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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…When do I use いえ(ie) or うち(uchi) when I read the kanji for “house?”
There are two readings, いえ(ie) and うち(uchi), for the kanji for “house.” So, how do you know which one to use?
いえ(ie) refers to the actual building where a family lives. うち(uchi) refers to both where those people live and who those people are. うち(uchi) also refers to your “in group” of people. You can think of it as いえ(ie) is “house” and うち(uchi) is “home.”
Let’s go through some examples so you can learn how to use いえ(ie) and うち(uchi) correctly.
First, let’s do an example with いえ(ie)--
新しい家(いえ)に引っ越したい。(Atarashii ie ni hikkoshitai.)
This phrase means, “I want to move to a new house.” Here, you are referring to a new building where you want to live. Therefore, we need to use いえ(ie).
Now, let’s do an example with うち(uchi) --
仕事が早く終わったので、早く家に帰れました。(Shigoto ga hayaku owatta node, hayaku uchi ni kaeremashita.)
“As I finished work early, I could come back home early.”
Here, you are referring to not only the building where you live, but you are also implying going home to the other people who are living there. It also has the nuance of going back to a place of belonging.
Let’s do one more example--
うちの猫は大きいです。(Uchi no neko wa ōkii desu.)
“My cat is big.”
This is a typical usage of うち(uchi) in reference to your “in group.” The sentence implies that you’re talking about your “house cat” or “the family cat.” That’s why, in this case, うち(uchi) is usually translated as “my” or “our.”
In many cases, いえ(ie) and うち(uchi) can be used interchangeably. However, again, if you think of いえ(ie) as “house” and うち(uchi) as “home” you can grasp the difference in nuance more easily.
How was this lesson? Pretty interesting, right?
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!