Table of Contents
What Is ながら?
ながら is a conjunction that joins two clauses together into one sentence. Depending on the context, it can be used to indicate two simultaneous actions, similar to "while" in English. This page will focus on the other use of ながら, which is to connect two clauses with contrasting or contradictory information. In English this can often be expressed as "although."
To use ながら in a sentence, you can attach it directly to the end of nouns, い-adjectives, and な-adjectives:
|Noun||初心者 + ながら = 初心者ながら (although a beginner)|
|い-adjective||小さい + ながら = 小さいながら (although small)|
|な-adjective||きれい + ながら = 美しいながら (although pretty)|
To attach ながら to a verb, you first have to put the verb into its stem form.
As you might be able to tell from the word "although" added to the translations above, once a word has taken ながら, it needs to be attached to another clause. Let's take a look at a few different contexts of use to get a feel for this grammar point.
Using ながら for Contrasting Clauses
ながら is used similarly to words like "although," "even though," and "while" in English. In other words, it attaches to one clause to mark it as contrasting or contradictory to another. Let's take a look at a few examples of this:
- Although he says he is not popular with girls, he always has a girlfriend.
- Even though I knew about her affair, I didn't say anything.
You can also use ながら to contrast two adjectives and then attach them to a noun:
- Though small, it's a sweet strawberry.
- Though incomplete, it's a beautiful work of art.
You can also use ながら to express that a result contradicts what you expected.
- Though he was a beginner, he did a great job.
In this case, you would expect that a beginner might not do well, because well, they're a beginner! Using ながら emphasizes the reason why the result is unexpected.
Similarly, you can use ながら to say that your feelings contradict an action you are going to take or a situation that arises. This is often used when you feel sorry about whatever you have to say next:
- Even though it's very selfish, I'm not going to make it.
In fact, there is a very common phrase that uses ながら and expresses your regret or shame surrounding an action or situation:
- Although it's a shame, I lost.
Finally, ながら is used in formal expressions that add a feeling of humbleness to a statement. For example, when you are speaking in front of a group of people in a very formal situation, you might say:
- While I don't deserve this honor, I will lead us in a toast.
僭越 means "arrogant" or "presumptuous," so with ながら it literally means something like "while this is arrogant for me to say…" Perhaps a more natural translation would be "while I don't deserve the honor of doing X…" This is commonly used as a humble way to begin a speech, toast, or other formal talk in front of an audience.