友達というほどではないが友達だ。

English Translation

He is not a friend, but an acquaintance.

The words for “friend” and “acquaintance” here are the same, wtf?

Yes, it does not make a lot of sense, does it? There are many sentences that have problems. I like to use them as an opportunity to learn anyway.

I have found on jisho.org that 知り合い should be the word for acqaintance (it makes sense - what is an acquaintance if not someone you met and know?), and I think I have seen it in other sentences on clozemaster too.

@cmead @mike-lima
This is a very interesting and tricky translation. But the original Japanese sentence per se is grammatically correct and sounds natural.

友達というほどではないが、強いていえば友達だ。

This is the full version. Let’s say, you describe your relationship with Tom on a 1-10 scale. 9+ is a best friend, 6+ is just a friend, and 1+ is an acquaintance. And your relationship with Tom is around 4.5 or 5.0. The closest description is “just a friend” but a little lower than the cut-off score. But “an acquaintance” isn’t an accurate term too. This is exactly where you use 〜ほどでもないが、強いていえば〜だ.

If you prefer a precise (and wordy) translation from Japanese to English, it would be:

Technically speaking, he isn’t a friend. But if I were forced to say, he would be a “kind of quasi-“friend.

This is the nuance of the Japanese sentence. And you reduplicate a “friend” twice even in English.

The original English sentence, however, doesn’t mean 4.5 or 5.0, but probably 2.0 or lower. So, I would translate the English sentence in Japanese as:

彼は友達じゃなくて、単なる知り合いだよ。(very casual)

彼は友人というより、知人と言うべきかな。(a bit casual)

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I see! very interesting explanation.

So the meaning is “He is not a close friend, but he is a friend”, or “I would not call him a friend (spontaneously/without hesitation), but he is a friend”.

The usage of ほど is still tricky, but I feel I understand it a bit more now.

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