Grammar · Japanese

Differences and Usages: いきる vs. すむ

I got a question from a Japanese learner about how to use 生きる (ikiru) and 住む (sumu) correctly.
Both can be translated as “to live” in English, but they are not exactly the same in Japanese.

(Old houses in Kawagoe, Japan)

生きる means “to lead a life” or “to survive,” and its opposite word is 死ぬ (shinu), “to die”.
1) 私たちは生きるために水が必要です。
(わたしたちは いきるために みずが ひつようです)
We need water to survive.
2) 彼は70歳まで生きました。
(かれは ななじゅっさいまで いきました)
He lived to be seventy.

On the other hand, 住む means “to reside” or “to settle.”
It is usually used with the name of the place where one lives.
1) 私は日本に住んでいます。
(わたしは にほんに すんでいます)
I live in Japan.
2) 彼は住む場所がない。
(かれは すむ ばしょが ない)
He has nowhere to reside.

If you use 生きる in the place of 住む in the example sentences above:
1) 私は日本で生きています sounds like “I’m surviving in Japan,” but it doesn’t sound as natural as the English translation.
2) 彼は生きる場所がない sounds like “He can’t survive anywhere.”

Is everything clear?
I hope this helps!

Leave a Comment: