Using もう (Mō) and まだ (Mada) in Japanese: An In-Depth Guide

Depending on how it’s used, もう (mō) and まだ (mada) can have different meanings. Generally, they can have the following meanings:

  • もう () can mean: already, not anymore, again, soon, almost certain, or even “come on!”   
  • まだ(mada) means “not yet” or “still.”

What is もう(Mō) in Japanese? 

  • もう() is an adverb that can mean “already, soon, again, not anymore,” or even shows that you disapprove of something like saying “man!” or “what the hell?”
  • It is always written in hiragana.

Let’s take a look at the different meanings of もう and how to use them naturally in Japanese.  

1. もう(Mō) + Past Tense Verb: Already

When you use もう(mō) with a verb in the past tense, it gives it a meaning of “already” as in “it’s already done/finished.”  

もう (mō)  + Past Tense Verb = already finished/done ~

Examples: もう + Past Tense Verb

Verb in Past Tense Form+ もう (Mō)Already Done/Finished ~
Casual Plain Form:
食べた (tabeta)
ate
+ もう ()もう食べた ( tabeta)
already ate / finished eating
Polite/Masu Form:
食べました (tabemashita)
ate
+ もう ()もう食べました
( tabemashita)
already ate / finished eating
Casual Plain Form:
終わった (owatta)
finished
+ もう ()もう終わった ( owatta) already finished
Polite/Masu Form:
終わました (owarimashita)
finished
+ もう ()もう終わった ( owarimashita) already finished
Casual Plain Form:
見た (mita)
saw
+ もう ()もう見た ( mita) already watched / saw
Polite/Masu Form:
見ました (mimashita)
saw
+ もう ()もう見ました ( mimashita) already watched / saw

Example Sentences:  

Example 1:

お母さん: 宿題はもう終わった?
Okāsan: (Shukudai wa owatta?) 
Mother: Did you already finish your homework?

恵美:  もう終わったよ。
Emi: ( owatta yo.)
Emi: I’ve already finished it.

Example 2:

もう年末なの*?時が過ぎるのは早いね。
( nenmatsu* na no? Toki ga sugiru no wa hayai ne.
Is it already the end of the year? Time sure flies!

*Note:  年末 (nenmatsu), which means “the end of a year,” is a noun. It appears that もう is being used with this noun (もう年末) and a non-past tense verb. Actually, this is a shortened version of a longer sentence. The complete sentence would be:  

もう年末になったの?
( nenmatsu ni natta no?)
Is it already the end of the year?

もう is modifying the verb なった (natta), which means “become/became.” The literal translation of this sentence is, “It has already become the end of the year?” However, the になった (ni natta) part is often not said in casual conversations because it is understood from the context.  

Short Examples:

1.  もう帰るの?
( kaeru no?)
Are you leaving already?

2.  もうお腹がいっぱい。
( onaka ga ippai.)
I’m already full.

 2. もう(Mō) + Negative Verb: Anymore

When combined with a negative verb, もう will usually have a meaning of anymore, as in “not anymore” or the state of something isn’t the same (anymore).

もう() + Negative verb = Anymore

Examples:  

Example 1:

春樹: 家に卵はありますか?
Haruki: (Uchi/Ie ni tamago wa arimasu ka?)
Haruki: Do we have some eggs at home?

浩美: もう無いです。
Hiromi: ( nai desu.)
Hiromi: We don’t have any (anymore).

Example 2:

さっきまであんなに沢山の人がいたのに、もう誰もいない。
(Sakki made anna ni takusan hito ga ita noni daremo inai.)
There were so many people a while ago, but no one is here anymore.

Example 3:

もう知らない!
( shiranai!)
I don’t care anymore! / I don’t care about you anymore!

Example 4:

もう無理!
( muri!)
I can’t stand it anymore!

3. もう(Mō) + Negative Verb: Not Again/Never Again

Using もう with a negative verb can also mean “(not) again” or “never again.” For example, “I’m never talking to you again!” is a good example of this usage of もう in Japanese. 

もう() + Negative verb = Not Again/Never Again

Examples:

Example 1:

もうあそこには行かない。
( asoko ni wa ikanai.
I won’t go there again.

Example 2:

もうこれは買わない。
( kore wa kawanai.) 
I won’t buy this again.

4. もう (Mō): Hey! /Come on! / What the Hell! / Enough!

If you say もう in an angry or irritated way, it can mean “Hey!” or “What the hell!” Imagine someone annoying you, and you’ve reached your limit. You tell them, “Enough! Stop it!” That “enough” has a similar nuance to saying もう!

Let’s look at how this usage of もう is used.

Examples:  

Example 1: (Feminine Speech)

もうほっといてよ!
( hottoite yo!)
Hey! Leave me alone!

Example 2: (Masculine Speech)

もうほっといてくれよ!
( hottoite kure yo!)
Hey! Leave me alone!

