The 5 Unparalleled Powers Of Sa (さ)

さ (sah). One sound. One breath. Yet it wields power beyond your wildest imagination. This is not an exaggeration: mastering さ will make your Japanese sound awesome. Many foreigners attempt to use it (because who doesn’t want to sound awesome?), but it is one of the harder pieces of grammar to get down naturally. You can tell when someone is over their head trying to use it, as if you haven’t really connected with さ, it will not work for you.

The 5 Unparalleled Powers Of Sa

Here are its 5 main uses:

5. While verifying your judgment or opinion, you are strengthening your feeling on the matter.

Even I can do it!

4. Acting as a bit of an observer from the sidelines, with a slight air of “whatever” attitude, expressing your feelings.

You don’t need to be worrying like that

3. Used with a question phrase, showing a rebuttal, reprimand, or blame.

Why are you keeping quiet?

2. Showing that you are explaining what someone else said.

He said that he’s also going.

1. Attached to many different types of words, while giving you a moment to gather what you are saying, showing feeling that you are trying to catch attention from the listener.

But… I…I get it.

How often is this used?

It’s more common in casual situations, but there is no way you can listen to Japanese and avoid the さ barrage.

How do you master it?

You can read these explanations and know them in and out, but pulling off a natural さ just takes practice.

– In the beginning only use it with specific phrases that you’ve heard and know well. This is no time to go さ freestyling just yet.
– Listen carefully to the way it sounds in different contexts. The pitch and speed vary greatly depending on use and it often takes on a wavy effect 〜 (where in one さ the intonation goes up and down)
– Wait till you feel the さ come out. This is a highly intuitive release word

Your experience with さ

Have you come across さ yet? How have you dealt with it? Or are you already a さ master?


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Founder of Jalup. Spends most of his time absorbing and spreading thrilling information about learning Japanese.


The 5 Unparalleled Powers Of Sa (さ) — 17 Comments

  1. 俺ってさ、「さ」の使い方についてさ、其処まで考えた事が無いんだけどさ、この記事を読んでさ、日本語の奥深さに感動しちゃってさ、そんでさ、やる気が湧いてきてさ、まあ、兎に角、皆さんもね、一緒に頑張ってこうぜ

  2. I seem to hear さぁぁ a lot in anime, by itself, as a somewhat cheeky response to a question that the speaker doesn’t want to answer.

    • Yes that’s さ’s use at the beginning of a sentence and is the perfect cool way to show you don’t know/don’t care.

  3. さ is one of the few words that I picked when watching Ninja Warrior (before I started studying Japanese). The announcer guy would just keep saying it. I also noticed all the Katakana English, ジャンピンガスパイダー! (Jumping Spider!)

    • It is really nearly impossible to escape and since it is just one sound, often emphasized, it jumps out at you.

  4. When working/spending time with young Japanese students/kids, you are bound to hear this a lot.

    For some 小学生, though, it can get a bit ridiculous. I think the records was over 20 in about 5 minutes. The さs can be so numerous that you might forget the first part of their conversation before they finish their thoughts.

    • That’s pretty much along the lines of English teenagers using “like” every other word. They think it’s cool to use so they use it, then it becomes a habit, and eventually it tends to fade away as they build their vocabulary.

      I actually don’t use the さ version in point 1 in my Japanese since I don’t use that kind of lexicon in my English.

  5. Can you please record how each one of these「さ」’s are said? I’ve heard the “who knows” one, and I’ve also heard the wavy down then up one but I don’t know which「さ」it is!

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