Repeating a Phrase Multiple Times

Repeat a word in rapid succession to make your Japanese sound more natural.  A strange but very powerful technique you can use in a language where you will find it common to hear double-takes and triple-takes of words.  If you thought that was enough, wait till you start hearing the quadruple, quintuple, and even sextuple-takes.

I’m aware that in English we also say multi-take words occasionally such as “yeah, yeah, yeah”, or “okay, okay,” but it pales in comparison to what Japanese does with the concept.

Here are a few major examples you will often hear:

そうそうそうそう:  Yea that’s it (when you are verifying what someone says is correct)
はいはいはい: Okay, I understand.
いたいたいたいたいた: There it is!
ないないない: no way.
行く行く行く: I’ll go!
きたきたきた: It’s here!
ねねねね or ななな: used when getting someone’s attention and you are about to ask something
いやいやいやいや: No, that’s not what I mean.

Many multi-takes allow the speaker to choose the amount of times he wants to repeat the word (anywhere from 2-6 times). While using these and the many others in existence, you need to follow two important rules:

1.  You can’t multi-take any random words

Multi-takes are only done with certain words.  Only add multi-takes to your speech when you’ve heard them before.  Just because you can say 行く行く行く doesn’t mean you can say 食べる食べる食べる.  I haven’t noticed any definite rules, but usually the words only contain 1-2 sounds.

2.  You must match the proper intonation/pronunciation

Often multi-taking presents a different way of saying it then the original word, especially when you are rapidly repeating the word, slurring the sounds together.  Some take a good deal of practice to sound natural (ex. いたいたいたいた)

Have any other examples of multi-takes?  Please leave them in the comments!

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


Repeating a Phrase Multiple Times — 8 Comments

  1. It’s worth noting that for some of these repeating it can change the meaning a little – saying hai once means yes, but saying it more than that often sounds like the person you’re replying to is being annoying or that you already know – which is why so many Japanese mothers say 返事は一回!to their kids.

  2. Never heard ね in anything more than a double take. Usually used by women. 行く is another one I’ve never heard more than once concurrently. Some of the others are pretty common. I use そうそうそうそう as a quint on a daily basis. I probably use it TOO much nowadays.

    Once in a blue moon I hear やだ as a triple.

    • I have used ね as in getting someone’s attention in a single.
      Example: ね、母さん。。。
      The ね in this case is held out just a little bit.
      I think it makes it sound a little more like I want something (like a favor to be done for me), or I approaching a topic kind of delicately? I think I could also use that if I’m about to complain or whine about something too. Tehehe.
      That sounds more like I am excited about something to share, or I’m really trying to get someone’s attention. It has a playful kind of feel, I think.

      Though I’m only a heritage speaker, so I might not explain that too well! ^^;;

  3. It’s a dialectal thing or something but instead of はいはいはい
    I’ve heard it being said as ははははは as a way of “I’m listening” sorta like you say, mhm, when someone is talking to you.
    It sounds really funky at first, like sarcastic laughing so it took me a while to get what it meant.

  4. Another fun one is “あるある”, used when referencing a common experience, especially for a group of people in a specific category.

    For example, you might post a picture of your massive pile of homework with the caption:
    “This is what happens when you’re a student”

    Or in regular conversation you can use it as a response to confirm that you’ve had a similar experience.

    “I only seem to attract the weird ones”
    “Oh yeah, I know what that’s like”

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