Example 3: (Feminine Speech)

もういい加減にしてよ!
( ii kagen ni shite yo!)
Enough! Quit it!

Example 4: (Masculine – Rough Speech)

もういい加減にしろ!
( ii kagen ni shiro!)
What the hell? Knock it off!

5. もう(Mō) + Present Tense Verb = Soon

This usage of もう is said when something is just about to happen or will happen soon.

A common phrase is もうすぐ (mō sugu), which means “pretty soon” or “very soon” (すぐ means immediately or soon). In casual conversations, すぐ is often omitted, and only もう is said. Native speakers commonly use this shortened version in informal conversations.  

もう()+ Verb in Present Tense = Soon

Examples: 

Example 1:

美紀: 彼はまだ来ていないの?
Miki: (Kare wa mada kiteinai no?
Miki: Hasn’t he come yet?

華: もう来るよ。= もうすぐ来るよ。
Hana: ( kuru yo.= ( sugu kuru yo.)
Hana: He is coming. 

Example 2:

かれん: まだ起きてるの? 早く寝ないと。
Karen: (Mada okiteru no? Hayaku nenai to.)
Karen: Are you still awake? You should go to bed early.

俊:もう寝るよ。
Shun: ( neru yo.)
Shun: I’m going to bed right now.

6. もう() + Nouns/Adjectives = Already / Almost Certain

もう is sometimes used in front of certain nouns or adjectives to give it a nuance of finality. It feels as if something has already been decided or something happens that is out of your control.  

Common nouns that もう is used with are 時間 (jikan – time) and 限界 (genkai – limit). Adjectives that express certainty are often used with もう—for example, 確実 (kakujitsu – certain, definite).  

もう()+ Certain Nouns/Adjectives = Soon

Examples:

Example 1:

もう時間だ。
( jikan da.)
It’s (already) time.  

Example 2:

私たちのチームの勝利はもう確実だ。
(Watashitachi no chīmu no shōri wa kakujitsu da.)
Our team’s victory is almost certain.

Example 3:

彼女が試験に合格するのはもう確実だ。
(Kanojo ga shiken ni gōkaku suruno wa kakujitsu da.)
It is almost certain that she will pass the exam. 

7. もう(): Emphasizing Emotions – Fricken/Damn / Dammit / Ahh!

This is a very common usage of もう, particularly when angry or frustrated. Of course, it can emphasize something good, as in “that is damn good” or “that is fricken awesome!” It is very similar to the usage above. However, in this case, it is closer to “damn,” “dammit,” or even a frustrated “ahh!”

Examples:

Example 1:

昨日の試合はもう最高だった!
(Kinō no shiai wa saikō datta!)
Yesterday’s match was fricken awesome!

Example 2:

試験結果はもう最悪だった。
(Shiken kekka wa saiaku datta.)
The test result was fricken horrible!

What Is まだ (Mada) in Japanese? 

  • An adverb meaning either “not yet” or “still.”
  • Indicates that a particular state is continuing. 
  • Indicates that the action hasn’t been completed yet.
  • Always written in hiragana.

How to Use まだ (Mada) Naturally in Japanese?

まだ has two different meanings in Japanese, but it is easy to understand and use. This is because one definition is only used with affirmative sentences, while the other meaning is only used with negative sentences. Let’s get right to it!

1. まだ + Progressive Tense Verb: Still

When used with verbs in the progressive tense (~ている), まだ means “still,” as in “I’m still eating/playing/watching, etc. 

まだ does not have to come directly before the verb. Nouns can follow まだ with the verb at the end of the sentence (examples 1 & 2 below). Take the following sentence:

まだお昼ご飯食べているの?
(Mada ohirugohan tabeteiru no?)
You’re still eating lunch?

This sentence could be rearranged with the verb directly following まだ like this:

お昼ご飯まだ食べているの?
(Ohirugohan mada tabeteiru no?)
You’re still eating lunch?

Examples:

Example 1:

まだ野菜が残っているよ。ちゃんと食べないと。
(Mada yasai ga nokotteiru yo. Chanto tabenai to.)
There are still some vegetables left on your plate. You have to finish it.

Example 2:

まだ雨が降ってるよ。
(Mada ame ga futteru yo.)
It’s still raining. 

Example 3:

彼はまだ寝ているの?
(Kare wa mada neteiru no?)
Is he still sleeping?

2. まだ (Mada) + Verb in Negative Tense: (Not) Yet, Incomplete, Not Yet Finished

When used with verbs in the negative tense, まだ has a meaning of “yet /not yet,” “incomplete,” or “not yet finished.”  

Most negative forms of a verb can be used with まだ. Some of the more common forms used with まだ are:

  • negative tense (ない form) 
  • negative progressive tense (~していない) 
  • negative causative tense (~させない)

Examples:  

Example 1:

まだ行かない。
(Mada ikanai.)
I’m not going yet.  

