What's the meaning of すます in 耳をすませば?


What's the meaning of すます in 耳をすませば?

How would you translate this?


Posted 2011-07-31T02:03:03.063

Reputation: 5 007



すます is 澄ます without the kanji, and it means "to clear, to purify".

耳をすます【みみをすます】is a set phrase, listed in the dictionary in its complete form, meaning to listen carefully.

You can think of すます, then, in this context, as meaning to clear out your ears so as to listen better.


Posted 2011-07-31T02:03:03.063

Reputation: 23 440

Didn't realize it was an idiom. I think I'll stop trying to deconstruct it. – Louis – 2011-07-31T02:23:44.893

1Actually, the relevant sense of すます that is the origin of this idiom is 澄ます 'purify'. So the non-idiomatic translation is 'purify the ear'. – None – 2011-07-31T02:27:46.623

sawa: Okay, I'll trust you on that and edit accordingly. – Questioner – 2011-07-31T02:30:08.690


It is difficult to translate すます alone in this context. 耳をすます is an idiom meaning 'pay attention to any slight sound'


Posted 2011-07-31T02:03:03.063


1Sorry for the lack of context, it's the title of a movie. Thanks for commenting on Dave's answer. Going from to complete -> completely kinda bugged me. – Louis – 2011-07-31T02:39:12.647

@Louis No problem. By context, I just meant it would not be useful to give a non-idiomatic translation. But it turned out it may have been. What you gave was sufficient. – None – 2011-07-31T02:41:10.883


As stated above 耳をすます is an idiom that means 'to listen carefully'. If we translate literally there is a kanji for 'ears' - '耳' and a verb 'すます' which means - 'to clear' - so if we combine these it's - 'to clear ears' which is the same as 'to listen carefully'.

As for translation of 耳をすませば, it seems that すませば is a form of a verb to include 'if'. So I would translate it as 'if you/someone listen carefully' or something of that sort.


Posted 2011-07-31T02:03:03.063

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