Monday, January 31, 2022

suru する - Meaning in Japanese

In Japanese, suru する is a verb with several complicated uses: it translates to "to do X" as an auxiliary verb that turns nouns (called verbal nouns in this case) into verbs (called suru-verbs); it can express humble speech (kenjougo 謙譲語) in the patterns o/go-deverbal noun-suru おVする, ごVする; it translates to "to make X become Y" as a lexically causative eventivizer forming an ergative pair with naru なる, "to become," and "to decide on," "to choose," and "to pretend that" various things for various reasons; it can translate to "to do stuff like" when used with the tari-form; it translates to English copulas of sensory stimuli such as "feels," "smells," "sounds," "tastes" as an intransitive cognitive stative verb in a double subject construction with "feeling," "smell," "sound," or "taste" as its small subject, as well with other nouns for feelings; it similarly translates to "to feel X" when used with a null-marked psychomime, to "to make a sound" when used with an onomatopoeia, and all sorts of meanings with other mimetic words; when preceded by the to と particle it can quote what someone else determined, it can make a stipulation in a contract or law, establish a hypothetical scenario, hint the passage of time with mimetic words, and in relative clauses it can mean something has something else for something else-else; it translates to "to try to" when preceded by the to particle after a volitional form; it translates to "to wear X" when used with some clothing terms, and more generally to refer to one's appearance translating as "to have X" with terms for body parts; it translates to "to be an X," when used with an occupation or type of person; it can mean to use the functions of different body parts; it can mean to cover things with different covering objects; it can mean to be worth a monetary value or to pass an amount of time. For example:

  • kekkon
    (a verbal noun.)
  • kekkon φ suru
    To do "a marriage."
    To marry.
    (a suru verb.)
  • kanojo ga {yome ni} naru
    She will become {a bride}.
    (unaccusative eventivizer.)
  • ore ga kanojo wo {yome ni} suru
    I will make her become {a bride}.
    I will make her {[my] bride}.
    (causative eventivizer.)
  • {souji shitari}, {ryouri shitari} suru
    To do stuff like {cleaning}, {cooking}.
  • soto wa {ame no nioi ga suru}
    Outside {gives off a rain smell}.
    Outside {smells of rain}.
    (cognitive copula.)
  • wakuwaku φ suru
    To feel excited.
    (psychomimetic reduplication.)
  • zaazaa φ suru
    To make a zaazaa noise.
  • pikapika φ suru
    To sparkle.
  • muzai to sareta
    [He] was determined to be innocent [by the judge].
    (cited determination.)
  • {Akiresu ga {kame wo oi-kakeru} mono} to suru
    Let's say, hypothetically, that {Achilles {chases the turtle}}.
  • {kugi wo buki to suru} kishi
    A knight [who] {has a nail for weapon}.
    A knight [whose] {weapon is a nail}.
    (to have as.)
  • {nigeyou} to shite-iru!
    [He] is trying {to escape}!
    (with volitional form.)
  • masuku wo suru
    To wear a mask.
    (appearance with clothing.)
  • kinpatsu wo suru
    To have blonde hair.
    (appearance with body part.)
  • shousetsuka wo shite-imasu
    [I]'m working as a novelist.
    [I]'m a novelist.
  • takara wo te ni suru
    To obtain the treasure.
    (function of body part.)
  • mimi ni sen wo suru
    To plug one's ears.
    (covering object.)
  • {reitouko de yaku san-juu-pun sureba} deki-agari
    {After thirty minutes in the freezer}, [it] is done.
    (taking time.)

If you've made it all the way down here, congratulations. Unfortunately, the article hasn't even started yet.

アニオタっていうのはですね 年下のキャラをママ扱いしたり自分の嫁と言い張って結婚しようとしたりする人たちの事です キャラと結婚!?
Manga: Kaguya-sama wa Kokurasetai ~Tensai-Tachi no Ren'ai Zunousen~ かぐや様は告らせたい~天才たちの恋愛頭脳戦~ (Chapter 110, 石上優は語りたい)


The conjugation of the verb suru する is irregular. It's said to be one of the two irregular verbs (or group 3 verbs) of the Japanese language, together with kuru 来る. Here is its conjugation table:

Form Conjugation
(e.g. ~seru ~せる.)
(e.g. ~nai ~ない.)
(e.g. ~nu ~ぬ.)
(e.g. ~masu ~ます.)
(e.g. ~ba ~ば.)

Some of it conjugates like a godan verb ending in ~ru. The irregularities being, for starters:

  • It has a sa~ mizenkei instead of sura~.
  • It has a se~ mizenkei.
  • Its ren'youkei is shi~, not suri~.
  • It has an alternative, more archaic meireikei seyo, which you'll see in series with grandiose, king-like characters like Overlord.

Its tensed forms are:

Tensed form Plain form Polite form
Nonpast form
Will do.
(same meaning, polite.)
Past form
(same meaning, polite.)
Negative form
Doesn't do.
(same meaning, polite.)
Past negative form
Didn't do.
shimasen deshita
(same meaning, polite.)
Potential form.
Can do.
(same meaning, polite.)
Passive form.
To be done**.
(same meaning, polite.)
Causative form.
To make [them] do.
To force [them] to do.
To allow [them] to do.
(same meaning, polite.)
~te-iru form. shite-iru
To be doing**.
To have done***.
(same meaning, polite.)
(contraction, polite.)
~te-aru form. shite-aru
To have done***.
(same meaning, polite.)
~te-shimau form. shite-shimau
To end up doing****.
(same meaning, polite.)
(contraction, polite.)


  1. The potential form of suru is irregular: instead of becoming sareru, as one could expect, it gets replaced by the verb dekiru できる.
    • Despite its numerous usages, suru ALWAYS gets replaced by dekiru in the potential.
    • Awkwardly, dekiru has some meanings that aren't related to suru, such as meaning "to be completed" and "to be made of," so just because you have a dekiru, that doesn't mean you can replace it by suru.
  2. This "to be done" is in passive voice, e.g. "it was done by him." It isn't the same thing as "it's done" in the sense of "it's finished."
    • The same idea holds true for all usages, e.g. when suru means "to turn someone into something," sareru means "to be turned into something by someone."
  3. The usage of ~te-aru is very limited and unlikely to occur in most cases. with most verbs. It can be used if something has already been done in advance for something else, e.g. heya ga kirei ni shite-aru 部屋が綺麗にしてある, "[I] have made the room clean," in the sense of the room was cleaned in advance.
  4. Generally in the sense that it's something you don't want to happen.

Other practical forms:

Form Conjugation
tai-form shitai
[I] want to do.
ba-form sureba
If [I] did.
tara-form shitara
If [I] did.
Volitional form. shiyou
Let's do.
nu-form. senu
To not do.
zu-form sezu
Without doing.


The verb suru する is used in WAY TOO MANY WAYS. I mean, seriously. And each of them is terribly complex and has almost nothing to do with the other, except for the fact the conjugation is always the same.

For instance, the verb suru can display all four Japanese lexical aspects defined by Kindaichi 金田一.(大塚, 2007:36) It's probably the only verb where this happens, because a single verb in a sentence can only have one lexical aspect, so in order to have all four of them, you need to have four different meanings in four different sentences.

This happens mostly because in multiple cases suru doesn't have a meaning of its own, the meaning comes from the word right before it, and suru itself is only there to make it a verb. Let's see how this works.


The verb suru する can turn various sorts of things into verbs. This is explained in detail in the article about suru verbs. I'll summarize the main points here. And there are many of them.

First, it can turn nouns into verbs. This can be understood simply as "to do X," where X is the noun to be verbalized. For example:

  • shuukaku
    A harvest. (a noun.)
  • shuukaku suru
    To do "a harvest."
    To harvest.

Not all nouns make sense as verbs. Those that can be verbalized are called "verbal nouns." Two major types of verbal nouns are:

  1. Those that describe the outcome of the verb.
    • A harvest is what you get if you harvest something.
    • hon'yaku 翻訳 means a "translation," which is what you get if you "translate," hon'yaku suru 翻訳する, something.
    • den'wa 電話 means "a phone call," which is made when you den'wa suru 電話, "to phone call [someone]."
  2. Those that describe the process of the verb.
    • anki 暗記, is the process of "memorization," while anki suru 暗記する is "to memorize."
    • nyuugaku 入学 refers to "enrolling a school," while nyuugaku suru 入学する is "to enroll a school."

The two major types above mirror the two meanings that the noun form (ren'youkei 連用形) of a verb can have, as well as the resultative and progressive senses of the ~te-iru form. It's basically the same idea all across the language, so once you get used to it it all makes sense.

All matter of particles can come before suru in this case.

  • shuukaku wo suru
    To do a harvest.
  • shuukaku ga dekiru
    To be able to harvest.
  • shuukaku wa shinai
    A harvest, [I] won't do.

Pronouns can also be verbalized:

  • sore wa shinai
    [I] won't do that.
  • nani wo shite-iru?
    What are [you] doing?
  • nanika wo shita
    [He] did something.
  • nandemo shimasu
    [I] will do anything.
    • Pro-tip: don't say this.
  • nanimo shite-imasen
    [I] haven't done anything.

In particular, the verbalized pronoun can be a null anaphora, i.e. it can be "nothing" (null), but this "nothing" refers back (is an anaphoric pronoun) to a verbal noun or action mentioned previously. In English, null anaphoric pronouns are sometimes called VP-ellipsis, as the verb phrase after an an auxiliary verb (have, haven't, will, won't, did, do, etc.) has been elided (omitted). Observe:

  • shuukaku shita?
    Did [you] harvest?
  • mada φ shite-imasen
    [I] still haven't done [it]. ("it" pronoun translation.)
    [I] still haven't φ. (VP-ellipsis translation.)
    • φ = shuukaku, "harvest."
  • shuukaku shitai ga φ shimasen
    [I] want to harvest, but [I] won't φ.

It's possible to use the light noun koto こと to nominalize and then verbalize an adjective.

  • {warui} koto wo suru
    To do something [that] {is bad}.
    To do bad things.
  • sonna koto shitara
    If [you] do something like that.
  • {sono you na} koto wo shitara
    (same meaning.)
  • {{kanojo wo nakasu} you na} koto wo shitara yurusanai
    If [you] do something {like {making her cry}} [I] won't forgive you!

The verbal noun may be relativized, with suru in the relative clause:

  • {shitai} koto wo suru
    To do something [that] {[I] want to do}.
    To do things [I] want to do}.
  • {suru} koto ga nai
    A thing {to do} doesn't exist.
    There is nothing to do.

It's possible for multiple verbal nouns to be verbalized with a single suru:

  • ryouri wo suru
    To do "cooking."
    To cook.
  • souji mo suru
    To do "cleaning," too.
    To clean, too.
  • ryouri mo souji mo suru
    To do cooking and cleaning, too.
    To do both cooking and cleaning.

It's possible for the noun form of non-suru-verbs to be used with suru in cases like above, as well as with the wa は particle for topicalization. This includes jodoushi 助動詞.

  • nige mo kakure mo shinai
    [i] will neither run nor hide.
    [I] won't run or hide.
    • nigeru 逃げる, " to escape."
    • kakureru 隠れる, "to hide."
  • korosase wa shinai
    Letting [you] kill [them], [I] won't.
    [I] won't let [you] kill [them].
    • korosaseru 殺させる, "to let/make [someone] kill [someone else]."


The verb suru is also found as an inseparable suffix in some words, i.e. the morpheme that comes before it doesn't function as a standalone word in Japanese, it isn't a noun by itself, so the word can't be split into two.

  • teki-suru
    To be appropriate.
    • teki~ 適~ isn't a word by itself.
    • Not to be confused with the homonym teki 敵, "enemy," which is a word by itself.
  • do-shigatai
    Hard to persuade. Hard to redeem.
    • Although do 度 can be used by itself to mean "degree," in the case of do-suru 度する the do~ 度~ comes from saido 済度, "salvation," and it doesn't have this sort of meaning by itself.

Such inseparable words are sometimes affected by changes in pronunciation that turn suru into ~ssuru ~っする (sokuonbin 促音便) and ~zuru ~ずる (rendaku 連濁). Words that end in ~zuru are alternatively pronounced with a ~jiru ~じる ending that is conjugated as an ichidan verb.

  • tassuru
    To reach (a level).
  • kinzuru
    To forbid.
    (performative verb.)
  • kinjiru
    (same meaning.)

