Grammar Info

N1 Lesson 4: 15/17


Thought...but, When...thought that...but, Despite having thought...


Verb + (か)+ (おも)きや + Phrase[た]
[い]Adjective + (か)+ (おも)きや + Phrase[た]
[な]Adjective + (か(1))+ (おも)きや + Phrase[た]
Noun + (か(1))+ (おも)きや + Phrase[た]



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About と思いきや

(おも)いきや is an expression used in Japanese for indicating that something is not as one had thought, and will often be translated as 'despite having thought (A), (B)', or 'when I thought that (A), it was actually (B)'. (おも)いきや is a combination of the case marking particle と, the conjunctive form of the う-Verb (おも)う, (おも)い, the classical auxiliary verb き, which indicates past tense, and the classical binding (adverbial) particle や, which marks actual or rhetorical questions in the same way as か. Due to this, a more literal translation is 'I thought it had (A), but I guess (B)'.
Despite the origin of the phrase, in modern Japanese (おも)いきや is just thought of as an emphatic structure that highlights the speaker's surprise in relation to something not being as they had expected.
(おも)いきや may follow any word in its standard form.
  • 今日(きょう)残業(ざんぎょう)するか(おも)いきや、4()になったと同時(どうじ)上司(じょうし)が「みんな、毎日(まいにち)(つか)れさん、今日(きょう)(はや)めに(かえ)って、ゆっくりしてくれ」と()ってくれたから定時(ていじ)(まえ)(かえ)ることができた。
    I thought I would have to work overtime again today, but as soon as it hit 4:00, my boss said, 'Hey guys, thanks for working hard every day, go home early today and relax,' so I was able to leave before the regular time.
  • 木村(きむら)くんのピアノの先生(せんせい)(やさ)しい(おも)いきや見学(けんがく)してみたらめちゃくちゃ(こわ)くて(きび)しいということが()かった。
    I thought that Kimura-kun's piano teacher was nice, but when I went to observe the class, I found out that she is very strict and scary.
  • (いえ)()てるのは簡単(かんたん)(おも)いきや()てる(まえ)色々(いろいろ)土地(とち)調査(ちょうさ)など測量(そくりょう)などをしないといけなかったから(おも)っていたより面倒(めんどう)だった。
    I thought building a house would be easy, but it was more trouble than I expected because I had to do things such as survey and inspect the land before building.
  • 彼女(かのじょ)たちは姉妹(しまい)(おも)いきや親子(おやこ)だった。
    I thought that they were sisters, but they were mother and daughter.
The particle か may appear before (おも)いきや, but this just further emphasizes the same rhetorical question, as や itself has the same role.
A past tense phrase will always appear in (B), as it is considered to be the actual situation which has come about, or has been realized by the speaker.
  • (かれ)日本(にほん)に10(ねん)()んでいるもんだから日本語(にほんご)をペラペラに(はな)せる(おも)いきや(すこ)しも(はな)せない。
    He had lived in Japan for 10 years, so I thought that he could speak Japanese fluently, but he can't speak a word of it. (Unnatural Japanese)


  • (むすめ)部屋(へや)とても(しず)だからきっと()ている(おも)いきや意外(いがい)にも勉強(べんきょう)していた。

    I thought that my daughter was sleeping because it was very quiet, but to my surprise she was studying.

  • いよいよ()れるだろう(おも)いきや、たちまち(あめ)()()してしまった。

    I thought that the weather would finally clear up, but it suddenly started raining.

    だろう appears frequently before と思いきや.

  • うたげさん(ちい)さいから同級生(どうきゅうせい)(おも)いきや(おどろ)くことに先生(せんせい)だった。

    Because she was small (like me), I thought Utage-san was (my) classmate, but, to my surprise, she was (my) teacher.

  • 納豆(なっとう)はまずそう()えるから、間違(まちが)いなくまずい(おも)いきや実際(じっさい)は、そうではなかった。

    I thought for sure that natto would be gross since it looks unappetizing, but that was not the case.

  • 「やっぱり、今度(こんど)失敗(しっぱい)したか...」(おも)いきや見事(みごと)合格(ごうかく)だった。

    Despite having thought, 'As expected, I failed again,' I passed with flying colors.

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