No More Mistakes About Using Both 怖い and 恐い
There’s afraid, scared, frightened and terrified in English can be translated to 怖い and 恐い in Japanese. However, what is the difference between them? Both you can read こわい. I’d say you have been using the word of こわい so far. However, the way to read こわい is the actually same thing, so it may have made Japanese learners confused to use and write. Today, let me introduce how they are different from each other and the way to use them clearly.
怖い (kowai) / 恐い (kowai)
Afraid / Scared / Frightened / Terrified
When searching the meaning of 怖い and 恐い, they mean the same thing. However, there’s two different way to use. First, 怖い is “kanji in common use”, unlike 恐い. Second, 怖い can be used as subjective and 恐い can be used as the objective. This is how natives use 怖い or 恐い depending on the situations. Let’s look at the detail.
Firstly, “kanji in common use” which is called 常用漢字 that Japanese government designates a lot of kanji can be often used on daily base. So that’s why, when reading the Japanese newspaper, 怖い is often used than 恐い. And if you write official letters to someone, then using 怖い would be better than using 恐い.
Secondly, subjective or objective which means is that when someone feels he/she is afraid / scared / frightened / terrified about something, using 怖い is better to choose. However, when someone thinks everybody would be afraid / scared / frightened / terrified about something, using 恐い is better to choose.
For instance, when you got scolded by a school teacher, you would use 先生は怖い, however, when the school teacher scolded someone and you have heard about it, you could use 先生は恐い. People have experienced something such as an earthquake, they could use 地震は怖い, but People don’t have experienced something such as the earthquake and they have just heard it from someone or saw it on the show-biz , they could use 地震は恐い.
Could you figure the difference between 怖い話 and 恐い話? When using 怖い話, people have experienced it, and when using 恐い話, people saw about it on the show-biz or hear from someone.
怖い : kanji in common use : subjective : experience
恐い : except for kanji in common use : objective