What is the difference between kimochi, kibun and choushi?

by Sophie
(San Francisco)

I saw you use 調子 in the sentence 体の調子が悪いとき、医者へ行きます to mean "When I am not feeling well, I visit the doctor." By that I'm guessing that 調子 means feeling, but I've also heard 気持ち and 気分 used in similar ways to mean feeling. Example: 気分はどうですか to mean "How are you feeling?"

I was wondering, could you explain the differences between them and when you would use which word? Your explanation would be greatly appreciated!! :)

How you feel in Japanese


Hi Sophie,

Similar to other languages, many Japanese words contain multiple meanings. Some of them may have the same meaning when used in certain situations and are interchangeable. However, they may have different meanings when used in other situations. Some words may contain meanings which make their characters irreplaceable. A lot of the time it depends on the situation in which certain words are used.

From my research of the three Japanese words:

Meanings of 調子 (ちょうし - choushi)

調子 (ちょうし - choushi) is normally used to describe the following:
1. condition (of machine, software, person e.g. athlete, etc.)
2. form (of athlete, performer, etc.)
3. shape (of person, thing, etc.)
4. health (of person)
5. order (of thing, etc.)
6. tone (of conversation, article, etc.)

Examples of using 調子

1. 調子の悪い車 - a mulfunctioning car
2. 調子がいい - be in good form / be in good shape (machine or body)
3. 調子が悪い - be in bad form / off form / out of order or in bad condition (machine or body)
4. あの会社はかなり調子が悪い - That company is in pretty bad financial shape
5. 今日は体の調子が良い - I am feeling well today
6. エンジンの調子が元に戻った - The engine is back in working order
7. あきらめたような調子で話した - spoke in a tone of resignation

Therefore, 体の調子 refers to the "condition of the physical body" in the example given in your question 体の調子が悪いとき、医者へ行きます. The shorter version of 体の調子 is 体調 (たいちょう - taichou).

Differences between 気持ち (きもち - kimochi) and 気分 (きぶん - kibun)

Both 気持ち and 気分 can be used to describe how a person feels. However, there are some slight distinctions between them. In general, 気分 is more often used to describe a physical condition, something you cannot change at will or control e.g. a medical condition that is worsening. On the other hand, 気持ち describes an emotional state, something more related to the a person's state of emotions.

When you say 気分がいい or 気分が悪い, you would mean "I feel well (physically)" or "I feel ill". While 気持ちがいい or 気持ち悪い can mean the same thing (feeling well or ill), those two expressions generally mean "I feel great (emotionally)" or "I feel disgusted".

Another difference between 気持ち and 気分 is that 気持ち is the feeling that arises due to the stimulation of some specific object, whereas 気分 is the feeling that persists throughout your own "mind and body" to a certain extent or overall feeling.

Let's use an example to explain this difference.


When your shirt is soaked (e.g. because of rain), you start by feeling uncomfortable (気持ち悪い), and sometime later, you feel ill e.g. catch cold and falling sick (気分が悪くなりました). 気持ち悪い is the initial discomfort caused by the wet shirt, whereas 気分が悪い is the bad feeling that persists after that.

You can also use 気持ち to express your feelings towards someone (彼に対する気持ち). However, you cannot use 気分 for this context. So, never say something like 彼に対する気分. You use 感謝の気持ち to show a feeling of gratitude.

In addition, when you say 相手の気持ちを考えています, you are being considerate towards the way other people feel. This cannot be expressed using 気分.

When you are giving a gift to someone, you say ほんの気持ちです, meaning "Just my (thanking) feeling". The gift represents your 気持ち, or your thanking feeling towards someone.

Sometimes there are situations where you can use either of them. For example, when you are feeling bad due to seasick, you can say 船に酔って気持ちが悪い or 船に酔って気分が悪い.

Other Meanings of 気持ち

気持ち has many other meanings. I have listed down some of them below together with some examples.

1. heart e.g. 気持ちは若い - be young at heart
2. inclination (decision, choice) e.g. ~したいという気持ちで - with the inclination to ~
3. mind (one's opinion, desire)
e.g. 気持ちがはっきりしている - know one's (own) mind
e.g. 率直な気持ちを話す - speak one's mind
e.g. ~したい気持ちがある - have a mind to ~

Other Meanings of 気分

気分 can be used to describe:

1. mood
e.g. 楽しい気分である - be in a happy mood
e.g. 気分転換 - change of mood / change of pace
2. state of mind e.g. ~するような気分ではない - be in no state of mind to ~
3. temper e.g. 気分屋 - moody person / temperamental person
4. atmosphere e.g. 気分を壊す - destroy the atmosphere

Other Similar Japanese Words on How You Feel

1. 機嫌 (きげん - kigen) - mood or temper of a person e.g. 機嫌が悪い - be in a bad mood
2. 感じ (かんじ - kanji) - sense, feeling, impression, atmosphere, etc. It comes from the verb 感じる which means to feel something. You can use the phrase いい感じ to compliment music, art, idea or other abstract thing.
3. 感情 (かんじょう - kanjou) - feeling, emotion, sentiment e.g. 彼女は感情を顔に出さなかった - She showed no feelings (emotion, sentiment) at all.
4. 感覚 (かんかく - kankaku) - sense, physical feeling e.g. 足の感覚を全く失う - lost all feeling in the leg.
5. 感触 (かんしょく - kanshoku) - touch, feel, sense e.g. 柔らかい感触の服地 - Clothing fabric which has a smooth feel.
6. 気がする (きがする - ki ga suru) - have a feeling, feel like ~ e.g. 自分がこの世で一番幸せな者のような気がする - I feel like the happiest man in the world.

Hope this helps,
Kia Leng

Comments for What is the difference between kimochi, kibun and choushi?

Average Rating starstarstarstarstar

Click here to add your own comments

Thank you!!
by: Sophie

I wasn't expecting such a thorough explanation! This is insanely helpful, thank you so much! :)

Thank you!!
by: Kia Leng

Hi Sophie, you are most welcome. Sorry for the delay to reply your question as I need some time to research on the topic.

by: Anonymous

thanks a lot for the help it really helped as i am learning japanese

Click here to add your own comments

Join in and write your own page! It's easy to do. How? Simply click here to return to Learn Japanese Language FAQ.

Learn to Speak Japanese Confidently & Naturally with Rocket Japanese
Learn Japanese Software

Japanese Electronic Dictionary
Electronic Dictionaries

Questions on Learning Japanese? Get them answered here...
Learn Japanese FAQ

New! Get listed in our Japanese Language School Directory
Japanese School Directory

Recent Updates