うれしい vs たのしい

うれしい vs たのしい

A while ago, I wrote a post titled how to say “happy” in Japanese and I listed うれしい and たのしい as a word to express a transient happy feeling and I said I would need to write about the difference between the two. I did write a post but I wasn’t too happy with it, so I have decided to re-write it.

うれしい is for MY transient happy feeling caused by a specific trigger

うれしい usually needs a specific “trigger” that makes/made the speaker happy while a happy atmosphere must be evident with a sentence with たのしい.

I won a lottery. I’m happy.

I’m happy because I passed the text.

I’m happy because my mother has recovered from in illness.

たのしい is for a happy atmosphere, so it is less transient than うれしい

I went on a camp and I was happy.
(?)キャンプにって、うれしかった。(This is not wrong if the story continues as to the moment that made me happy but if it’s presented on its own, it sounds a bit awkward.)
(✓)キャンプにけて、うれしかった。(= Being able to to on a camp made me happy.)

Although there was an annoying incident, I was generally happy.

A happy school life.

I was happy to be invited to the party, but I wasn’t happy (=didn’t enjoy it) at all.

Just like the last sentence above, たのしい can also be used to describe an event or a venue to mean “fun” or “enjoyable” rather than “happy”

School is fun.

The party was enjoyable.

So, this boy in the picture can say both but the meaning can be slightly different:

(A)アイスクリームがたくさんあって、うれしかった。(= With a lot of icecream, I was happy.)
(B)アイスクリームがたくさんあって、たのしかった。(= With a lot of icecream, the event was a happy one.)

Similarly, the following pairs are both correct but the messages conveyed are different.

(C) 日本にほんって、うれしかった
(D) 日本にほんって、たのしかった

(C) simply means “I was happy that Japan won.” That describes my own happy feeling. (D) suggests that I was surrounded by other people when Japan won and the atmosphere there was a happy one.

(E) 先生せんせいからうれしい手紙てがみをもらった。
(F) 先生せんせいからたのしい手紙てがみをもらった。

In both (E) and (F), I received a letter from my teacher but the letter described in (E) had a “good news that made ME happy” like “I topped the class” or “the teacher is getting married.” On the other hand, the letter described in (F) has “something amusing not only to me but to everybody.” It could be full of emojis or with an amusing illustration.

Neither うれしい nor たのしい can be used to describe somebody else’s feeling

Just to make sure, please let me remind you that most adjectives for emotions are used only for “MY (= speaker’s)” feeling unless you are writing a novel or narrating a story. If you are trying to talk about somebody else’s feeling, you should add ~とおもいます, ~そうです, ~ようです, etc.

(✔)(わたしは)たろうさんに あえて うれしかった
(×)はなこさんは たろうさんに あえて うれしかった
(✔)はなこさんは たろうさんに あえて うれしかったとおもいます
(✔)はなこさんは たろうさんに あえて うれしそうだった
(✔)はなこさんは たろうさんに あえて うれしかったようです

(✔)(わたしは)ゆうえんちに いって たのしかった
(×)はなこさんは ゆうえんちに いって たのしかった
(✔)はなこさんは ゆうえんちに いって たのしかったとおもいます
(✔)はなこさんは ゆうえんちに いって たのしそうでした
(✔)はなこさんは ゆうえんちに いって たのしかったようです

I’ll be happy if you find this article helpful. I will work hard so that I can write enjoyable articles.

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