If you’re just starting out with Japanese, it can be easy to fall prey to common misunderstandings.
Some of these are really insidious, so that it seems as though the Japanese language was designed on purpose to confuse people.
Adjectives that end in “i,” like 可愛い (kawaii, “cute”) and 素晴らしい (subarashii, “splendid”), are great examples.
What does subarashi mean in Japanese?
The word “subarashi” is a common misspelling for the Japanese word 素晴らしい (subarashii), which is usually translated as “splendid” or “magnificent.” Japanese dictionaries define this word as meaning “the thing in a group which excels above all others” or “something which is incredibly superb.”
The word can also be used to express superlative personal preferences. Although the correct spelling of the word does have two “i”s, the adverbial form 素晴らしく (subarashiku, “magnificently”) replaces the second with a “ku.”
The correct spelling of subarashi
The word “subarashi” is actually not a word. Rather, it is a misspelled word.
The correct spelling is subarashii, written in Japanese as 素晴らしい.
The meaning of 素晴らしい is basically the same as the English words “splendid” or “magnificent.” Essentially, 素晴らしい is used to show that something is the best in its class, or otherwise amazing.
素晴らしい is an i-adjective, a class of adjectives which ends with the Japanese “i” sound (like the “i” sound in English word “bit”).
These are different from na-adjectives, the other type of Japanese adjective.
Telling these adjective types apart is beyond the scope of this post. For now, just remember that there are two “i”s in the word “subarashii,” not one.
The kanji in 素晴らしい (subarashii)
Like many Japanese words, 素晴らしい is made up of kanji (Chinese-derived characters) and hiragana (a phonetic syllabary).
The first kanji in the way the word is most commonly written is 素 (su), which most often carries a meaning of “elementary” or “principle.” The second is 晴 (ba), used to refer to clear weather. These kanji are followed by the hiragana らしい (rashii).
It’s important to realize that the meanings of individual kanji don’t necessarily transfer to words they are written with. So 素晴らしい doesn’t have anything to do with elementary clear weather. Rather, it just means splendid.
How to use 素晴らしい in a sentence
Adjectives can be attached to any noun, just as in English. Also like English, there are two main ways to connect adjectives to nouns.
The first way is to simply write the adjective and follow it with a noun. For i-adjectives, no further words or conjugation are required with this method.
Alternatively, you can use the following construction: [noun] [connecting particle] [adjective] [copula].
The copula will depend on the formality of the sentence and the particle on the grammatical purpose of the noun. In most cases, however, は (ha) is the most likely choice.
Of course, regardless of which method you choose for using 素晴らしい, the rest of the sentence also needs to be grammatically correct.
This example uses the more complicated formula for stating that a specific noun is splendid. In this case, the noun is a compound noun, あいつの料理 (“her cooking”).
This sentence uses the simpler option of placing 素晴らしい before 天気 (tenki), the word for weather.
Although the sentences are constructed differently, the meaning is essentially the same.
素晴らしく (subarashiku): the adverb form of 素晴らしい
The question “What does subarashi mean in Japanese?” may have its origin in the adverb form of the word.
Unlike the adjective, which is correctly spelled subarashii, the adverb form only has a single letter “i.”
That’s because the adverbial form of i-adjectives in Japanese is formed by dropping the final “i” and replacing it with “ku.”
In other words, 素晴らしい becomes 素晴らしく.
The meaning of 素晴らしく (subarashiku)
Put simply, the difference in meaning of 素晴らしい and 素晴らしく is the same as the difference between “splendid” and “splendidly.”
素晴らしい is an adjective, meaning it modifies nouns. However, adverbs like 素晴らしく can modify adjectives, groups of words or even other adverbs, and adverbs typically answer questions like “how” or “when.”
If someone asks how your evening went, you might say “splendidly,” for instance.
On the other hand, saying “I had a splendid evening” is a use of an adjective, because it does not answer the question “how” but merely describes the evening.
The same is true in Japanese, with 素晴らしく functioning as an adverb rather than an adjective. To use 素晴らしく in a sentence correctly, simply place it before the word you are modifying.
Here, 素晴らしく modifies the verb 似合います (niaimasu, “to suit”). Another way of saying this in English might be “Those pants suit you splendidly.”
The word 素晴らしく modifies the verb 寝ます (nemasu, “to sleep”). Again, the meaning is “splendidly.”
素晴らしく to link two adjectives
There’s another way to use 素晴らしく, rather than as an adverb, so watch out!
In addition to being used as an adverb, the “ku” form of an i- adjective is also used to connect two adjectives.
Usually, the ku is followed by a “te,” so that the most common indicator of this type of use will be the form 素晴らしくて (subarashikute).
However, that is not always required. The only way to be sure is to look at what follows 素晴らしく in your sentence. If it is another adjective, then 素晴らしく is probably not being used as an adverb, but as a way to connect the two.
Here, the くて which replaces the final い of 素晴らしい serves to show that the painting or picture in question is both splendid and beautiful, not just one or the other.
Although saying it is “splendidly beautiful” might be similar, the meaning is not quite the same, so it’s important to pay attention to whether an instance of 素晴らしく is an adverb or simply one of two separate adjectives.
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