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  • Writer's pictureDavid Nagai

“Hate” & “Lie” Nuance

Updated: May 21, 2021

“Hate” and “lie” are very strong, harsh words in English. If you use them in the wrong situation, you may offend people and sound like a mean, judgmental, or insensitive person.


In Japanese, kirai is sometimes translated as “hate.” But kirai should actually be translated as “dislike,” which is not as strong as “hate.”

So how can we communicate that we dislike something in a respectful and polite way? Here are some nuanced phrases that are polite but clear about disliking something or someone.

I didn’t really care for Nathan’s presentation. I’m not a big fan of Picasso. I’m not really into sumo. ("Not into" means not interested in it) I was a bit uncomfortable with the way you talked to her. Can you explain what you were trying to communicate? (This is a bit confrontational, but it’s respectful and opens up the space for them to explain and dialog)

I didn’t really resonate with Susan’s proposal. (This communicates that you either didn’t agree, didn’t appreciate something, or didn’t understand fully) And of course, if you just want to be very clear and direct that you dislike something, just say, “I dislike/don’t like _________.” Or, offer a softening nuance by saying, “I don’t really like ________ a whole lot/very much.”


Now let’s take a look at the Japanese word uso, which is sometimes translated as “lie.”

A lie, in English, is very negative and is considered to be very bad behavior. It means that you explicitly don't tell the truth. If you say that someone is lying, make sure that it is a very serious issue and that you are prepared to confront them, because it questions their integrity and morality. However, if you’re implying that they’re joking, kidding, or not being serious, don’t say “lie.”

Let’s consider some examples of how to communicate about someone who is joking, kidding, or not being serious. In Japanese you may say, Uso deshyo?

You must be kidding me.

You must be joking.

Wow, I can’t believe it!

Are you kidding me?

Are you serious?



Another way uso is sometimes used in Japanese is, “Oh, I misspoke.” (“Ah, imano uso. Honto wa…”) Here are some examples of how to communicate this:

Ah, what I meant was…

Sorry, that’s not right. Actually I intended to say that…

Sorry, I gave you the wrong information. Let me say it again.

Oops, my bad. What I should have said was…

Of course, if you truly hate something or believe that someone is lying, you may want to use those words. But if you actually want to communicate respectful dislike, astonishment, or that you misspoke, I hope these examples will be useful for you.


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