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The Difference Between “から” & “ので” Explained


The Difference Between “から” & “ので” Explained

Welcome back to our “Video & Article” series with tutor Miki. In this article and video we will take a look at the particles “から” and “ので”. They both translate to English as “because”, but depending on which one you use in Japanese, the meaning of the sentence changes slightly.

Table of Contents

[Expressing reason in Japanese]

[Grammar rules]

[The Meaning of “から” and “ので”]


In our lesson before this one Miki compared the two particles “は” and “が” to show where they can be used interchangeably and where they are actually different. This time we will look at a similar grammar case where two particles seemingly mean the same and can indeed sometimes be used interchangeably, but do add a different nuance depending on which you use. By the end of today’s lesson you will be able to express reason using “から” and “ので” and know when to use which!

[Expressing reason in Japanese]

First of all, let’s look at the basic structure for expressing reason in Japanese by comparing it with English. In English, you usually state the conclusion before the reason.

For example:

‘I was late for school because I missed the bus.’
        Conclusion                        Reason

Here, the conclusion comes before the reason.

In Japanese on the other hand, the reason is stated in the beginning of the sentence.

Reason Conclusion
I don’t eat sweets because I gain weight.

Reason Conclusion
I don’t eat sweets because I gain weight.

[Grammar rules]

Next, let’s take a very brief look at the grammatical rules for “から” and “ので”.

First, any verb or i-adjective before “から” and “ので” has to be in the dictionary form:

[dictionary form verb or i-adjective] + から (ex: (ふと)るから、(あつ)いから)
[dictionary form verb or i-adjective] + ので (ex: (ふと)るので、(あつ)いので)

Any noun or na-adjective is followed by “だ” before “から” and “な” before “ので”:

[noun/ na-adjective] + だから (ex: (ひと)だから、綺麗(きれい)だから)
[noun or na-adjective] + なので (ex: (おんな)なので、下手(へた)なので)

So for nouns and na-adjectives, simply memorize “だから” and “なので”!

[The Meaning of “から” and “ので”]

Now, let’s dive into the main part of today’s topic and take a look at how the meaning of a sentence changes depending on whether you use “から” or “ので”. The difference between these two is substantial enough to make it important, and people actively use this difference to change the nuance of a sentence entirely.

One key difference between “から” and “ので” is that “から” is more on the casual side while “ので” is more polite. But it’s not just that. Using the wrong expression might sound offensive, because it may sound like you are making excuses or avoiding taking responsibility for your actions.

Look carefully at the following examples.

Example dialogue 1:

A: もしもし
A: Hello
B: もしもし、(いま)運転中(うんてんちゅう)だから(あと)でかけなおしてもいいですか?
B: Hello, I’m sorry, but can I call you back because I’m driving?

Example dialogue 2:

A: もしもし
A: Hello?
B: もしもし、(いま)運転中(うんてんちゅう)なので(あと)でかけなおしてもいいですか?
B: Hello, I’m sorry, but can I call you back because I’m driving?

In the first example, the speaker uses “から” (だから because “運転中(うんてんちゅう)” is a noun). Using “から” puts emphasis on himself and his actions – therefore, his statement may be perceived as a little selfish.

In the second example, the speaker uses “ので” (なので because again, “運転中(うんてんちゅう)” is a noun), which puts more emphasis on his situation and circumstances than on his actions, implicating that there is something out of his control responsible for him being unable to talk on the phone right now, ultimately making him sound a bit more apologetic.

Therefore: Using “ので” is appropriate for making requests.

If you use “から” when making a request or asking someone for something, you are putting emphasis on your own needs, actions and opinion, which may implicate your selfishness.  

Examples for making requests with “ので”:

Can we look at a textbook together since I don’t have one?

Can you please tell me the direction since I’m lost?

Lastly, let’s take a look at cases where you actually should use “から” instead of “ので”.

1)“から” is used when making a request for the sake of the listener

Because it’s dangerous, don’t come in.

To a child you can say:

You’ll get hurt so don’t jump around too much.

2) When you want to order someone to do something (between very close friends, family, or co-workers) you can use “から”

It stinks, so throw out the trash.

If you use “ので” in a casual situation with someone you are close with, it may sound a bit unnatural.

3) Lastly, when you use “だろう” (for expressing the future and predictions), and the polite form “でしょう”, you can only use “から”

For example:

I will bring my umbrella today because it might rain.

I brought you water because you might be thirsty.

However, “でしょうから” is rarely used.

That is everything for today’s lesson. We hope that this helps you understand the difference between “から” and “ので”. If you would like to learn more about this topic, feel free to book a lesson with one of our native, qualified Japanese tutors anytime!

単語たんごリスト(Vocabulary list)
(ふと) To gain weight
菓子(かし) Snacks, sweets
運転中(うんてんちゅう) To be in the middle of driving
教科書(きょうかしょ) Textbook
(みち)(まよ) To get lost, to lose one’s way
命令(めいれい) Order, command
怪我(けが)する To get hurt
(くそ) To smell
()てる To throw away

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