Sugoku Hayai: Incredibly Fast

凄く速い

Most casual viewers of anime and learners of Japanese are familiar with the word sugoi (すごい), roughly equivalent to “tremendous”. However, as a matter of grammar, it’s not good to write “sugoi hayai”. That’s hayai (速い) for the adjective “fast”. The reason’s simple: “sugoi” is an adjective too. It doesn’t mesh.

When using the root of “sugoi” to add detail to “hayai”, the spelling changes to fit this new role. That’s why we use sugoku (すごく、凄く) to fit the bill. My post title’s “incredibly fast” illustrates the grammar: “incredibly” modifies “fast”. 

Incredible Speed?

So what if we change the grammar and change “fast”, an adjective, into “speed”, a noun? Well, in English, the “ly” is dropped and we get “incredible” back as a pure adjective.

Japanese isn’t much different. Speed itself would be hayasa (はやさ速さ).  The ending sa () makes nouns out of various Japanese concepts, with speed being only one. Another example would be omosa (おもさ重さ), for “weight”. (And no, I do not mean “mass”, Japanese has another word for it. Mass is not weight, as we know from high school science.)

So our result is:

Sugoi hayasa (凄い速さ、すごいはやさ)。

Where would you use the first, then? Well “hayai” being an adjective by itself, it must be modifying something. For example:

スーパーマンがすごくはやい!

(Suupaaman ga sugoku hayai = Superman is incredibly fast!)

Faster than a speeding bullet, perhaps? – 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 Sugoku Hayai: Incredibly Fast

  1. Chti Suisse says:

    Thanks for your post about Japanase language
    I read all of them and try to use them !

  2. J Sensei J Sensei says:

    Thanks for the encouragement. I’ve found a source on Twitter – in Japanese – that gives me insight into what to post about. I just use English and explain in that language as far as I can take it, without using big and ugly grammar-related terms. Keeps me from losing my audience, so to speak.

  3. J Sensei J Sensei says:

    OK. I had to do some editing once I figured out what a native Japanese speaker on Facebook was telling me… my kanji was wrong, it’s 速い not 早い。 Both say “hayai” but the first is used for speed; the other is used more for “early”. It’s a typo encouraged by my Input Method Editor (IME) and I didn’t catch it. I’ve corrected it, but that’s on me. I do keep repeating that I’m not perfect for a reason.

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