Example 2:

彼はまだ帰って来てないの?
(Kare wa mada kaette kitenai no?)
Hasn’t he come back yet?

Example 3:

彼女はまだ借金を返していない。
(Kanojo wa mada shakkin o kaeshiteinai.)
She hasn’t paid off her debt yet.

まだ (Mada) Vs. もう (Mō): What’s the Difference?

Generally speaking, まだ (mada) has the opposite meaning of もう ().

まだ means “still,” or a status that has not yet changed. もう means “already,” which implies the status of something has changed or already been completed.  

Examples: まだ (Mada) Vs. もう (Mō)

Example 1: もう (Mō)

もうコップに水が半分入ってる!
( koppu ni mizu ga hanbun haitteru!
The glass is already half full!

まだ (Mada):

まだ半分もあるよ!
(Mada hanbun mo aru yo!)
The glass is still half full.

Example 2: もう (Mō)

もう八時だよ! 遅刻しちゃうよ!
( hachi-ji dayo! Chikoku shichau yo!)
It’s already 8 o’clock! You’ll be late!

まだ (Mada):

まだ八時だよ!まだあと5分あるよ。
(Mada hachi-ji dayo! Mada ato gofun aru yo.)     
It’s only 8 o’clock! We still have 5 more minutes.

Example 3:

健: 彼女はまだ五歳なんだから、一人で本は読めないよ!
Ken: (Kanojo wa mada gosai nan dakara hitori de hon wa yomenai yo!)
Ken: Since she is only 5 years old, she can’t read a book by herself!

空: 読めるよ!もう五歳なんだから!
Sora: (Yomeru yo! gosai nan dakara!)
Sora: She can! She is already 5 years old!

Example 4:

彼はまだ家にいる。→ The state remains the same.
(Kare wa mada ie ni iru.)
He is still at home.

彼はもう学校に行った。→ The state changed.
(Kare wa gakkō ni itta.)
He already went to school. 

Quiz: Read the Dialogue Below and Fill in the Blanks with まだ(Mada)  or もう (Mō).

1. A: (_____________)お昼ご飯は食べた?
(…ohirugohan wa tabeta?)
Did you already have lunch?

2.  B: (_____________)食べていないよ。 
(…tabeteinai yo.)
Not yet.

     A: お腹が空いたな。君は?
(Onaka ga suita na. Kimi wa?)
I’m hungry. How about you?

 3.  B: 私は (_____________) お腹は空いてないけど、喉が渇いたよ。
(Watashi wa …onaka wa suitenai kedo, nodo ga kawaita yo.)
I’m not hungry yet, but I’m thirsty.

     A: 喫茶店に行こうか?
(Kissaten ni ikō ka?)
How about going to a coffee shop?

B:いいね。
(Ii ne!)
Good idea!

   -They head to a coffee shop.

4. A: この喫茶店は( )開いていないね。
(Kono kissaten wa …aiteinai ne.)
This coffee shop is not open yet.

5. B: (_____________) 開くよ。少し待とう。
(…aku yo. Sukoshi matō.)
It will open soon. Let’s wait for a while.

  -They are enjoying their lunch.

6. A: ここのコーヒーは (_____________) 最高だね!
(Koko no kōhī wa …saikō da ne!)
The coffee in this shop is super awesome!

    B: そうだね!私もここのコーヒーが大好き。
(Sō dane! Watashimo koko no kōhī ga daisuki.)
Yes, I love it, too.

     A: ところで今何時?
(Tokoro de ima nanji?)
By the way, what time is it now?

     B: 今一時半だよ。
(Ima ichijihan dayo.)
 It’s 1:30.

7. A: え!(_____________) 一時半なの? ( )行かなくちゃ!
(E!…ichi-ji han na no?… ikakakucha.)
What? Is it already 1:30? I have to go!

   8. B: (_____________) 行くの?( )一時半だよ。
(…ikuno?…ichi-ji han da yo.)
Are you leaving already? It’s still 1:30.

     A: 2時から授業があるんだよ。
(Niji kara jyugyō ga arun da yo.)
I have a class at 2 o’clock.

Answers:

  1.  (もう)お昼ご飯は食べた?
  2.  (まだ) 食べていないよ。
  3.  私は (まだ) お腹は空いてないけど、喉が渇いたよ。
  4.  この喫茶店は (まだ) 開いていないね。
  5.  (もう) 開くよ。少し待とう。→もうすぐ=soon
  6.  ここのコーヒーは (もう) 最高だね!→ Emphasizes emotion.
  7. え!(もう)一時半なの? (もう)行かなくちゃ! → The speaker feels that time passes quickly.                 
  8. (もう) 行くの?(まだ)一時半だよ。→ The speaker feels that it’s too early to leave.

Well done! No more confusion! In Japanese, you can say it もう混乱しない!(Mō konran shinai!)  

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