Where ‘stop’ in English can be used in a variety of situations, in Japanese, it’s quite complicated. Each word for ‘stop’ is dependent on a number of things, like the context, or what is stopping and how.
Words for stop in Japanese are situational. The kanji you use to write it also gives a clue to the situation. It might sound a bit confusing for beginners or even intermediate learners, but we’ll break it down in this post!
The key verbs that mean ‘stop’ in Japanese are tomaru (止まる / とまる), tomeru (止める / とめる), and yameru (止める / やめる). From these three, we can form simple phrases for times when we need to say stop.
Let’s go through them one by one.
Vocabulary words for stop in Japanese
There are three important words for stop that you will most likely encounter. It’s important to understand the difference between these key verbs first. Then we’ll look at how to use them in some key phrases meaning ‘stop’ in Japanese.
To stop, to come to a stop
Tomaru (止まる / とまる) is a verb that means ‘to stop (moving)’, or ‘to come to a stop’. This is perhaps the most common word for stop you may encounter in Japanese.
Note that tomaru is an intransitive verb. This means that there is no direct object affecting the subject. That is to say, something stops by itself, without interference of any external force. Intransitive verbs follow the particle ga (が).
Kuruma ga tomatta.
くるま が とまった。
The car stopped.
You can write tomaru using various different kanji. Each is pronounced the same way and each means ‘stop’ but they are used in different situations.
- 止まる – Tomaru is most commonly written this way. This applies to situations that generally involve stopping (ex. stopping a car, stopping a project, stopping in one’s tracks, a cough that won’t stop). The kanji shi (止 / し) itself means ‘stop’.
- 泊まる – This form of tomaru is specific to scenarios where a person stops by or stays in a hotel or inn. It can also be used to describe a ship docked at a harbor.
- 留まる – Here, tomaru describes something that stops, or remains in place.
- 停まる – To talk about vehicles that had stopped or ceased moving, this form of tomaru is best used. In fact, the word for ‘bus stop’ or basutei (バス停 / ばすてい) contains the same kanji, which alone is read tei.
To park, to stop, to halt, to prevent
Tomeru (止める / とめる) is the transitive counterpart of tomaru, and this also means ‘to stop’. This time, however, there is a direct object that is stopping the subject. In other words, an external force is stopping something or someone.
Kuruma wo tometa.
くるま を とめた。
I stopped the car.
Transitive verbs are easily identified by the preceding particle wo (を).
Other meanings for tomeru are ‘to park (a vehicle)’, ‘to prevent’, or ‘to forbid’.
Again, tomeru can be written with different kanji according to the situation. The four variations of tomeru are the same in meaning and kanji as that of tomaru, the only difference being one syllable. Change ma (ま) to me (め) to get the transitive verb.
- 止まる → 止める
- 泊まる → 泊める
- 留まる → 留める
- 停まる → 停める
To stop (doing something), to quit
When you want to stop, quit, or discontinue an activity, use yameru (止める / やめる). This word for ‘stop’ in Japanese is usually written in hiragana.
Otto wa tabako wo yameta.
おっと は たばこ を やめた。
My husband quit smoking.
Yameru can also be written using different kanji depending on the context.
- 止める – This form contains the same kanji for ‘stop’ as with tomaru and tomeru. Use this when you are cancelling, stopping, or quitting an activity (e.g. quitting a game, a vice). Yes, when you see this word written in kanji it could be pronounced either tomeru or yameru, but luckily yameru is usually written in hiragana (やめる).
- 辞める – Yameru is written here with the kanji for ‘resign’ (辞) because this is specific to resigning or quitting one’s job.
A closely related word that also means ‘to stop’ is yamu (止む / やむ). However, the meaning of yamu leans more towards ‘to let up’ or ‘to be over’, making it an intransitive verb. It’s typically used when talking about the weather, such as the rain or snow stopping.
Arashi wa mou yamimashita ka
あらし は もう やみました か。
Has the storm let up yet?
Handy phrases that mean ‘stop’ in Japanese
Now that we know the key verbs meaning ‘stop’, here are some helpful phrases and ways to say stop in Japanese!
Stop it / Quit it
Yamete (止めて / やめて) is a forward, informal way of saying “Stop it!” in Japanese. When used alone, it lacks politeness and is best used around people of the same level or relationship as you.
The -te (～て) or continuative form of yameru is used when asking someone to stop because it is an action that is ongoing.
Please stop it
On the other hand, saying yamete kudasai (やめてください) is more polite, with kudasai (ください) adding a softer tone to say “Please stop it.”
This way of saying ‘stop’ is better for people you are not close with, or those of higher status than you.
Stop it! (command)
Yamero (やめろ) has a more masculine tone to it, and is only used in extreme scenarios. To stop a fight, or forcefully command someone to stop, yamero works like an order. This makes it an informal word.
In anime or drama shows, the hero may command the villain to stop wreaking havoc by yelling out yamero! In real life, though, there aren’t a lot of instances where you can use it.
Another way to command somebody to stop is tomare (止まれ / とまれ). This means “Halt!” or “Stop!” and like yamero, it is exclusively used for dire situations. For example, when the police are chasing after a group of thieves, they say “Tomare!” to force the criminals to stop running away.
Tomare is also used in road signs to make drivers slow down and stop. If you’ve ever been on the road in Japan (or will) you might notice that tomare (止まれ) is written on red, upside-down triangular signs when drivers need to stop at a junction (see the picture at the top of this page). It is also painted on the road in white.
Wait a minute / Wait
If someone is walking ahead of you, or speaking too fast for you to catch up, you can say chotto matte (ちょっと待って / ちょっとまって) to ask them to slow down or stop for a while.
The word matte (待って / まって) is the continuative form (~te form) of matsu (待つ / まつ), meaning ‘to wait’. Meanwhile chotto (ちょっと) means ‘a little bit’.
This phrase is informal, though. To politely ask someone to wait, say chotto matte kudasai (ちょっと待ってください).
Mou ii (もういい) literally means ‘already good’, but a better translation would be ‘that’s enough’. You can say this when you are going to stop doing something because you are already satisfied or tired of it.
For example, you are tired after a long day of work and you have to stop what you are doing to catch the last train home. Or when a colleague is pouring you a drink, and you can only handle so much – you can use mou ii.
Sutoppu (ストップ) is a loanword from English, which makes it very casual when spoken, so it is recommended to use it among people you are close with. This is also usually written in katakana.
Like mou ii, sutoppu can be used to ask someone to stop pouring you a drink at a party, for example. It is a friendly way to say it compared to yamete or tomare. Variety shows often use casual language such as this, so you might hear this word on television as well.
How to say stop in Japanese
Now you know several different ways to say stop in Japanese. Granted, it is more complicated than in English to pick the right word for each situation. But with the key verbs and example phrases in this article you will be able to say ‘stop’ in Japanese naturally!
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Thea is a freelance content writer, currently majoring in Japanese studies. She likes to create art and draws inspiration from film and music. Thea was inspired to study Japanese language and culture by reading the literary works of Haruki Murakami and Edogawa Ranpo.