一応 (ichiou) Meaning Japanese Grammar - More or Less

Author GokuGoku for article '一応 (ichiou) Meaning Japanese Grammar - More or Less'


一応 (ichiou) Meaning Japanese Grammar - More or Less

The term (いち)(おう) (ichiou) means more or less and is often used to make a sentence more polite and humble, especially when we refer to ourselves.

However, in some contexts "too much humility" using (いち)(おう) can lead to the opposite effect, that is, making it appear that you are bragging about your skills.

In this post we are going to see all the possible meanings and uses of the term (いち)(おう), with examples to understand how this word can take on different meanings depending on the context.

Originally the kanji of (いち)(おう) was (いち)(おう)

Using 一応 when referring to yourself

In most situations in Japanese it is better to use ambiguous expressions.

This allows us to never sound too direct, especially when we talk about ourselves (we are referring here to (けん)(そん) humility).

An example could be a case where you are asked if you are able to speak Japanese. Even if you think you are very good, it is best to avoid making it explicit, for example by saying:


I'm good with Japanese.

How can you express the fact that you think you are good without seeming too direct?

In this case, you can use (いち)(おう) to make the answer more humble, but make it clear that we believe we are good. For example, you can answer:


I am more or less able to speak Japanese.

This sentence conveys the idea that you are not fully capable of speaking the language, but still get along well.

This way (いち)(おう) allows you to be modest without giving the impression of being too arrogant


Can you speak English? Yes, I more or less speak it.

Using 一応 to brag

As mentioned in the introduction, the meaning of (いち)(おう) can also lead to the opposite effect of humility.

Let's see a comparison between two example sentences:


I graduated from university.


I graduated from university.

At a glance, the use of (いち)(おう) can give the impression of making the sentence more humble. Actually, the use of (いち)(おう) in this context conveys the idea that you are emphasizing being a graduate.

When the use of (いち)(おう) emphasizes the phrase, this term can give the idea that you are bragging about something

A more literal translation of the sentence with (いち)(おう) could be:


I'm pretty much a university graduate, you know...

The addition in the translation of you know... gives the idea that the speaker is bragging, almost as if to say I have completed university, it's clear right?.

How to distinguish between humility and vanity

Understanding whether (いち)(おう) is used to brag or to be humble depends on:

  • The tone used in the sentence

  • What is said after using (いち)(おう)

In general, if the speaker is referring to something that is considered important or an achievement, then they are more likely bragging:


What car do you drive? Nothing less than a Mercedes Benz.

Indicate that you will "try to do" something

In situations where you are unsure of your abilities, but want to try anyway, (いち)(おう) is the term to use.

Some consider the excessive use of (いち)(おう) with this meaning as an excuse to do poor quality work


Have you finished that job yet? Yes, I more or less finished it.

In this case, the answer implies that the job is complete, but not necessarily perfect or well done.

You can use (いち)(おう) like this to also say that you will do something, but don't promise anything about the quality of the final result:


I'll try.


I try to think about it.

Asking a favor with 一応

You can also use (いち)(おう) to ask someone for a favor or for doing a job without putting too much pressure on the person you ask:


Could you give me an answer by tomorrow?

一応 to say "More or less"

In its basic translation as we have seen (いち)(おう) means more or less.

With this meaning (いち)(おう) is placed at the beginning of an expression to indicate that it is possible, but not completely:


I more or less managed to pass the exam.


You can more or less survive on 80,000 yen a month.

一応 to say "For now"

(いち)(おう) can also have the meaning of for now. In this sense (いち)(おう) indicates something partial; already in progress but not yet completed:


I'll give you 2,000 yen per hour.


And with that the meeting is over for now.

一応 to say "Anyway"

In line with its nuance of "uncertainty", (いち)(おう) can be used to say in any case:


Anyway, I'll go check.


Can you give me your contacts, in case you need?