Humble Speech

The verb suru can express "humble speech," kenjougo 謙譲語, when used with a verbal noun formed by the honorific prefix o~/go~ お~/ご~ and the noun form (ren'youkei) of a verb. For example:(徳永, 2006:21)

  • watashi ga Tanaka-sensei no nimotsu wo motsu
    I will hold Tanaka-sensei's baggage.
  • watashi ga Tanaka-sensei no nimotsu wo o-mochi shimasu
    (same meaning, kenjougo.)

Humble speech is (as far as I know) only used when the action is performed by the speaker. The opposite, "honorific speech," sonkeigo 尊敬語, is used when the action is performed by someone else instead.

There's a similar but syntactically different sonkeigo construction that uses ~ni naru ~になる instead of suru する.(徳永, 2006:21)

  • Tanaka-sensei wa go-jibun de omoi nimotsu wo o-mochi ni natta
    Tanaka-sensei held the heavy baggage himself.

Above, the speaker uses honorifics when referring to Tanaka and the actions Tanaka performs, such as holding his baggage.

The important thing to keep in mind is that o~suru is always the speaker doing the verb, while o~ni naru is always someone else doing the verb. For example:(徳永, 2006:22)

  • o-sewa wo shimashita
    [I] took care of [you or him].
    • I did the sewa.
  • o-sewa ni narimashita
    [You or someone] took care of [me or someone else].
    • I didn't do the sewa, someone else did it.

By Itself

The verb suru する can't be used by itself to say "to do." In fact, despite suru having all sorts of uses, with few exceptions, you never use it by itself, always needing a second word to use with it, because suru lacks enough meaning on its own.

For example, it's not possible to say, by itself:

  • *shita
    Intended: "[I] did [it]."

It's only possible to say the above when, in the context of the conversation, some action has been mentioned, such that shita becomes a suru-verb whose verbal noun is a null anaphor:

  • benkyou shita?
    Did [you] study?
  • φ shita
    [I] did [study].

To say "I did it" in the sense of having succeeded or finished doing something, the verb used is yaru やる instead.

  • yatta!
    [I] did [it]!
  • yaru ze!
    [I]'m going to do [it]!

The phrase suru to すると tends to appear at the start of sentences to mean "having done that, this happens." It may look like we're using suru alone, but this is a null anaphor. It's clearer in English as the translation is "having done THAT," where "that" is anaphoric. For example:

  • Context: how to make a layer a "draft layer" in the drawing software Clip Studio Paint:(
  • {reiyaa paretto de {{shita-gaki ni} shitai} reiyaa wo sentaku shi}, {hidari kara mittsu-me no} enpitsu-aikon wo kurikku shimasu.
    In the layer palette, select the layer [that] {[you] want to {make a draft [layer]} and}, click on pencil-icon [that] {is the third one from the left}.
    • ~ni shitai - see eventivizer section of this article.
    • sentaku shi - "to choose," "to select," suru-verb in ren'youkei form.
    • kurikku shimasu - "to click," suru-verb in nonpast polite form. In Japanese, the nonpast form may be used like this when LISTING instructions. In English, it translates to the imperative, i.e. we would be GIVING instructions.
  • {φ suru to}, {reiyaa ni {aoi} baa to enpitsu-aikon ga shiji sare}, {shitagaki reiyaa ni settei suru} koto ga dekimashita
    {Doing [that]}, {a {blue} bar and a pencil-icon is displayed on the layer and [then]}, [you] succeeded in {configuring the draft layer}.
    • After you do that, if you do that, you'll have succeeded in doing this.
    • shiji sare - ren'youkei of sareru, passive form of suru, as in the suru-verb shiji suru, "to indicate," [for a screen] to display [a mark or symbol]."
    • settei suru - suru-verb, "to configure," "to set."
    • ~koto ga dekimashita - past form of ~koto ga dekiru, potential of ~koto wo suru, suru-verb with koto as verbal noun. Normally, it would translate to "[you] were able to do [it]," but if we were speaking in the subjunctive due to the to と conditional in suru to, "[you] will have been able to do (i.e. succeeded in doing) [it]" would make more sense.

Similarly, the phrases sore ni shite mo それにしても and ni shite mo にしても, and sore de それで, de で, and shite して can be used in sentence-initial position as a conjunction meaning "given that," or "considering that," which means ni shite mo, de, and shite feature null anaphors, as they're somewhat synonymous with their non-null counterparts.

There are a two cases where suru can be used by itself without a null anaphor.

First, metalinguistically, when it's used as placeholder for a random verb when you're talking about grammar syntax. For example:

  • suru ga ii
    [It] is good [if you] do [something].
    • This pattern is used to say someone is allowed to do something, or they should, shall, do something.
    • watashi no manto no chikara wo miru ga ii
      [You shall] see the power of my mantle!
  • sureba suru hodo
    The more you do [something] the more [something happens].
    • yomeba yomu hodo omoshiroi
      The more [you] read [it] the more interesting [it] is.

Some resources prefer to use Vる, Vた, Vば, and so on for "verb in ~ru, ~ta, ~ba forms" instead of using the actual words suru, shita, sureba.

Besides the above, suru can also be used by itself when it's an innuendo. For example:

  • ecchi shiyou
    Let's do ecchi.
    Let's have sex.
  • shiyou
    (same meaning depending on context.)

Above, it's not the case that suru has this meaning by itself. Instead, what happens is that there's a suru-verb with this meaning, but the verbal noun has been omitted simply because the speaker doesn't want to say a word like ecchi out loud, and the listener, provided he's not extremely dense, can figure out what shiyou means nevertheless, so the verbal noun is pragmatically inferred here.


The verb suru する can translate to "to make X become Y" sometimes, which makes it functionally the causative form of the verb naru なる, "to become." This is explained in detail in the article about eventivizers. I'll summarize the main points here.

Basically, predicates can be divided into lexical aspects in various ways, and the way that we'll use in this article mostly is dividing them into two: statives (adjectives, stative verbs, habituals), and non-statives (eventive verbs).

Japanese has a nonpast form, which is so-called because it can express either present or future tense by itself, but not the past tense, hence nonpast.

This form is a bit more complicated than you'd imagine at first glance. Instead of expressing BOTH tenses, ambiguously, it expresses EITHER tense, and each has a different grammatical aspect (not to be confused with lexical aspect).

