Sorosoro: It’s Just About Time


There are actually two distinct uses for sorosoro (そろそろ). The first is as an adverb representing softly, leisurely, gently, gradually, etc. The second is the one to really watch out for: that something will be done soon, in the near future, even if it has taken some time to get there.

In the first case, you could have a sentence like this:

そろそろ寝るね. (sorosoro neru ne.)

Neru = to sleep (dictionary form)

The “ne” at the end is a friendly, reflective copula.

I’m going to sleep soon.

This is the translation that the site I got the sentence from uses, but it’s not the only option. We could also easily use:

About time I got some sleep, huh.

The “huh” at the end isn’t strictly necessary, but the “ne” is used to adjust the tone in the original. I’d just keep in mind what kind of speaking style and tone the original speaker is supposed to have. This is simple enough with manga, novels, movies, anime, etc.

Sooner or Later

Now, when used more like a noun, “sorosoro” is used in one type of circumstance: time has gradually moved forward to get close to the proper time for X.

If a military commander of some sort was overseeing an operation, looking for the right time to unleash his secret weapon, he could use 「そろそろだ。」 (sorosoro da) to indicate to his top aide that it’s just about time to strike. That is, perhaps not this second – or he’d say 「今だ!」 (ima da!) (ima = right now) instead – but the time will be very soon.

If an ordinary girl or woman is out shopping with you and checks her watch and says 「もうそろそろ」(mou sorosoro), she’s indicating that it’s already (“mou”) just about time for something unspecified, but in this context, it’s well implied that the woman needs to quit with the shopping and get home. In other words, time snuck up on her; a great deal of time has already elapsed. She’s close to outright late. 

Of course, she might actually be totally late, but we don’t know that. The wording is vague enough to provide a polite way to disengage from the activity and is usually accepted as such in good grace.

One Last Look at the Adverb Version

そろそろを英語に訳」(sorosoro o eigo ni yakusu to)

In this case, “o” (using “wo” in kana but always pronounced simply “o”) indicates a descriptive connection between the “sorosoro” and the verb. The “ni” indicates a modifier to the verb. “Eigo” is English. “Yakusu” is for to translate (dictionary form). The “to” that ends the sentence has an eerie resemblance to the English “to” here, really. Therefore:

To gradually translate into English

Having done a lot of translation, I can vouch for not rushing and letting things take a natural pace. Rushing is a bad, bad idea unless you really know the subject matter, and even then it’s not a good plan. – J


J Sensei

About J Sensei

Blogger, writer, linguist, former Japanese> English translator, rusty in French, experienced in Japanese, fluent English native. Writing for and various blogs. Skype: jeremiah.bourque (messages always welcome). E-mail: [email protected]
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3 Responses to Sorosoro: It’s Just About Time

  1. fernando says:

    I’m playing the Silent Hill 4 in dual language, and the sentence “Better check about your neighbor” is translated as そろそろ、おまえ隣の部屋だ。I think that in this case the means is “watch/check” and not “soon”. Thanks for article.

  2. Anonymous says:

    [“Better check about your neighbor” is translated as そろそろ、おまえ隣の部屋だ。I think that in this case the means is “watch/check” and not “soon”]

    @fernando Nah, it doesn’t mean watch or check, not even close. It still means ‘soon’ in this context, but it doesn’t translate well. Maybe a better way to say it would be ‘it’s about time’ (to check the room next door). ‘It’s about time’ and ‘soon’ are both translated as そろそろ, although the former might actually be more appropriate in more situations.

  3. fernando says:

    Thanks for answer.