In a Japanese conversation, people often use vague expressions such as かな, とか and でも to sound casual and modest. This article explains their meanings with example usages!
とか is usually used to list things or people, such as “リンゴとかオレンジ” meaning “an apple and orange”. However, it is also used when you offer a suggestion while indicating that you are open to the other options. For example, when your friend asks you when and where you want to meet up, you can say “７時に銀座とか？” meaning “(How about) Ginza at seven?”. Here, とか is used to indicate that you’ve just proposed one option and are fine with other time and places.
かな is used at the end of a sentence to make it sound softer and more casual. As in とか, it is often used when you answer a question in a casual and friendly way. For instance, when someone asks you “最近(さいきん)仕事(しごと)どう？” (“How’s your work going?”), you can say “まあまあかな”, meaning “(I guess) it’s so-so/not bad.” in English. Here, putting “かな” at the end of the sentence makes your answer sound more casual and uncertain (undetermined). In this sense, it is similar to “I guess” and “probably” in English.
かも is an abbreviation of “かもしれない” meaning “may/might” in English. As in the expressions above, it is put at the end of a sentence and makes it less assertive. For instance, when your friend asks you what you want to eat for lunch, you can say “ラーメンとか食べたいかも” meaning “(I may) want to eat ramen (or something)“. Here, とか and かも are used to state your opinion in a modest and non-pushy way.
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