For example, with an eventive verb, the nonpast form is either future tense, perfective aspect, or present tense, habitual aspect:

  • watashi wa hon wo kaku
    I will write a book. (future perfective.)
    I [often/usually/habitually] write books. (present habitual.)
    • kaku - an eventive verb.
  • watashi wa sanpo suru
    I will do a stroll. (future perfective.)
    I [often] do strolls. (present habitual.)
    • The suru of suru-verbs is also an eventive verb.

With stative predicates, the nonpast form can't express future tense by itself. With adjectives and nouns followed by a copula, it can only express the present continuous:

  • akai

    [It] is red. (present continuous.)
    *[It] will be red. [It] will become red. (wrong.)
    (an i-adjective.)
  • kiken da
    [It] is dangerous. (present continuous.)
    *[It] will be dangerous. (wrong.)
    (a na-adjective.)
  • ore no yome da
    [She] is a my bride. (present continuous.)
    *[She] will be my bride. (wrong.)
    (a noun, or no-adjective.)

The same applies to stative verbs, of which there are many types, but cognitive and potential types are particularly easy to understand:

  • watashi wa sou omou
    I think so. (present continuous.)
    *I will think so. (wrong.)
  • watashi wa {kanji ga yomeru}
    I {can read kanji}. (present continuous.)
    *I {will be able to read kanji}. (wrong.)
    (double subject construction.)

Complicatedly, the habitual predicates that are created from eventive verbs are considered stative. This means the habitual sense is always present-tensed, even though the eventive verb also has a perfective sense that's future-tensed. For example:

  • watashi wa yoku manga wo yomu
    I read manga often. (present habitual.)
    *I will read manga often. (future habitual can't be expressed like this.)

The situation can be summarized as follows:

  1. Eventive verbs can be future-tensed.
  2. Statives can not.
  3. How do you make statives future-tensed, then?
  4. Use an eventive verb, which does have a future tense, together with the stative you want to futurize somehow.

Normally, this is done with the naru なる, which is an eventive verb that translates to "to become," "will become," "will be." This verb is intransitive, and the stative is used with this verb as an adverb. Observe:

  • mizu ga akai
    The water is red.
  • mizu ga {akaku} naru
    The water will become {red}.

With the da だ predicative copula, it's a bit confusing because its adverbial form is the ni に adverbial copula, which may be confused with the ni に particle that marks indirect objects or destinations, locations. The ni に below is simply how you turn the word into an adverb:

  • Tarou wa ou da
    Tarou is a king.
  • Tarou wa {ou ni} naru
    Tarou will become {a king}.
    • ou ni - adverbial form of ou da.

With statives that are verbs, it's more complicated because verbs can't turn into adverbs like adjectives can. They don't have an adverbial form. Instead, the auxiliary ~you ~よう is used, which is conjugated as a na-adjective, meaning it has an adverbial form: ~you ni ~ように.

  • watashi wa {{sou omou} you ni} naru
    I'll become {in a way [that] {thinks so}.
    I'll start thinking so.
  • Tarou wa {{kanji ga yomeru} you ni} naru
    Tarou will become {in a way [that] {is able to read kanji}}.
    Tarou will become able to read kanji.
  • Tarou wa {{manga wo yomu} you ni} naru
    Tarou will become {in a way [that] {reads manga}}.
    Tarou will start reading manga (habitually).

Finally, suru する is the causative counterpart of naru なる. It takes the stative as an adverb, exactly like naru. The only difference is that suru, like other causatives, is a transitive verb with the causee as direct object and the causer as the subject. This means that:


  • Z ga X wo Y suru
    Z makes X become Y.


  • chi ga mizu wo {akaku} suru
    Blood makes water {red}.
  • Hanako wa {Tarou wo {ou ni} suru} tsumori da
    Hanako has the intention of {making Tarou {the king}}.
    Hanako intends to make Tarou king.
Manga: Mahoutsukai no Yome 魔法使いの嫁 (Chapter 1)
  • boku wa {kimi wo boku no oyomesan ni suru} tsumori demo aru-n-da
    I also intend {to make you my bride}.
    • ~tsumori de aru
      To intend to...
      • mo

        Also. Even.

This suru can be conjugated to other forms, including past form, in which case it means "made," as one would expect.

  • {{nigerarenai} you ni} shita
    [I] made [it] {so [that] {[he] can't escape}}. (e.g. we've enclosed the perimeter, he's surrounded, so he won't t able to run away.)

The ~te-iru form can be combined with a habitual stative and exhibit an iterative sense, which means it will mean that for a certain period of time, such as "lately," we've been making so that we do something habitually, or perhaps that we don't do it. For example:

  • saikin {{mainichi hon wo yomu} you ni} shite-iru
    Lately, [I] have been making [it] {so [that] {[I] read books every day}}.
    Lately, I've been reading books every day. (deliberately, because maybe I think that's a good habit to have.)

In Japanese, the tense of a subordinate clause is relative to its matrix. If suru is conjugated to a past-tensed form, the habitual predicate remains in nonpast form, because it's "present" habitual but it's a "present of the past" in this case. For example:

  • tabako wo suu
    To smoke cigars.
  • tabako wo suwanai
    To not smoke cigars.
  • {{tabako wo suwanai} you ni} shite-ita
    [I] had been making [it] {so [that] {[I] didn't smoke cigars}}.
    I had stopped smoking cigars [during that time].
    • Here, suwanai (Japanese nonpast form) translates to "didn't smoke" (English past form) because in English the tense of the subordinate is relative to utterance time, so anything past of "now" must be in past form, whereas in Japanese the tense can be relative to the matrix, so when we used shite-ita in the matrix, we started talking as if we were in the past, consequently suwanai is present from the viewpoint of the past.
  • *{{tabako wo suwanakatta} you ni} shite-ita
    • We don't conjugate the habitual to past form in this case. We use the nonpast form as shown above.

Besides suru, many other verbs can work as causative eventivizers. What happens is that suru is the most basic and vague verb possible we can use to say "to make become." It's possible to replace suru by a more specific verb. For example:

  • kami wo {akaku} someru
    To dye [one's hair] {red}. (this makes the hair red.)
  • {{kanji ga yomeru} you ni} furigana wo furu
    To [add] furigana [to the text] {so [that] {[one] can read the kanji}}. (this makes the kanji readable.)
    • furigana - kana written besides the kanji that shows its reading. Literally, furu means "to distribute (kana to the kanji in this case)."

