Hontou Means "Really" in Japanese

Japanese Words

A skeptical gentleman asks, "Oh really?" or a lady with a parasol in Japan
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Those of us for whom English is our first language might not realize how much we use the word "really" in everyday conversations. Often, someone will tell us a startling fact or make a somewhat surprising statement and the natural response is, "Really?" There are many ways to say the word "really" for speakers of Japanese. One of the most common ways is hontou.

Writing and Saying Hontou

  • Japanese Characters: 本当。 (ほんとう。)
  • Pronunciation of "Hontou."

Other Ways to Say "Really?"

  • hontou ni: "Really," however, there is a stronger emphasis on the ni so it tends to be a stronger version of the word in verbal and written form. Examples of "really" in a Japanese formal conversation are: Hontou ni hajimete desu ka? ("Is it really your first time?"); Hontou ni yoku nite iru! ("She’s really like you!"); Hontou ni sono saabisu wa tadadesuka? ("So is your service really free?").
  • hontou desu ka: "Are you sure?" can be used in place of hontou in formal situations. Hontou desu ka allows you to express more doubt when saying "really?" in Japanese.
  • sou desu ka: "Is that so?" or "Are you sure?'
  • hontoudesu: "It is true," or "It is a fact."
  • honki: "Really." Hon means true, and ki means spirit or state of being. Example: Honki desu ka? ("Are you serious?")

Resources and Further Reading

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Abe, Namiko. "Hontou Means "Really" in Japanese." ThoughtCo, Aug. 29, 2020, thoughtco.com/hontou-meaning-2028352. Abe, Namiko. (2020, August 29). Hontou Means "Really" in Japanese. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/hontou-meaning-2028352 Abe, Namiko. "Hontou Means "Really" in Japanese." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/hontou-meaning-2028352 (accessed March 24, 2023).