As a Japanese student, you probably know that both of these words pretty much mean the same thing… Or does it? Read through this blog to find out!

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STOP: とめる(tomeru) versus やめる(yameru)

As you all know, we usually cover topics that help you in your Japanese language journey. For this blog, we will be covering a commonly used and probably one of the first few words that you learn when studying Japanese.This is commonly heard in popular Japanese media like songs, anime, manga… you name it! Looking at the title of this blog, you’ll probably say to yourself “It literally means the same thing–why even read this blog?”. Well, just saying that statement means you definitely need to read this blog! We’ll try and help you understand their main differences and similarities, helping you to sound more fluent and more confident!

止める(とめる: tomeru) 

As we always do, let’s take a look at their kanji first. This is a good way to find out the root and meaning of the word that we are studying, giving us a better understanding of when and how to use it. For the two words that we will discuss today, although different, use the same kanj. Both words use the kanji” which is pronounced as “to” in “止める(tomeru)”, the transitive form of the verb, “とまる”. The kanji translates to stop and is used to express halt, to turn off, to park, to prohibit, to prevent, to relieve(pain), to hold(one’s breath), and to hold back(tears). Slightly different usages but all pretty much revolving around the usage of “stopping temporarily”–meaning, whatever has stopped may start again after stopping for a while. This word is usually used for vehicles,machines, or pretty much anything that isn’t human. This might be a bit confusing for now, but it will all make sense later on in this blog! 

Please take a look below for a few sentence examples that can hopefully help you get a better hang of when to use “とめる”.

わたしは その とけいを とめる。
Watashi wa sono tokei wo tomeru.
I will stop the clock.
Iki wo tomete hana wo tsumami nasai.
Hold your breath and pinch your nostrils.
Shingou ga aka ni kawatta no de, kare wa kuruma wo tometa.
He stopped his car when the signal turned red.
Ryoukin entai de denwa wo tomerareta.
My telephone service was cut off because of unpaid bills.
Kanojyo wa mabataki shite namida wo tomeyou to shita.
She blinked to stop the tears.

止める・辞める (やめる:yameru)

You are probably wondering why there are two different kanji for this word. Firstly, let’s take a look at both kanjis to find out what the difference is between them. Let’s start with 止める. Similar to 止める(tomeru), 止める(yameru) means to stop doing something but with the possibility of restarting. The other kanji, however, although similar, is used differently. The word “辞める” still translates to stop but is used in a more “final” sense as it technically means “to quit”, therefore there is no possibility of restarting.  Technically, this small nuance is only really felt when you see the kanji and it’s usually only differentiated in writing. When spoken, it usually functions as its second kanji, which means to stop doing something indefinitely. This nuance is only really noticed and used by native speakers–even more reason for you to apply this to your Japanese!

Please look below for a few sentence examples. 
Sensei ga haitte kitara oshaberi wo yamenasai.
Stop talking when the teacher comes in.
Mukashi wa takusan tabako wo sutteita ga, ima de wa yamemashita.
I used to smoke a lot, but I have given up smoking now.
Mizu ga totemo tsumatakatta no de, oyogu no wa yameru koto ni shita.
With the water being so cold, we decided not to swim.
Watashi wa yakyuubu wo senshuu yameta.
I quit the baseball club last week.
Kanojo wa kodomo no se wa wo suru tame ni shigoto wo yameta.

She quit her job to look after her child.

Wrapping it up

If you have made it this far, good on you as the above content contains very useful information! Let’s get down to the actual topic we have for this blog. Let’s start with the similarities between とめる(tomeru) and やめる(yameru). As we all know, both these words are used to express “stop” any other word that has the same implication. ”Yameru” and “Tomeru” can even share the same kanji in context–remember, “Yameru” can have two different  kanjis depending on what you are trying to express. Both ”Yameru” and “Tomeru” are quite commonly used in casual conversations and are probably two of the first few Japanese words you learn when studying. They do, however, have a slight nuance that is mostly noticed and applied by native speakers–something that you have probably caught on more due to reading this blog! This brings us to their differences. The main thing that separates these two words is how they are used–the slight nuance that you will hopefully apply in your vocabulary after reading through this blog. 

とめる(tomeru) is mostly used when talking about something that has “stopped” with the possibility of restarting again. This has the connotation that this word is used more with non-human things. It is usually used with machines, transportation, even animals–something the speaker has no control over, hence, the possibility of whatever has stopped, to have the possibility of restarting again. やめる(yameru) on the other hand does still mean “stop”, but leaning more towards “quit”. This is mostly used with people. This is why you always hear “やめて” instead of “とめて” when your favorite anime character is fighting with their love interest! やめる also has two different kanjis, meaning it has two possible uses. One is similar to とめる, meaning stopping with the possibility of restarting, and the other one is more final. 

It might be a bit confusing at first, but hopefully, this blog has simplified the main differences and similarities for you. It will definitely take some time to apply these to your vocabulary so don’t stop practicing! You will get there and it will all be worth it.