This includes suru-verbs:

はぐれないように勝手な行動はしないこと! はいっ! 他の子とケンカしないこと! はいっ!! GPIbとかをちゃんと使って飛ばされないようにすること!
Manga: Hataraku Saibou はたらく細胞 (Chapter 4, すり傷)
  • Context: "platelets," kesshouban 血小板, drawn as cute anime girls, receive their marching orders.
  • {hagurenai} you ni {katte na} koudou wa shinai koto!
    Do not [act on your own] as {to not stray away}!
    • katte
      (refers to doing things without consulting others.)
    • hagureru
      To stray away [from a group]. To lose sight of [one's group].
    • Here, the eventivizer is koudou suru, "to act."
  • hai'!
    Yes, [ma'am]!
  • hoka no ko to kenka shinai koto!
    Do not fight with other kids!
  • hai'!
    Yes, [ma'am]!
  • jiipiiwanbii toka wo chanto tsukatte tobasarenai you ni suru koto!
    Do use GPIb, etc. properly so [you don't get sent flying away]!
    • GPIb, Glycoprotein Ib, allow platelets to adhere at sites of injury.
    • tobu
      To jump. To fly.
    • tobasu
      To make [something] fly. (ergative verb pair.)
    • tabasareru
      To be made fly [by something]. (passive form.)
    • Here, the eventivizer is suru.

There are a few phrases that use this unaccusative-causative grammar of ~ni naru, ~ni suru, but may not appear so at first glance. For example, ki 気, "feeling," is notorious in having dozens of different uses, including with naru and suru:

  • ki ni naru
    To become curious about something.
    • Here, something gets in your mind without you having control over it.
  • ki ni suru
    To mind something.
    To be bothered by something.
    • Here, you have the ability to "not mind" if you wanted. In particular, we can use hortative sentences with this:
    • ki ni suru na
      Don't be mind it.
      Don't be bothered by it.
      Just ignore it.
    • But such wouldn't make sense with the unaccusative:
    • ?ki ni naru na
      Don't be curious about it.

Another example is this:

  • {mono ni} suru
    To obtain.
    To master a skill.
    • mono means "thing." In this case, we're literally saying:
    • {watashi no mono ni} suru
      [I] will make [it] become {my thing}.
    • By coming my thing, a skill becomes my skill, i.e. I master that ability and become able to use it however I want.

To Treat As

The phrase ~ni suru can be used to say you're treating one thing as if it were something else, specially in the sense of what you use it for. For example:

ちーん 毒キノコの帽子を布団にしたそうです・・・ もしかしてバカなのか?
Manga: Maoujou de Oyasumi 魔王城でおやすみ (Chapter 7, 夢みる毒キノコ)
  • Context: the princess is dead. The demon cleric tells the demon lord how she died.
  • chiiin
    *ring of a bell* (sound effect used when a character dies or is defeated, probably originates from the bell used in a butsudan 仏壇, a "Buddhist altar" for a deceased family member.)
  • doku-kinoko no boushi wo {futon ni} shita sou desu...
    It seems that [she] made a poisonous-mushroom's cap {a bed}.
    • In other words, she used the cap (the top part) of the mushroom as if it were a bed.
    • She treated it as a bed.
    • futon
      Traditional Japanese bedding, typically placed on a tatami floor. The term refers to both the mattress and the duvet, but just "bed" is a good enough translation most of the time..
  • moshikashite baka na no ka?
    Could it be that [she] is an idiot?

Naturally, the same sense also exists with naru, typically in the form of ~ni natte-iru to mean that something ended up being functioning as something else.

Another example:

馬鹿にしないでください・・・・・・ こんな子供向けの問題解けて当然です・・・
Manga: Kaguya-sama wa Kokurasetai ~Tensai-Tachi no Ren'ai Zunousen~ かぐや様は告らせたい~天才たちの恋愛頭脳戦~ (Chapter 4, 白銀御行は答えたい)
  • Context: Kaguya is asked a quiz question that's too easy for a genius like her, and congratulated after getting it right.
  • baka ni shinaide kudasai...
    Don't treat [me] as an idiot.
    Don't take me for an idiot.
    Don't make an idiot out of me.
  • konna kodomo-muke no mondai
    tokete touzen desu...
    A question [made] for kids like this,
    solving [it] is [only] natural...

To Choose

The phrase ~ni suru can come after noun that refers to an alternative to say that you choose that alternative, that choice. For example:

  • esupuresso ni shita
    [I] made [it] {expresso}. (literally.)
    I decided to have an expresso.

The way this works is like this:

  1. You'll drink something.
  2. You don't know "what you'll drink," you haven't decided yet.
  3. By deciding to drink X, "what you'll drink" becomes X.
  4. Therefore, deciding MAKES "what you'll drink" BECOME X, which is precisely the pattern of the causative eventivizer.

In situations where deciding to do something, or to go for something, in which making a choice constitutes of a change of plans, you end up being able to use suru the way describe above. For example, ordered food in a restaurant equals deciding what you'll to eat.

  • {karee ni} shita
    I made what I'll order, what I'll eat, become {curry}.
    I chose {curry};

When choosing the color of something.

  • {shiro ni} shita
    I made what will be the color of the thing white.
    I chose {white}.

To ask a question, you'd use nani ni 何に:

  • {nani ni} suru?
    {What} [you] will choose?
    {What} will [it] be?

You can also use other interrogative pronouns, in particular, when asking time:

  • Context: you're making plans with someone.
  • {itsu ni} shimasu ka?
    {What time} [you] will choose?
    {When} will [it] be?
  • ashita ni shimashou
    Let's choose {tomorrow}.
    Let's do [it] {tomorrow}.

This isn't much different from the normal use of the eventivizer, it just happens to have a "chose" interpretation. There are a few key differences, however.

First, what you're changing tends to be the topic marked by wa は instead of wo を. For example:

  • iro wa {shiro ni} shita
    As for the color, [I] made [it] white.
    [I] chose white for the color.
  • iro wo {shiro ni} shita
    (same meaning.)
  • bangohan wa {karee ni} shita
    As for the dinner, [I] made [it] curry.
    [I] chose [to make] curry for the dinner.
  • bangohan wo {karee ni} shita
    (same meaning.)

