おきに - Grammar Discussion

English translation:
repeated at intervals
every other
every
at intervals of

Structure:
Number + Counter + おきに

Explanation:
おきに describes interval between events.
For continous variables like seconds, minutes, hours assuming that event is momentary Xおきに can be replaced with Xごとに meaning every X.
For discrete variables like days, weeks, months, stairs etc Xおきに cannot be replaced with Xごとに.

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I really don’t get this one. How do we know the difference between ‘every’ and ‘every other’?

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Hey :grin:

1おきに can mean “every” or “every other(second)” by extension depending on a counter.
It is because おきに is used to describe an interval between events.
Rather than saying “every X”.

If variable expresses something that is continuous like meters, minutes and hours etc 1おきに will mean "every second/ every minute/ every meter etc.

If variable expresses something that is discrete like days, weeks and months, steps, etc
1おきに will mean “every second day, week, month”

●1。。。。。●2。。。。。●3
This expresses continuous variable, let’s say hours.
Black dots express hours, but between them we have minutes.
So the interval of one hour means 60 minutes. White dots express 10 minutes.
So after an interval of 60 minutes, we have the next event at 2 o’clock.

So you can say that the event happens every hour (at 1st o’clock, 2nd o’clock etc).
That’s why 1おきに can be swapped with 1ごとに for those.


For discrete variables the situation is different.

Let’s say our variable are days. We assume that day cannot be split.

1 - Monday
2 - Tuesday
3 - Wednesday
4 - Thursday
5 - Friday

①②③④⑤
The event will happen with an interval of one day.
Black dot expresses the interval.

①●③●⑤
So the event happens on Monday, and Friday.
So we can say it happens every other (second) day.

That’s why 1おきに cannot be swapped with 1ごとに、but with 2ごとに。

Is it more clear now?

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Hi

Thank you very much for your very detailed explanation. I understand it better now but there is just one thing that I still don’t understand - what does ‘descrete’ mean in this situation and why is a hour considered as ‘continuous’ but a day is not? Surely days, months, years, etc. are just as continuous as seconds? Or am I just being stupid? :joy:

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Good point dear sir,

Basically, we assume that there is no such a thing as half Tuesday, half of a step etc because noone really says that.

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Thanks! Yes that’s 100% clear now although that different way of thinking will take a bit of getting used to. I’ll try using it as often as I can.

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hi, i think i understand the usage of this construction, but what if I actually want to say "every other hour (or any continuous variable)? what construction do i use then?

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Wouldn’t you say 2時間おきに in this context? Maybe?

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@duong091 @matt_in_mito
Hey and sorry for the slow answer :bowing_man:

I would say that the most common way would be 2時間ごとに。2時間おきに would be also correct, but it might cause some confusion sometimes.

I hope it helps,
Cheers!

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This seems like that age-old “how many days until something” problem, by which I mean stuff like this:
If today is the 12th of August and my birthday is the 14th, how far away is it?
The problem is that if you answer with days as discrete units, which they technically aren’t, you could have one, because there’s a day between them, or two, because 1 day away is the 13th, so 2 days away is the 14th.

What is the case for years, out of curiosity?

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I think a good way to think about is that, whenever that many of whatever you’re talking about happens, whatever you’re describing happens.

For example, 二日おきに would be the same as saying “once two days have passed”, whereas 二日ごとに is just “every two days”

So if our week is starting on a Monday:

  • 二日おきに would refer to Wednesday as the day the thing is happening, because two days have passed.
  • On the other hand, 二日ごとに refers to Tuesday, since it’s the second day on a two-day interval basis.

Does that make sense? @matt_in_mito @duong091

As a side note, I also read that the meaning may vary depending on the speaker.
So it’s always good to just ask for confirmation if you’re feeling uncertain. I’ll copy and paste the example from this reading:

例1)
Aさん「この行事は、来年から2年おきに行います。」
Bさん「3年に1回ということですね?」
Aさん「いえ。2年に1回です。2年ごとに開催します。」

Language is a living thing spoken by living things. So don’t think too hard about rules, just get the gist of it and try to use it!

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