459 - なりに

Story of my life:

わたしなりに精一杯努力したが、失敗に終わった。
わたし なりに せいいっぱい どりょく した が、 しっぱい に おわった。
I did my very best, but I still failed.
Literally: “I + なりに + my best effort + great effort / exertion + did + が, + failure + に + ended.”

Just kidding. I rarely feel that I tried my best at things. The phrases "Oops, I got distracted" and "Well, that was a bit too impulsive" would sum up my life much better.

But let's say that I did try my best... but still failed. I want to convey this to a listener (in Japanese). Simultaneously, though, I want to sound kind of humble about it. I can do this with the なりに we saw in our sentence above.

In this case, なりに tends to be translated as something like "in my own way," but it is not limited to this meaning. Also, it is not limited to attempts at humility.

Generally speaking, なりに means something along the lines of: "appropriate to", "appropriate for," "in one's own way or style."

None of these definitions are all that helpful when trying to translate sentences with なりに in them, though. Sigh.


JLPT N1: なりに

A second example:


お金持ちはお金持ちなりに大変なのだろう。
おかねもち は おかねもち なりに たいへんな のだろう。
Being rich must have its own difficulties.
Literally: “rich person + は + rich person + なりに + difficult + のだろう.”

I was tempted to translate this as "Rich people must have their own difficulties," but I thought "Being rich" sounded more natural.

I am also tempted to completely avoid explaining なりに in this sentence because it is very hard for me to explain in English terms. That said, I'll give it a go.

Let's write a whack, quasi-literal translation of this sentence:

お金持ちは // お金持ちなりに // 大変なのだろう。
おかねもち は // おかねもち なりに // たいへんな のだろう。
As for rich people, // appropriate to rich people // it must be difficult.
Literally: “rich person + は + rich person + なりに + difficult + のだろう.”

I thought that the best way to translate this concept of "appropriate to rich people" was to use the phrase "its own" (or in my alternate definition, "their own").

I also used the possessive determiner "my" (Note: "its" and "their" are also possessive determiners... if my knowledge of grammatical jargon serves me correctly) when attempting to translate the nuance of わたしなりに:

わたしなりに精一杯努力したが、失敗に終わった。
わたし なりに せいいっぱい どりょく した が、 しっぱい に おわった。
I did my very best, but I still failed.
Literally: “I + なりに + my best effort + great effort / exertion + did + が, + failure + に + ended.”


This is not to say that we'll always use words like "my," "their," "its," and so on when translating なりに. We also might not use "appropriate to" or "appropriate for."

Consider this example:


子育ては想像以上に大変ですが、大変なりに楽しくやっています。
こそだて は そうぞう いじょう に たいへん です が、 たいへん なりに たのしく やっています。
Raising children is more difficult than I expected, but in a way I’m enjoying the difficulties.
Literally: “raising children + は + imagination + more than + に + difficult + です + が, + difficult + なりに + enjoyable + am doing.”


Aren't we gonna do that thing where we break down the sentence construction?

Ugh. Fine.

It is highly common for a NOUN to come directly before なりに.

But really, we can use just about any word in plain form. For example, we already saw a na-adjective attaching to なりに, and here we have an i-adjective coming directly before なりに

あの子はまだ5歳だが、幼いなりに色々悩みがあるようだ。
あの こ は まだ ごさい だ が、 おさない なりに いろいろ なやみ が ある ようだ。
She [He] is only five years old, but it seems that even that age has its own variety of worries.
Literally: “that + child + は + yet + 5 years old + だが, + (very) young + なりに + various + troubles / worries + が + has + it seems (=ようだ).”


Level Up Time

First, note that when it's followed by a NOUN, なりに becomes なり, as in this sentence:


私にはなり、彼にはなりやり方がある。
わたし に は わたし なりの、 かれ に は かれ なりの やりかた が ある。
I have my own way of doing things, and he has his.
Literally: “I + には + I + なりの, + he + には + he + なりの + way of doing + が + have.”


Second, you should just memorize the term それなりに, since it's common enough to get its own dictionary entries:

それなりに
in its own way; as it was; within its capacity

Like everything else we've seen so far, this can be difficult to translate. In the following sentence we just translated it as "pretty" because "pretty" sounded more natural than "in its own way:"

あそこのパスタはそれなりにおいしいが、評判ほどではない。
あそこ の パスタ は それ なりに おいしい が、 ひょうばん ほど ではない。
Yeah, that place has pretty good pasta, but it’s not as good as they say.
Literally: “that place + の + pasta + は + それなりに + tasty + が, + reputation / popularity + as much as (=ほど) + is not (=ではない).”


And with that, you've completed another lesson. You're a machine!