Second, the thing marked by ni に when choosing can be metalinguistic. That is, it works like a quote, and as such its grammar is detached from the grammar syntax of the rest of the sentence.

Although this doesn't mean anything in English, in Japanese adjectives like akai 赤い, "red," which would normally change to their adverbial forms before suru, e.g. akaku shita 赤くした, can be instead isolated like a quote and treated as a noun with ni に marking it instead. Observe:

  • {"akai" ni} shita
    [I] chose {"red."}
    • If someone literally used the word akai, you could quote them verbatim like this: yeah, I'll go with akai, instead of saying you chose/made it red with akaku shita.

It's also possible to ask a question for listener to pick one choice using this suru:

おかえりなさいあなた♡ お風呂にする? ご飯にする? それとも・・・わ♡た♡し♡?
Manga: Sunohara-sou no Kanrinin-san すのはら荘の管理人さん (Volume 1, Chapter 9, Page 80)
  • Context: Yukimoto Yuzu 雪本柚子 imagines herself as a bride who would support her future husband.
  • okaerinasai anata
    [Welcome home, dear.]
    • anata
      You. (second person pronoun.)
      Sometimes used by a wife to refer to her husband.
  • ofuro ni suru?
    gohan ni suru?
    soretomo... wa... ta... shi...?

    [What do you want to do]?
    [Eat]? [Take a] bath? Or... me?
    • soretomo watashi
      Or me. (often pronounced with a suggestive pause.)
    • gohan means a "meal," and can be "lunch" or "dinner." It's normally dinner since the scenario is usually about a husband coming home from work.


The phrase koto ni suru ことにする is complicated, so let's start by seeing some ways it can be used:

  • {gakkou ni iku} koto ni suru
    [I] will decide {to go to school}.
  • {gakkou ni iku} koto ni shita
    [I] decided {to go to school}.
  • {gakkou ni itta} koto ni suru
    [I] will pretend {[he] went to school}. (and maybe spread a lie that this is what happened.)
  • {gakkou ni itta} koto ni shita
    [I] pretended {[he] went to school}.

Above, the change in tense between suru and shita works as you'd expect, but when we change the tense of the relative clause qualifying koto, we end up with entirely different meanings. With nonpast iku we get a "decide" translation while the past itta gets "pretend" instead for some reason.

Let's step back and examine what is happening.

The phrase koto ni suru is the causative of koto ni naru ことになる, which is the eventivization of koto こと. This we've already learned. The problem is koto: it's a very complicated word, so any grammar using it automatically becomes very complicated.

The word koto has various uses. In this case, it's being used to refer to a reality. To a situation as factual. To how things would turn out.

By itself, koto means nothing. It's what comes before koto, the relative clause qualifying it, that is meaningful. It provides a description of a fact that we somehow merge or compare with the facts that we have in the real world.

For example, take the following statement:

  • Tarou ga gakkou ni iku
    Tarou will go to school.

This predicts that, in the future, Tarou will have gone to school. That it will have happened, factually, by then.

A prediction such as the above is based on information, on facts, available in the world. If we know Tarou is a student, or teacher, or has some business to do at school, he'll go to school.

But let's say, for a moment, that Tarou has no business to do at school. He isn't a student or anything, so we assume, based on these facts, that Tarou is never going to go to school, and we operate under that assumption.

For example, there's something at school Tarou shouldn't see. Like the huge surprise birthday party we're preparing for him there. We assume he'll never come here, so we do it here.

Then it turns out Tarou is actually friends with a teacher, so now he has business to go to school, and as such:

  • {Tarou ga gakkou ni iku} koto ni naru
    Things will turn out such way that {Tarou will go to school}.
  • {Tarou ga gakkou ni iku} koto ni natta
    Things have turned out such way that {Tarou will go to school}.

With the sentences above, we're saying that a prediction that wasn't part of our reality, WILL BECOME (naru) part of our reality, or BECAME (natta) part of our reality.

What changes when we use suru instead is that we'll have a causer causing that reality to become true. For example:

  • {Tarou ga gakkou ni iku} koto ni suru
    [I] will make it so that {Tarou will go to school} will be the case.

A sentence such as the above would be rather unusual. It could be used, for example, if you were writing a story, and you had a character called Tarou, and you were undecided between him going to school or staying in bed, but ultimately you decided to make reality be that he goes to school.

This implied "decide" part is important because for a causer to cause reality he needs to have some sort of control over reality itself, which typically means they're deciding what will happen in a plan, or story, or theater play, or the role a teammate will have in a team, or so on.

Otherwise, the causative form would probably be used:

  • Tarou wo gakkou ni ikaseru
    [I] will make Tarou go to school. (against his will.)
    [I] will let Tarou go to school. (as he wants to.)

A more complicated example:

  • {{sanka suru} no wo yameru} koto ni shita
    [I] decided {[I] will give up {participating [in that]}}
    • sanka suru - to participate in an activity, to join an event, a contest, etc.
    • ~no wo yameru - to stop yourself from doing something.
    • ~koto ni shita - to have decided to do something.
    • Together: you have decided to stop yourself from participating in some previously mentioned activity.
    • In other words: you have to decided to make sanka suru no wo yameru the case.

When the relative clause is tensed past, it's no longer about what will happen in the future, but about what has already happened. The settled facts. These settled facts that weren't part of our reality are going to become part of our reality somehow. The question is "how."

With naru, typically what happens is that we had come to the conclusion something had happened, or hadn't happened, and the change in reality means what we assumed was wrong, and something else will become the conclusion instead.

  • {Tarou ga gakkou ni itta} koto ni naru
    [It] will be the case that {Tarou went to school}.

A sentence such as the above only makes sense if we had assumed Tarou hadn't gone to school, but then, after learning new facts, we've reached a different conclusion: if what you're saying is true, that means he went to school.

If with naru the facts changed, then with suru we change the facts. But how is that possible?

The interpretation is that if you use suru, you will "make it so" that those are the facts in the sense that you'll tell other people that this is what had happened, that you'll act as if this had happened, that you'll pretend it happened, that you'll take it as if it had happened in factuality.

  • {Tarou ga gakkou ni itta} koto ni suru
    [I] make it so that {Tarou went to school}.
    • I'll act as if that's what happened.
    • I'll tell everyone that's what happened.
    • I'll publish a newspaper article reporting that as a fact.
    • I'll edit the footage on the school's cameras to make it look like he was there even thought he wasn't.

