Grammar Info
N3 Lesson 10: 4/20

accidentally, unconsciously, against one's better judgement

Usually ends with てしまう

つい + Phrase
Register Standard
使用域 一般
Appearing most frequently at the beginning of sentences, つい is a 副詞(ふくし) (adverb) that may be translated as ‘accidentally’, ‘unconsciously’, ‘absentmindedly’, or ‘against one’s better judgment’. つい will often be paired with statements that use てしまう, to emphasize that something was unintentional.
  • ごめんタケシ君(くん)クッキー目(め)の前(まえ)にあったからつい食(た)べてしまった。
    Sorry Takeshi-kun, your cookie was right in front of me, so I absentmindedly ate it.
  • 先生(せんせい)怒(おこ)られるつい笑(わら)っちゃうね。
    When I am being scolded by the teacher, I accidentally laugh.
  • 運転中(うんてんちゅう)携帯(けいたい)使(つか)ったらだめなのは分(わ)かっているんだけど、メールが来(く)るつい携帯(けいたい)見(み)ちゃう
    I know that I shouldn't use my phone while driving, but when I get a text I unconsciously look at my phone.
Fun Fact
Although ‘accidentally’ is the most common meaning of つい, it actually may be used to convey three different nuances. These are as follows:
はからず - Something that is uncalculated.
思(おも)わず - Something that is not thought about.
距離(きょり)わずかなさま - A small gap/interval.
In each of these meanings, つい keeps a sense of time being the most important factor. Due to this, つい will give the impression that whatever resulted in the ‘accidental’ action, will be something that happened momentarily. This is very close to the meaning of ‘lapse’ in English. ‘a lapse in time’, ‘a lapse in judgment’, ‘a lapse in forethought’.
  • 早(はや)く起(お)きて準備(じゅんび)てもつい遅(おく)れてしまう
    Even if I wake up early to get ready, I’ll be late due to a lapse of time.
  • 電車(でんしゃ)遅(おく)れるついイライラしてしまう
    When the train is late, I’ll get angry due to a lapse in judgment.
  • お腹(なか)空(す)いていなくても、目(め)の前(まえ)に食(た)べ物(もの)があるつい食(た)べてしまう
    Even if I am not hungry, if there is food in front of me, I will eat it due to a lapse of forethought.
Slow Male
Hide All
Hide Japanese
Hide English
Against my better judgement, I eat ice cream while on a diet.
Since I am not supposed to laugh, it feels like I might accidentally laugh.
While driving, I become unconsciously inattentive.
[AIAIJ] An Integrated Approach to Intermediate Japanese
Page 209