Mushiro: Stating Preferences

むしろ 

“Mushiro” is one of those words that isn’t in everyone’s speaking style, but it’s really good to know what it means and how it’s used. The English output differs because different words fit different sentence situations. The word itself demonstrates the better option among two or more.

Picking Shoe Color

Japanese

その服には青よりむしろ茶の靴が似合う. (sono fuku ni wa aoi yori mushiro cha no kutsu ga niau.)

English

Brown shoes are a better fit for these clothes than blue ones.

The Words Being Used

sono = this

fuku = clothes (general)

ni wa = defining what precedes as the topic and what follows as relating to the topic

aoi = blue

yori = what follows is “more than” what precedes

mushiro = defines what follows as the better option, the higher preference

cha = “tea color”, a lighter brown like a lot of leather clothing

no = connects the preceding with the following

kutsu = shoes

ga = defines the subject of the verb that follows

niau = verb; to suit, to match

You Should’ve Done It Yourself

Japanese

彼に頼むくらいなら、むしろ自分でやったほうがいい (kare ni tanomu kurai nara, mushiro jubun de yatta hou ga ii)

English

If you could ask him to do it, you ought to have done it yourself.

The Words Being Used

kare = him

ni = the following applies to the preceding

tanomu = verb; to request, to ask someone to do X

kurai = degree

nara = if

mushiro = the better option

jibun = yourself, oneself

de = “by” in this case; indicates the means of doing something

yatta = verb; past tense of ‘yaru’, a general verb for “to do”

hou = direction; think of options as arranged in a circle around you

ga ii = declaring that the preceding “is good”

Expanding On These Sentences

Here’s how the structure works:

The first option discussed  -> The better, higher option

There’s other instances this could crop up, too.

“We could go to the baseball game, or rather, the mall.”

Perhaps you see the problem here? A lot of people would never use “or rather”. That’s the same in Japanese as it is in English. In the first place, the “or” would be indispensable if using “rather” in this location. If not “or”, it’d have to be more like this:

“We could go to the baseball game, but I’d rather go to the mall instead.”

This is why you can’t just blindly translate from dictionaries. The context is dictating the grammar. Indeed, the grammar is dictating the vocabulary in turn. My advice for dealing with “mushiro” is to focus on what it means, rather than what it says. If I’m just skimming Japanese text, I don’t need to worry about translating; I just accept “mushiro” is stating a preference and move on. It’s only if I have to turn it into English that I have to fiddle around.

I reiterate: the real issue is not drowning in the grammar when someone else uses the word. Learners probably shouldn’t try to use it themselves until they’ve heard it used in context at least a good hundred times. Even then, using it properly would not work in all settings. It’s still really good to know what it means and not trip all over it. – J

J Sensei

About J Sensei

Blogger, writer, linguist, former Japanese> English translator, rusty in French, experienced in Japanese, fluent English native. Writing for Technorati.com and various blogs. Skype: jeremiah.bourque (messages always welcome). E-mail: [email protected]
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3 Responses to Mushiro: Stating Preferences

  1. ALiCe__M says:

    Thank you so much ! You really help the learner to understand how the language works, and I love that you use the romaji characters, as I haven’t tackled the alphabets yet.

  2. J Sensei J Sensei says:

    Yes, I could never be satisfied with myself for doing posts like this without romaji to help people in exactly your position. Lately I’m posting about things that people may have heard in anime or things like that and would have a devil of a time finding on their own… and most sites that explain grammar make for very thick reading…

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