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Can't make heads or tales of a phrase and a word


19 Sep 2021
Although my Japanese as a whole is still rather poor, I've been attempting to read some Japanese to challenge myself. All was going well until I encountered the phrase "手より先に体の方." I've spent several hours trying to dissect it with very little to show for it. Contextually, it functions as a subject in the broader sentence. I would appreciate some help and perhaps an explanation on why this means what it does. Additionally, later in the sentence, I discovered the word "ビ クン" which I can't find a proper translation for the life of me. Thanks in advance!

I am younger than you.

I like TV dramas better than movies./I prefer TV dramas to motion pictures.

He ranks above all the other children in his class.

She looks younger than her age.

Less money was collected than we had expected.

I would rather have tea than coffee.

The samurai 「valued loyalty above life [put loyalty before life].

She is more a singer than an actress.


I came earlier than he did./I arrived before he did.

The children have gone ahead (without waiting for us).

Please be seated in the order of arrival.

After you.

Do [Finish] your homework first (of all).

Excuse me, but I must be going.

4〔比べられる物の一方〕a side; a part

Give me the smaller one.

The fault was mine.

There was no dissatisfaction on his part.

All of us sided with him.

I am better off than I used to be.

ビクン is a mimetic word which is almost the same meaning as びくっ.


His eyebrows twitched.

My heart jumped./My heart missed [skipped] a beat.


I started [jumped] when someone tapped me on the shoulder.

Thanks for the help. I had guessed that those were the meanings of the kanji involved, however, I'm still a little confused about how it fits together though. If I'm spitballing "体の方" would mean something akin to the side of one's body. Contextually, 手 makes the most sense as referring to the speaker's arms. My best guess is that the phrase means something similar to "my arms before my sides." I could be completely off base though.
As you can see in the example sentences in the dictionary in my previous post, 方 means "side" as "one side of two", thus, "体の方" doesn't mean "the side of one's body".

AよりBの方が~ is a kind of set expression for comparison "B is more/less ~ than A". See again the following examples.

I like TV dramas better than movies./I prefer TV dramas to motion pictures.

I came earlier than he did./I arrived before he did.

Also, the following site would be helpful to understand the expression.

So, what do you think about 手より先に体の方(が) (=手より体の方(が)先に)?
Thanks for the clarification. In that case would "手より体の方" mean something like "body more than arms." However, I'm still a little confused about where the "に体" fits in. I assume it's supposed to give context to the comparison, something like "body before arms." For more context, this phrase is followed by "がビ クンとはねた" which I translated to mean something akin to twitched and refused. Given everything you've told me so far, my best guess at this point is that the whole phrase, "手より先に体の方がビ クンとはねた" means something like "my body before my arms twitched and refused." This would make sense contextually, as right before this phrase, the speaker talks about putting strength into his arms in order to get up.
See also examples sentences of 先 in the dictionary I provided. The particle に (or any other particles) is attached to the preceding noun 先, not the following one 体, and 先に works as an adverbial phrase. 手より先に体の方(が) (=手より体の方(が)先に) is a comparison "which is earlier" there, thus, it means "body (does/did) earlier than hand(s) (do/did)".

Judging from your way of interpretation of the phrases in this thread, and "開け放た would make the verb negative" in your previous thread, you haven't learned Japanese grammar properly via textbooks or something so far, right? I strongly recommend getting a well-structured textbook and learning grammar with using it. There were members who learned Japanese their own way, and their Japanese didn't improve for many years as a result. It might not be impossible to learn Japanese via translating real materials as you would try to do, but it's no doubt an inefficient way of learning. My two cents.
I appreciate the advice. I actually have several more formal resources that I'm using to learn Japanese, this is merely a way of challenging myself. I should definitely be using those other resources more heavily, it's just that trying to read Japanese directly gives me more instant gratification. Regardless, thanks for all your help! I really do feel I understand this sentence better now!
I see. Then, the site "imabi" I linked in my previous post could be useful as a quick reference.

Just for confirmation, can you tell us why you think はねた means "twitched and refused"? Is it related to はねつける or はねのける, by any chance?
Sorry for the late response, but the reason I translated はねた as refused is because of all the translations I found online, it made the most sense contextually.

These were the site where I found that translation. "To refuse" is the second definition on both entries:
Ah, I see. Please refer to the following definitions in a J-J dictionary.

はねる【撥ねる】 の解説
5 拒絶する。断る。はねつける。「要求を―・ねる」

6 物の端を勢いよく上に向ける。文字の線などの先端を払い上げるようにする。「ぴんと―・ねた口ひげ」「筆順の最後に縦の棒を下ろして―・ねる」

はねる as "to refuse" is a transitive verb used in a structure "peopleobject をはねる", as in the example sentence of the definition #5 要求をはねる "(I) refuse a request". A compound verb はねつける is more commonly used for this meaning.

On the other hand, ビクンとはねる is a (often involuntary) physical action "to twitch". ビクンとはねる is almost always used an intransitive verb, i.e., the subject is the part that moves. As you can see, 体 (or 手) is the subject in your example, thus, it's the definition #6. When the subject is inanimate or doesn't have any emotion/will, はねる doesn't mean "to refuse".
Okay, I think I understand that now. Could ビクンとはねる be translated as something similar to "sprung upright" then? I'm not sure if I'm reading the definition correctly, but something like that would also make sense contextually. Since the speaker is talking about putting strength into his arms it would make sense to me if his body either "twitched," with the implication that it's not responding correctly, or if he jolted upright. Sorry for the late response once again.
If the subject is lying on the floor/ground, yes, the movement is upward. However, it's a short small single action, and not like "to sit up/stand up". Also, it's a non-volitional action.
The subject is lying on a bed so the movement would be upward. Additionally, in the previous phrase, the speaker indicates that he is volitionally putting strength into his arms. That being the case I think it would make sense contextually if the non-volitional movement, "ビクンとはねる" happens before the volitional movement mentioned in the previous phase. For context, the entire sentence is "起き上がろうと手に力を入れると、手より先に体の方がビ クンとはねた." I didn't include it before because I was mostly concerned with the second half, but now I'm worried I made a mistake in my translation of the first half that's skewing my interpretation of the rest.
For confirmation, have you learned the form ~(よ)うと(する) and ~と conditional?

手より先に体の方がビクンとはねた doesn't always mean that his arms also moved after his body. It can express that only his body moved, and arms didn't move. It differs depending on the context, i.e., what is written after the sentence.
I have not learned that conditional. Unfortunately, my knowledge of Japanese is rather sporadic, although I'm doing my best to remedy that. The sentence after this one in the passage was much easier to translate, but it seems to be the start of a completely different thought.
Is it possible to tell us your translation of the clause 起き上がろうと手に力を入れると?
Yes, you got the gist of it. In the structure AしようとBする, the action A is the purpose of the action B.

と at the end of the clause is for conditional, meaning "when" here, so 起き上がろうと手に力を入れると means "when I put strength into my arms to get up".

As you would already realize, the action A is not always done in this form. It would be more common to interpret that he is still lying on the bed (and his arms wouldn't be moved, in my impression.)
So could the whole sentence be translated to something like "When I put strength into my arms to get up, my body only twitched"?
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