This isn't only used to lie to other people but also to lie to yourself. For example:

  • watashi wa nanimo minakatta
    I didn't see anything.
    • I have no idea what you or those people were doing because I honestly wasn't looking.
  • {nanimo minakatta} koto ni suru
    [I] will act as if {[I] didn't see anything} was the case.
    I'll pretend I didn't see anything. (even though I totally saw it. I saw it all.)
私はなにも聞かなかった事にするわ! ま またね源蔵さん!
Manga: Kemono Michi けものみち (Chapter 4)
  • Context: a furry declares his love for a married kemono character who apparently wears only an apron. Unsure of what to do, she runs away.
  • watashi wa {nanimo kikanakatta} koto ni suru wa!
    I'll pretend {[I] didn't hear anything}!
    (>//w//< *blushes through fur*)
    I'll pretend you didn't tell me this!
    • I won't even tell my husband about it!
    • Let's forget this happened, okay?!
  • ma, mata ne, Genzou-san!
    [Goodbye], Genzou-san!
    • mata - "again," as in "see you again," can be used to say bye.

With shita there isn't any difference besides "will pretend" becoming "pretended" in past tense.

  • {nanimo minakatta} koto ni shita
    [I] pretended {[I] didn't see anything}.
    I decided to act as if I had seen nothing.

Besides suru and shita, it's also possible to use the koto ni shite-iru ことにしている in the iterative sense. I'll explain this in a bit.

Before that, it's important to note that ~shita koto ni suru doesn't necessarily mean "to pretend" or to yourself. What it means is that we're comparing a set of facts to another set of facts, alternative facts, if you will.

To have a better idea, observe the sentence below:(adapted from 小泉, 1989, as cited in 大塚, 2013:25)

  • keisatsu wa {{sono jiken wa {sude ni} kaiketsu shita} koto ni} shite-iru
    警察はその事件はすでに解決したこ とにしている
    The police has been telling everybody that {{that incident has {already} been solved}}.
    • We already investigated it. The man was stabbed in the back eight times and shot in the head thrice. Clearly suicide as the room was locked from inside so there was no way to enter it.

Depending on the context, that could mean all sorts of things. That's because we're dealing not with two possibilities, but with five different sets of facts. There are the facts:

  1. That they know.
  2. That they say they know.
  3. That I know.
  4. That I'm telling you I know.
  5. And that actually happened in reality.

The grammar of ~ni suru only takes in consideration what they say are the facts, compared to what I'm telling you are the facts. Either or even both of us could be lying or be wrong, as such, you end up with possibilities such as:

  1. They know the truth, but lie. I also know the truth, and I'm telling you they're lying, they're pretending.
    • The police knew it wasn't suicide, but they were bribed to say it was.
  2. They know the truth, and speak honestly. I also know the truth, and I'm lying to you that they were lying.
    • The police were correct in their conclusion, and I'm telling you they were not in order to manipulate you into thinking they were lying to you.
  3. I don't know the truth.
    • I don't know if they're lying, and I haven't investigated it myself, but I don't trust what the they say. They must have done their investigations wrong or something. The truth must be something else.
  4. They don't know the truth. I know the truth.
    • The police think they got it right, but they were fooled by a criminal mastermind—some crazy dude called Moriarty—and I know what they say wasn't what actually happened.
  5. Neither of us know the truth.
    • They quickly concluded it was suicide. Come on, that was obviously murder. Later, it turns out the victim was just a very realistic doll, and all the blood was ketchup, so nobody had actually died.

As you can see, when the speaker asserts that someone else has been asserting something as a fact, there are all sorts of possibilities to consider. Normally, however, it just means "they're lying" or "they're pretending that was true."

Regarding ~koto ni shite-iru, typically this will have the iterative sense: that, for a certain period of time, e.g. lately, you have been deciding to do something as a plan, or pretending something was true.

  • {nanimo minakatta} koto ni shite-iru
    [I] have been pretending {[I] didn't see anything}.

There are two possible interpretations of an iterative such as the above. In the first, we have one SINGLE state that remains true for a relevant period of time. In the second, we have MULTIPLE events that reoccur through a relevant period of time. In other words:

  1. A week ago, I saw it happened. I've been pretending I haven't seen anything until now. It's possible I'll continue pretending I didn't see it for the rest of my life, or, perhaps, tomorrow, maybe, I'll stop pretending, and tell people what I saw that day.
  2. Since last week, something has been happening every single day. And I see it. And every time I see it, I pretend I didn't see anything. So I've pretended I saw nothing multiple times since last week.

Note that above we had the relative clause in past form (shita koto ni shite-iru). In nonpast form (suru koto ni shite-iru), the single-state interpretation doesn't seem to make sense, so it will be the multiple-event interpretation instead. For example:

  • {tabako wo suwanai} koto ni shite-iru
    [I] have been deciding that {[I] will not smoke}.
    1. ?What I have decided since last week is that I will not smoke a cigar in the future.
      I have tabako wo suwanai koto ni shita once.
    2. This last week I have been deciding not to smoke multiple times.
      I have tabako wo suwanai koto ni shita multiple times.

To be pedantic, note that each tabako wo suwanai in a pluractionality refers to a different occasion. That is, if we ~koto ni shita every day of the week, we're definitely not talking about how there were plans to smoke a single cigar on the Sunday and every single day you reaffirm your decision to not do it, i.e. on Monday: "I won't smoke Sunday," on Tuesday: "I won't smoke Sunday," and so on. Instead, there was a context where the choice was available, and you made that same choice multiple time across similar contexts, e.g. in your lunch break on Monday, you could have tabako wo suu, but you chose not to, you chose tabako wo suwanai, and you made this same choice multiple times when the opportunity arose Tuesday, and the other days, too.

As we've already seen, an eventive verb in nonpast form such as suwanai has either future perfective or present habitual interpretations. It doesn't have a future habitual interpretation by itself. It can't mean:

  • *I won't smoke cigars. (in the sense of I'll stop smoking.)


  • I won't smoke the cigars. (at a particular time in the future.)

The single-state interpretation would have to be that your current plan for doing a thing in the future has been this.

