Japanese Grammar

Nominalizers: こと and の

Nominalizer: こと

Last time, you learned combined particles like には and にも, and noun phrases like あさからひるまで. In Japanese, you can combine some parts of speech and make them a noun. In this lesson, you will learn how to let verbs and adjectives work as a noun like “doing,” “to do,” and “being….”

The Usage of the Nominalizer with the Conjugation and the Inflection.

Verbs Treated as Nouns

When you use verbs as nouns in English, you attach “to” or “-ing” with verbs. Japanese has a similar rule. If you place の or こと after verbs, it will become a noun. Let’s take a look at some examples.

Plain From + の or こと

  Plain Form Verb Treated as Noun
to do する する / すること
to come / こと
to meet / こと
to open ける ける / けること
to wash あら あら / あらこと

Be careful, this is ONLY applicable for the PLAIN FORM. You cannot attach them with the polite form. Here are more examples.

はしる の・こと は わたししゅ だ / です
Topic/Subject Complement State-of-being
Running is my hobby.
およぐ の・こと は かあさんのしゅ だ / です
Topic/Subject Complement State-of-being
Swimming is my mother’s hobby.
[わたし は / が] うたう の・こと が き(だ / です)
Topic/Subject Object of Emotion Predicate
 [I] like singing. 
[わたし は / が] おどる の・こと が きらい(だ / です)
Topic/Subject Object of Emotion Predicate
 [I] dislike dancing.

Again, the followings are wrong because of the conjugation. Don’t use the polite form.

走ります の・ことわたししゅ(だ / です)。
泳ぎます の・ことわたししゅじゃ(ない / ありません)

Verbs Treated as Nouns with Multiple Elements

You can add subjects, objects, and supplementary information in the の or こと part, except for topics because it should be for whole sentences. This is a little complicated, so let’s analyze them in detail.

くるま あら の・こと は たのしい(です)
Direct Object Verb Nominalizer  
Noun Phrase: Topic/Subject Predicate
Washing cars is fun.
友達ともだち あそ の・こと は  面白おもしろい(です)
Partner Verb Nominalizer  
Noun Phrase: Topic/Subject Predicate
Hanging out with friends is enjoyable.
友達ともだち の・こと は  かなしい(です)
Subject Verb Nominalizer  
Noun Phrase: Topic/Subject Predicate
It is sad that [my] friend will move.

Again, the following one is wrong because you cannot use the topic particle は in the noun phrases.

友達引っ越す の・ことかなしい(です)。

Adjectives and Nouns with の and こと

In English, you can express even adjectives as a noun by using “being” such as “being good.” In Japanese, you can also express adjectives as a noun by using の and こと. The inflection is the same as when adjectives directly modify nouns. However, the inflection for nouns will work differently. Let’s go over them one by one.

Na-adjective: Adding な + の・こと

退屈たいくつ の・こと は きらい(だ / です)
Adjective treated Noun: Topic/Subject Predicate
Being dull is the one that [I] dislike.

I-adjective: Adding の・こと

あぶない の・こと は たのしくない(です)
Adjective treated Noun: Topic/Subject Predicate
Being dangerous is not fun.

That’s very simple, isn’t it? You can add subjects, objects, and supplementary information as well.

くすり にが の・こと は つう(だ / です)
Subject I-adjective Nominalizer  
Noun Phrase: Topic/Subject Predicate
[The fact that] medicines are bitter is normal.
べんきょう の・こと は らしい(です)
Object of Emotion Na-adjective Nominalizer  
Noun Phrase: Topic/Subject Predicate
[The fact that you] like studying is wonderful.

In regards to nouns with の and こと, you need to pay attention to the inflection as the following example shows. By the way, you may wonder about how nominalizers with nouns work. Sentences sometimes end with a noun like “なかさんは女優じょゆうだ (Tanaka-san is an actress).” Nominalizers with nouns can be used to make such a sentence a noun phrase.

Noun with こと: Adding である + こと

なかさんが 女優じょゆうである ことは わない / いません
Subject Complement Nominalizer  
Noun Phrase: Topic Verb
As for [the fact that] Tanaka-san is an actress, [I] won’t say [it].

Noun with の: Adding な + の

なかさんが 女優じょゆう のは わない / いません
Subject Complement Nominalizer  
Noun Phrase: Topic Verb
As for [the fact that] Tanaka-san is an actress, [I] won’t say [it].

Although both of them have the same meaning, the inflection is different. Japanese people will perhaps understand your speech even if you make a mistake in the inflection. However, if you’d like speak natural Japanese, this is what you need to memorize.

Advanced Topic: Difference between の and こと

In many cases, の and こと are interchangeable. Here, we will pick up some exceptions.

You Can Use Only こと

1. When You Use the Nominalizers  with だ / です
しゅこと (だ / です)。
My hobby is sleeping.
ごとこと (だ / です)。
My job is drawing.
2. When Verbs Are Related to Communication or Internal Thoughts
先生せんせい学校がっこうやすこと を(つたえる / つたえます)。
[I will] inform my teacher of being absent from school.
かいへい なのであること を(ねがう / ねがいます)。
Lit. [I will] wish that the world is peace.

You Can Use Only の

1. When Verbs are Perception verbs like “く to hear” and “る to see”
とうさんがはなこと を(く / きます)。
[I will] listen to what my father will say.
どもはしこと を(る / ます)。
[I will] watch my child will run.
2. When Verbs Are める and める
タバコをこと を(める / めます)。
[I will] quit smoking.
むすめ海外旅行かいがいりょこうこと を(める / めます)。
[I will] stop my daughter as she will take a trip overseas.
3. When Verbs Are つだう, つ, etc*.
ほんべんきょうする こと を (つだう / つだいます)。
[I will] help [you] learn Japanese.
かあさんがこと を(つ / ちます)。
[I will] wait for mother to come.

*We know that it’s a vague explanation, but let us tell you: when a verb is an action which should be done while observing people’s situations, you need to use の. For example, you can use only の with the verb: “じゃする to disturb.”

Summary

  1. When you nominalize verbs, you add の or こと.
  2. When you nominalize na-adjectives, you add な + の or こと.
  3. When you nominalize i-adjectives, you add の or こと.
  4. When you nominalize nouns, you add な + の or である + こと.

You may not completely understand the advanced topic. Don’t worry. As you proceed with your learning, you will be able to recognize the difference gradually. For the time being, it’s alright if you know just the grammatical rules. Anyway, you can nominalize verbs and adjectives and make noun clauses now. Next, you will learn how to make relative clauses like “a person who learns Japanese.”

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