and always took this as the formal and proper pronunciation, whereas わたし struck me as informal. I used both. Now I am told by many Japanese learners that they have never heard of わたくし. I lived in Japan in the 1970’s. Maybe I am just out of date. Any comments Tohru?
I know nothing of Japanese, but I would like to ask Paul why he has more known words in German than in all of his other language combined?
Thanks for that interesting post
I used to import the stuff I read in German, just because I was curious how many words I know in my own language. ^^
After a while I found out that Evgueny has marked 50,000+ words as known , so I assumed that I know at least 50,000 and stopped my “experiment”.
Hmm…I didn´t even know that I you can give yourself a rose^^
I have posted a comment on “わたし” and “わたくし” in the corresponding thread.
Please check it. : )