Life gets more beautiful when you know how to use ‘kirei’

learning

Kireina Tanabata kazari-ga dekita (We’ve done well decorating our bamboo tree.)

Today, we will introduce various meanings and ways to use the na-adjective きれいな. Its basic meaning is beautiful, pretty or good-looking, which can be used for people or things, as the mother uses it in Situation 1. Other examples are: きれいな発音(はつおん, pronunciation)/ 声(こえ, voice)/ 景色(けしき, landscape), etc. Its adverbial form is きれいに.

きれいな can also mean clean or neat. The following are their examples respectively. “外(そと)から帰(かえ)ったら、きれいに手(て)を洗(あら)いましょう (You should wash your hands clean when you come back home).” “きれいに見(み)えても、じつはきれいじゃないんですよ (Actually, they’re not clean even if they look it).” “部屋(へや)をきれいにかたづけた (I tidied up my room).” Other examples are: きれいな空気(くうき, air)/水(みず, water). Those who like being clean or tidying up everything are called きれいずき (literally, “a person who likes cleanness”). きれいごと (literally, “something clean”) means that what someone says or does sounds good superficially, but is actually out of step with the times or situation.

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Situation 1

Mariko has finished decorating a bamboo tree for Tanabata (Star Festival) with her mother.

母: まり子、きれいな七夕かざりができたねえ。

まり子: うん。今夜晴れるといいなあ。

Haha: Mariko, kireina Tanabata kazari-ga dekita-ne¯.

Mariko: Un. Kon’ya hareru-to ii-nā.

Mother: Mariko, we’ve done well decorating our bamboo tree.

Mariko: Yeah. I hope the weather clears up tonight!


Situation 2

Ms. Aoyama is consulting her senior colleague Ms. Gray about her boyfriend who causes her trouble.

グレイ: それで、彼はたくさん借金があったんでしょ? 彼、少しは返せたの?

青山: はい、私が全額、きれいに返済しました。

Gray: Sorede, kare-wa takusan shakkin-ga atta-n-desho? Kare, sukoshi-wa kaeseta-no?

Aoyama: Hai, watashi-ga zengaku, kirei-ni hensai-shimashita.

Gray: And, he was deeply in debt, wasn’t he? Did he pay to some extent?

Aoyama: Yes, I paid all his debts.

きれいに is used with the verbs like 食(たべる, to eat), 忘れる(わすれる, to forget), 別れる(わかれる, to part/divorce), etc. and means to do [the verb] perfectly, as in Ms. Aoyama’s phrase “きれいに返済(へんさい)する (to pay [the debt] perfectly).” Use きれいさっぱり to say it with emphasis, but be aware that this is a colloquial phrase.


Bonus Dialogue: Mr. Mita and Mr. Sere are eating lunch.

セレ: 三田(みた)くん、今日(きょう)はずいぶんきれいに食(た)べたね。失恋(しつれん)のせいで、昨日(きのう)まで食事(しょくじ)も喉(のど)を通(とお)らなかったのに!

三田: うん、すっかり立(た)ち直(なお)ったよ。となりの課(か)にすごくきれいな派遣(はけん)社員(しゃいん)が入(はい)って来(き)たおかげだよ。

セレ: 山崎(やまざき)さんだね。新(あたら)しいプロジェクトのために、半年(はんとし)だけの契約(けいやく)だそうだよ。

三田: 半年でいなくなっちゃうのか…。契約が切(き)れる前(まえ)におつきあいできるといいなあ。

セレ: だけど、山崎さんは、三田くんが先週(せんしゅう)までつきあっていた赤羽(あかばね)さんとは、ルックスも性格(せいかく)も正反対(せいはんたい)のタイプじゃない?

三田: 「去(さ)る者(もの)は日々(ひび)に疎(うと)し」ということわざがあるだろう?昔(むかし)の恋(こい)は、きれいさっぱり忘(わす)れたよ。

セレ: 一週間(いっしゅうかん)前というのは、あんまり昔というわけじゃないけど…。でも、三田くんが元気(げんき)になったんだから、まあ、いいか。

….

Sere: Mita, you ate all your lunch, even though you couldn’t even eat much until yesterday because you broke up with your girlfriend.

Mita: Yeah, I’ve completely recovered. It’s because of the new temp worker in the next section who is very pretty.

Sere: You’re talking about Ms. Yamazaki, aren’t you? Her employment contract is only six months, since she was employed for the new project.

Mita: Is she leaving in six months? I hope she’ll start going out with me before the contract ends.

Sere: But, Ms. Yamazaki seems like the exact opposite of Ms. Akabane, your girlfriend until last week, both in appearance and character, doesn’t she?

Mita: Do you know the old saying “Out of sight, out of mind?” I’ve completely forgotten my old love.

Sere: It may be wrong to say the love you had one week ago is an old love, but since you’re feeling better, I think it’s OK.


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