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Lesson Transcript

Hi everybody! Hiroko here. Welcome to Ask a Teacher, where I’ll answer some of your most common Japanese questions.
The question for this lesson is…What’s the difference between 違う(chigau) and 間違う(machigau)?
Both 違う(chigau) and 間違う(machigau) are related to making a mistake, so how do you know which one to use?
違う(chigau) is used when two things don’t correspond or match or the information is incorrect. The basic way you can remember it is “A does not equal B.” For example, if you have the wrong telephone number, as in, it’s simply different from the correct one, you would say, 電話番号が違う(denwa-bangō ga chigau).
However, if you accidentally misdialed that number you would say, 電話番号を間違えた(denwa-bangō o machigaeta) using 間違う(machigau). this is because 間違う(machigau) means that someone does something wrong or makes a mistake, instead of something just being “incorrect.”
Let’s go through some examples so you can learn how to use 違う(chigau) and 間違う(machigau) correctly.
First, let’s do an example with 違う(chigau)--
A: 山田さんですか。(Yamada-san desu ka.)
B: いいえ、違います。(Iie, chigaimasu.)
A: “Are you Mr./Ms. Tanaka?”
B: “No, I’m not.”
This is a typical usage of 違う(chigau). In this case, “No I’m not,” would more directly translate as “No, you are mistaken.” Person A simply has the wrong information about who Person B is.
Now, let’s do an example with 間違う(machigau)--
塩と砂糖を間違うと大変だ。(Shio to satō o machigau to taihen da.)
Literally, “If I mistake salt for sugar, it’d be a disaster.”
In this case, we’re talking about the potential of someone actually mistaking salt for sugar.
Let’s do one more example --
あなたの考えは間違っているよ。(Anata no kangae wa machigatte iru yo.)
Your thinking is incorrect. which is equivalent to “You’re wrong.)”
While 間違う(machigau) focuses on the act of making a mistake, using it in the form of 間違っている(machigatte iru) can also be used to highlight that something is “wrong,” “incorrect,” or “unjust.”
Remember that while 違う(chigau) and 間違う(machigau) may be similar in the fact that they both involve mistakes, they both come from different views. 間違う(machigau) is about the mistake being made and 違う(chigau) is about incorrect information.
How was this lesson? Pretty interesting, right? Make sure to go to JapanesePod101.com for more practice!
Do you have any more questions? Leave them in the comments below and I’ll try to answer them!
またね![mata ne!] See you!