Grammar Info

N3 Lesson 5: 20/22




Noun + () + さえ
Noun + Particle + さえ
Verb + こと(1) + さえ + (する)
Verb[ます+ さえ + (する)
Verb[て]+ さえ + (いる)



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About さえ

さえ is an adverbial particle in Japanese that is used to place emphasis on something existing in certain state. It is often translated as 'even'. さえ has three primary meanings, which are as follows:
Analogical Reasoning: 類推(るいすい) - Analogy, (A) is an outstanding example of something.
Limit: 限定(げんてい) - Limit, (A) is all that is needed for something.
Addition: 添加(てんか) - (A) compounds something that is pre-existing.
さえ is regularly paired with other particles and is often followed by verbs in negative form, with the overall meaning usually being determined by what part (B) of the sentence is conveying. Let's look at a few examples.
  • 上級者(じょうきゅうしゃ)(かれ)でさえ出来(でき)ないのに、あなた出来(でき)わけがないでしょう
    Even someone in the advanced class level can't do it, there is no way you can do it.
  • 彼女(かのじょ)(おや)さえ()らせず彼氏(かれし)結婚(けっこん)した。
    She got married to her boyfriend, even without telling her parents.
  • (かれ)はストレスのせいで晩飯(ばんめし)()べることさえ出来(でき)なくなった。
    Due to him being stressed, he couldn't even eat.
  • タナカ(くん)(ひど)くない彼女(かのじょ)(きず)つけたのに(あやま)さえしなかったらしいよ。
    Don't you think Tanaka-kun is a jerk? He hurt his girlfriend, but he didn't even apologize.
  • そんな(ほう)っておいてさえたら、すぐ(なお)よ。
    Even if you leave it as it is, it will get well quickly.
In each of these cases, we can see how さえ is showing that (A) is an extreme example of something.
Fun Fact
は, も, でも, and さえ are all adverbial particles that can be thought of as having a relationship toward, and away from what is 'expected' in any given situation. This relationship can be seen here:
(A) は - (A) is completely expected, there is nothing unusual.
(A) も - (A) will be included as part of what is expected, but can be unusual.
(A) でも - (A) may or may not be included as part of what is expected, and can be unusual.
(A) さえ - (A) is separated completely from what is expected, and is unusual.
Due to this unexpected and unusual situation that さえ always presents, it is regularly translated as 'let alone (A)', or 'not to mention (A)'.
  • このレベルはプロでさえ(むずか)しいというのに、よくできたね。
    I am impressed you were able to do this, let alone that it is difficult even for professionals.
  • トムこんな漢字(かんじ)()ている(すご)(おも)よ。日本人(にほんじん)でさえ漢字(かんじ)(むずか)しいのに
    Tom, I think it is impressive that you know this many kanji. Not to mention that it is difficult even for Japanese people.



  • 富士山(ふじさん)頂上(ちょうじょう)(なつ)さえ(さむ)

    It is cold on the summit of Mt. Fuji even in summer.

    If a particle (like で, から, に, へ) is used with a noun, that particle will precede さえ. If the particle is へ or に, then the use of said particles is optional. This does not apply to は, が or を which are replaced (though をさえ sometimes appears in older literature).

    • そんな初歩的(しょほてき)なことは、子供(こども)さえ()っている。

      Even children know things that basic.

      子供でさえ is a very common phrase. でさえ is much more often used in this combination than さえ.

      • (ちい)さい(たたか)さえ(わたし)はしたことがない。

        I've never even been in a small fight.

        • 祖父(そふ)(わか)(ころ)戦時中(せんじちゅう)(とお)まで戦闘(せんとう)()かった。日本(にほん)さえ(たたか)いに()ったことがある。

          When my grandfather was young, he fought in far off lands during the war. He even went to Japan.

          • あのことについてさえ()っているんです。

            I even know about that thing.

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            さえ – Grammar Discussion

            Most Recent Replies (6 in total)

            • Daru


              さえ puts greater emphasis. Think of it like how かもしれない and はずだ both express certainty, but to different degrees. Hope this helps!

            • ollieisamuppet


              Maybe im being stupid here, but I dont understand how im supposed to figure out when で is needed and when it isnt needed after a noun. For example, 子供でさえ vs 価値さえ? I dont get why they are treated differently when theyre both nouns. Is it to do with the first being a living thing?


            • NickavGnaro


              If you’re going to use さえ, then you have to use でさえ if it would have been appropriate to use でも. Basically, add the で if the phrase requires a copula.

              子供でさえ = 子供でも = even if (he/she/it) is a child
              (notice the copular “to be” statement creeping in there - that’s what the で is responsible for in this case).

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