806 - と思いきや(とおもいきや)

JLPT N1: と思いきや(とおもいきや // I thought... but [that wasn't the case]

I have great news. This is going to be a very short lesson.

と思いきや is a phrase that you can use when you had expected something to be one way, but in reality it turned out differently.

For example, let's say you broke your mother's computer. When you did, you thought she'd get mad at you. Instead, she was pretty cool about it.

You might say something like...

母のパソコンを壊してしまった。叱られるかと思いきや、笑って許してくれた。
はは の パソコン を こわして しまった。 しかられる か とおもいきや、 わらって ゆるして くれた。
I (accidentally) broke my mother’s computer. I thought she was going to yell at me, but instead she just laughed and forgave me.
Literally: “mother + の + PC + を + (accidentally) broke. + be scolded + か + と思いきや, + laugh / smile (and) + forgive (and) + gave (me).”


と思いきや is a pretty old-fashioned phrase. However, people do say it. It tends to be used in a lighthearted manner. Because of this, it sounds oddly casual. You wouldn't use it in formal writing, for example.

 

Let's look at another example:

車のエンジンが急に止まってドキッとした。壊れたかと思いきや、アイドリングストップ機能というものだそうだ。
くるま の エンジン が きゅうに とまって ドキッと した。 こわれた か とおもいきや、 アイドリングストップ きのう という もの だ そうだ。
The car’s engine suddenly shut off. I thought it had died, but apparently it was just a feature called “idling stop.”
Literally: “car + の + engine + が + suddenly + stop (and) + being startled + did. + broke + か + と思いきや, + idling stop + function / feature + という + thing + だ + そうだ (=[hearsay marker]).”
Note: It is really hard to translate ドキッとする. This onomatopoeic word conjures up an image of a heart skipping a beat. Here it adds the nuance that the car's shutting off was unexpected and startled/worried the speaker.

 

👷 Construction 👷

Don't worry about it!

The at the beginning of と思いきや is the  used when quoting things. Accordingly, all kinds of different words can appear in front of it.

 

Two more examples, and you'll be finished...

子供向けの映画だから1時間半くらいで終わるかと思いきや、なかなか終わらない。
こども むけ の えいが だ から いちじかん はん くらい で おわる か とおもいきや、 なかなか おわらない。
It’s a children’s movie, so I thought it’d be over in an hour and a half or so, but it just keeps going.
Literally: “children + intended for / aimed at + の + movie + だ + because + an hour and a half + about / approximately + で + finish / end + か + と思いきや, + just (won’t) + doesn’t finish / doesn’t end.”

 

5才の子供に大盛りのラーメンは食べ切れないだろうと思いきや、ペロリと平らげた。
ごさい の こども に おおもり の ラーメン は たべきれない だろう とおもいきや、 ペロリ と たいらげた。
I didn’t think a five-year old would be able to finish a large order of ramen, but he [she] made short work of it.
Literally: “five years old + の + child + に + large serving + の + ramen + は + cannot eat all of it + だろう + と思いきや, + made short work of / ate up quickly (=licking up + と + ate up / made flat).”

 

See? I told you it'd be a short lesson... although I guess the example sentences weren't all that short...
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