Monday, October 28, 2019

hojo-keiyoushi 補助形容詞

In Japanese, hojo-keiyoushi 補助形容詞 are a type of auxiliary adjective that's attached to the te-form of verbs and the adverbial form of i-adjectives.

For example, in katte-hoshii 買ってほしい, "[I] want [you] to buy [this] for [me]," the word hoshii ほしい is a support adjective.


For reference, a list of support adjectives:
  • ~te-hoshii
    [I] want [you] to do [the verb] for [me].

Yep. That's it.

That's the list.

It's literally just one single word.

This is such an absurd claim, I'm gonna have quote somebody down here just to make sure I'm not going insane and spewing random, baseless nonsense.
  • te ni tsuduku hojo-doushi to hojo-keiyoushi (zensha wa "~te-iru" "~te-aru" "~te-oku" "~te-shimau" "~te-iku" "~te-kuru" to juju-doushi, kousha wa "~te-hoshii" nomi)
    Support verbs and support adjectives that come after テ (the former is "~te-iru," "~te-aru," "~te-oku," "~te-shimau," "~te-iku," "~te-kuru," and giving-and-receiving verbs, the latter is only "~te-hoshii."
    • Katou Shigehiro 加藤重広, 2007, page 111.

Yep. We are actually talking about undoubtedly just one single word. At most, two words, if you include nai ない, but that needs some explaining.


Basically, most support expressions are hojo-doushi 補助動詞, "support verbs."

Among such support verbs, there's the verb aru ある, whose negative form is irregular: instead of aranai あらない, the negative of aru ある is the i-adjective nai ない.
  • kaite-aru
    Written, [it] is.
  • kaite-nai
    Written, [it] isn't.

Consequently, it can be said that this ~nai ~ない is a support adjective, or that it's the negative form of the support verb ~aru ~ある.

Besides this nai ない, the ONLY other support adjective is hoshii ほしい.

So the term hojo-keiyoushi is a mere counterpart of hojo-doushi used to accommodate these two words which aren't verbs, are adjectives, but work exactly like support verbs.

For example, you can insert the particles wa and mo も between ~te ~て and hoshii ほしい.
  • katte wa hoshii kedo
    To buy [it], [I] want [you] to do for [me], but...
    I do want you to buy it for me, but...
  • katte mo hoshii kedo
    To buy [it], [I] also want [you] to do for [me], but...
    I also do want you to buy it for me, but...

Manga: Komi-san wa, Comyushou desu. 古見さんは、コミュ症です。 (Chapter 5, 喋りたいんです。)
  • Context: Tadano 只野 thinks about the school's most popular girl.
  • Komi-san wa
    gakkou no madonna de mo
    hanashi-kake-dzurai bijin
    de mo nakatta.
    Komi-san was neither the school's madonna
    nor a beautiful person [who's] hard to [approach].
    • hanashi-kakeru
      To approach and talk with. To start talking to. To begin a conversation with.
    • Very literally: to pour a conversation onto someone.

For details on grammar, just read the article about hojo-doushi 補助動詞 instead


Orthographically, the normal adjective hoshii 欲しい can be spelled with kanji, but the support adjective hoshii ほしい, like other auxiliaries, and like support verbs, is normally spelled with hiragana.
  • kore ga hoshii
    This is wanted.
    [I] want this.
  • kore wo katte-hoshii
    [I] want [you] to buy this for [me].

Things That Look Practically Identical, But That Are Actually Totally Different Things

There's a bunch of words that look like they would be hojo-keiyoushi, but aren't for some reason or another. For example:
  • tsuki-atte-kudasai
    Please date [with me].

Above, kudasai ください is obviously a support expression, coming after the te-form of a verb. And it looks like an i-adjective. So is it a support adjective? No. It's actually a support verb, because kudasai ください is the ren'youkei 連用形 form of kudasaru くださる.

Next, the words ~yasui ~やすい and ~nikui ~にくい are similar to hojo-keiyoushi, but different. That's because they attach to the ren'youkei 連用形 form of verbs, not the te-form:
  • kaki-yasui
    Easy to write.

In this case, they would be called fukugou-keiyoushi 複合形容詞, "compound adjective," since their syntax is identical to the fukugou-doushi 複合動詞, "compound verbs," like naosu 直す, "to do again."
  • kaki-naosu
    To write again. (because it was written wrong the first time.)

