Grammar Info

N2 Lesson 2: 12/24


Before, In front of, From one's standpoint or side


Verb + 手前(てまえ)
Noun + + 手前(てまえ)


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About 手前

The noun 手前(てまえ) 'in front of' has several different meanings in Japanese depending on whether it is being used with a verb in its standard form, or with a noun.
Regarding verbs, it expresses 'going forward from (A), (B)'. This is usually in relation to something that has happened either accidentally or completely, and may represent what will be done as a result of being in that situation.
  • (がけ)から()ちる手前(てまえ)父親(ちちおや)(うで)()()られた。
    My father pulled me by my arm before I fell off the cliff.
  • (いきお)いで()()げてしまった手前(てまえ)(こた)えずに()()げるわけにはいかない。
    From the standpoint of me raising my hand in the heat of the moment, there is no way of me backing out without answering the question.
  • 先輩(せんぱい)にはいつもお世話(せわ)になっている手前(てまえ)彼女(かのじょ)(たの)みを(ことわ)るわけにはいかない。
    Since my senpai always takes good care of me, there is no way that I can turn down her request.
This can also be interpreted as 'now that (A), (B)', and simply highlights that nothing can be done except to move on or 'forward' given the current circumstances.
When 手前(てまえ) appears with nouns followed by the case marking particle の, it often expresses that what is 'in front' of (A) is the reason for (B), or simply is 'in front of (B)'.
  • (むすめ)手前(てまえ)運動(うんどう)音痴(おんち)姿(すがた)()せるわけにはいかない。
    I can't show my unathletic self in front of my daughter.
  • 彼女(かのじょ)両親(りょうしん)手前(てまえ)発言(はつげん)には()()けなければいけない。
    I have to be careful of what I say when I am in front of my girlfriend's parents.
Despite the many translations, 手前(てまえ) always shows something that is 'facing' the noun or verb that appears with it. Due to this, thinking of this structure as similar to 'faced with (A), (B)' may be helpful, as English also expresses lack of option and finality in this way.




    Please look at the thing that is in front of you.


    I was helped just before I would have died. (on the brink)


    The person in front of me is my friend.


    Please position the organ even more in front.


    I became able to throw a curveball that curves even more in front.

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