Another word that attaches in this way is the ~tai ~たい suffix, but ~tai ~たい isn't a fukugou-keiyoushi, it's a jodoushi 助動詞.
  • kakitai
    [I] want to write.

The difference between ~tai ~たい and yasui 易い, "easy," nikui 難い, "difficult," and naosu 直す, "to fix," is that ~tai ~たい doesn't mean anything on its own: it's always a suffix, while the fukugou-keiyoushi and fukugou-doushi can be used as normal adjectives and verbs.

When ~nai ~ない is part of the negative form a verb, it's a jodoushi 助動詞, too.
  • okane ga nai
    [I] don't have money.
    • This is a normal adjective.
  • yasukunai
    [It] isn't cheap.
    • This is a hojo-keiyoushi.
    • Proof:
    • yasuku wa nai
      Cheap, [it] isn't. (this is a hojo-keiyoushi.)
  • kirei de wa nai
    Pretty, [it] isn't.
    [It] isn't pretty.
  • wakaranai
    [I] don't know.
    • This is a jodoushi 助動詞.
    • Proof:
    • *wakara wa nai
      (this is wrong grammatically.)

Some patterns look exactly like hojo-keiyoushi, but are actually separate clauses. For example:
  • tabete ii?
    To eat, good?
    Is it alright if I eat this?
  • itsumo onaji koto itte urusai
    Every time, says the same thing, annoying.
    He keeps saying the same thing every time, it's annoying.

This happens because the te-form can be used as a conjunction, where the subordinate clause somehow leads to the matrix clause.
  • mite odoroita
    See and be surprised.
    I saw that thing, and, subsequently, I was surprised.
    I was surprised when I looked at it.

So in the phrase tabete ii, we can say that tabete leads to ii. The only problem is that semantically the meaning of the word ii いい is an unholy mess. Basically, it means that it's good in the sense of it's not bad, and if it's not bad, it's alright, it's fine, it's allowed.

In other words, if the subordinate clause (tabete) leads to a good (ii), i.e. non-bad consequence, then the subordinate is allowed: is it okay to eat this? May I eat this? If I do eat this, won't you get sad? Or something like that.

Another situation is when an action expressed in the te-form is described by a predicate. For example:
  • tabete wa dame
    To eat is no-good.
    You shouldn't eat it.
    Don't eat that thing.
  • tabecha dame
    (same meaning, contraction.)

In a case like above, dame ダメ is predicating the action tabete 食べて, so dame ダメ isn't a hojo-doushi either. Similarly, ikenai 行けない and naranai ならない, which can replace dame to mean the same thing, aren't support expressions, either. (see: ~te wa ~ては)




Leave your komento コメント in this posuto ポスト of this burogu ブログ with your questions about Japanese, doubts or whatever!

All comments are moderated and won't show up until approved. Spam, links to illegal websites, and inappropriate content won't be published.

  1. I thought I heard that eventive verbs can never be in the present tense.Does that mean that they have to be stativized somehow to be used in present tense and that non stativized non past forms like "korosu" always refer to the future?I think this question might be more relavant to the "stativizers" or "hojo doushi" articles though.

    1. That's correct. Due to the nature of what an "event" is supposed to be conceptually, it's not possible for them to be reported in present tense. If X happens, you always say "X happened," because by the time you say it, the event is already in the past.

      This only applies to when the predicate of a clause is the eventive verb in nonpast form. When you have koroshite-hoshii, for example, koroshite is untensed, and it's hoshii, an adjective/stative predicate, that provides the tense and lexical aspect. The same occurs with koroshitai, etc.

  2. Does hoshii always presume the speaker is the one who wants something or does it just default to them as the topic?Thanks.

    1. Yes, typically it would be the speaker, unless someone else is specified as the subject.

  3. Semantics refers to necessary stuff for a complete sentence and syntax refers to stuff added besides that?Or is syntax the necessary stuff,as front page search results define it as "word order".I heard somewhere that syntax is for arguments,does that run contradictory?Front page search search results say "semantics" is the (study of meaning of words and implications in language?) or something like that.It would be helpful if you would clear it up.

    1. Semantics is about the meaning of words and phrases.

      Syntax is about the rules to form a properly formed sentence.

      If I say "they studies alot," that's syntactically wrong, but you understand what it means. If I say "colorless green ideas sleep furiously," that's syntactically correct, but nonsense nonetheless.