Awkwardly, the unaccusative naru is typically used to say such thing instead:

  • watashi-tachi no kurasu wa, bunkasai de {{obake-yashiki wo suru} koto ni} natte-iru
    私たちのクラスは、文化祭でお化け屋敷をすることになっている[excerpted from, accessed 2022-02-03]
    As for our class, in the school festival, [it] has ended up being that {{[we] will do a haunted house}}}.
    Our class has chosen to do a haunted house attraction for the school festival.
    • It turned out that obake-yashiki wo suru ended up being the plan for the bunkasai. Naturally, this would mean there was a discussion, or vote, or something like that, and the class "decided" to do it.
    • However, as we can see, the unaccusative naru was used instead of the causative suru, as if the class didn't make it the plan, the plan merely turned out to be that.

You may be wondering what's the difference between ~koto ni shite-iru ~ことにしている and ~you ni shite-iru ~ようにしている. Well, there's a few.

First, as we've already seen, the purpose of ~you ni suru is to eventivize stative verbs, and these verbs must be in nonpast form. Therefore, while we can use the past form with ~koto ni suru, we can't use it with ~you ni suru.

  • *{{minakatta} you ni} shite-iru

Thus we can't compare ~shita koto with ~shita you, we can only compare ~suru koto with ~suru you.

Both ~suru koto ni shite-iru and ~suru you ni shite-iru have iterative senses, however, the former is the multiple-event sense while the second is the single-state sense.

Furthermore, the pluractional ~koto ni shite-iru entails ~koto ni shita occurs multiple times. Since one ~koto ni shita means you "decided" to do something once, multiple of them means you've been making a conscious choice for some reason multiple times.

By contrast, ~you ni shite-iru is merely ~you ni suru in the habitual sense clamped to a relevant period of time. Since ~you ni suru means to ensure that something happens, i.e. can happen, or doesn't happen, can't happen, ~you ni shite-iru is the same thing but limited in time.


  • tabako wo suwanai
    [I] don't smoke.
  • {{tabako wo suwanai} you ni} shite-iru
    [I] have been making [it] {so [that] {[i} don't smoke}}.
    • By making a mental effort to not smoke.
    • Or by simply not buying cigarettes, that could work, too.
  • {{tabako wo suwanai} koto ni} shite-iru
    [I] have been deciding {to not smoke}.
    • By deciding not to when the opportunity to smoke a cigar arises.

As pedantically mentioned previously, with ~koto ni shite-iru, each suwanai refers to concrete event (or lack of thereof) in a different occasion. With ~you ni shite-iru, however, suwanai doesn't refer to any concrete events, just like "I smoke" doesn't refer to any particular times I smoked, and "I don't smoke" doesn't refer to any particular times I didn't smoke. This means that with ~you ni shite-iru the only thing that we're saying is that we've been trying to turn ourselves into a person that can say "I don't smoke." Obviously, in order to do that it's necessary to stop smoking, but that's not what the grammar strictly means. The point is that:

  • With ~you you're only referring to what the GOAL is, what is the final state you want to be. The actions you take to achieve this goal are implied.
  • With ~koto you're only referring to the ACTIONS, what you decided to do or not do. The goal that these actions lead to are implied.

Trying to turn yourself into a non-smoker implies you've been deciding to not smoke, and deciding to not smoke implies you're trying to turn yourself into a non-smoker.

Neither grammar point is absolute as to exclude the opposite scenario from happening.

  1. Saying we're doing something to become a non-smoker doesn't mean it's working, just means we're making an effort.
  2. Saying we've decided not to smoke multiple times doesn't mean there weren't also times we decided to smoke..

Just as "I don't smoke" doesn't mean "I never smoked," watashi wa tabako wo sutta koto ga nai 私はタバコを吸ったことがない, the iterative only means something like "I've been not smoking for this period of time," and not something absolute like "I didn't smoke even once in this period of time."

して, にして vs. で Particle

The te-form of suru, shite して, and the phrase ni shite にして are sometimes kind of synonymous with the de で particle, which has several meanings: it can mark how, by using what, something is done, where something is done, it's the te-form of the da だ copula, among other uses.

The reason for this being simply that, etymologically, de で is a contraction of nite にて which is an abbreviated form of ni shite にして(Masuda, 2002:126–127, citing Hashimoto, 1969, among others), so they all share a bunch of meanings.

For example, the locative function of the de で particle also exists in ni shite にして, as seen in poem attribute to Empress Genmei, who reigned Japan in the early 8th century:(text cited in Masuda, 2002:127)

  • kore ya kono Yamato ni shite wa aga kouru
    Kidi ni ari toiu na ni ou Se no Yama

    これやこの 大和にしては 我が恋ふる
    紀路にありといふ 名に負ふ背の山
    This is that, by Yamato, the famous Senoyama at Kidi that I yearn for.
    • Warning: in old Japanese, fu ふ sounds like u, waga 我が is aga, etc.
    • Yamato is an old name for Japan. Kidi refers to a road that leads to Senoyama, which is a "mountain," yama 山. So the sentence is about a mountain by a street, in the location of the nation of Japan, which the speaker yearns for. A modern translation:(
    • kore ga kano yuumei na, Yamato de watashi ga kokoro-hikarete-ita, {{Kii no Kuni ni iku} michi ni aru} {nadakai} Senoyama desu ka;
      Is this is that famous, that in Yamato made me fascinated, {renowned} Senoyama [that] {is at the road [that] {leads to the Kii Province}}?

Now, you probably don't want to speak 8th century Japanese—at best you might want to understand what 13 hundred year old anime girl is saying when she speaks in 8th century Japanese—so it's worth noting that you generally don't use ni shite にして as if it were de で in modern Japanese.

Nevertheless, there are some uses of ni shite にして and shite して that only really make sense when you think of it as "it works kind of like de で, or de atte であって."

For instance, in epic texts describing kings and kingdoms and such, sometimes ni shite にして is used to say that someone or something "is both X and Y."

魔王 悪魔の支配者にしてすべてを牛耳る悪魔の王
Manga: Mairimashita! Iruma-kun 魔入りました!入間くん (Chapter 5, 問題児アブノマールクラス)
  • Context: an explanation of what the king is.
  • maou, {makai no shihaisha ni shite} {subete wo gyuujiru} akuma no ou
    魔王 悪魔の支配者にしてすべてを牛耳る悪魔の王
    Demon-king: [he] {is both the lord of the demon world, and} the king of demons [that] {rules over everything}.
    • Here, we're saying the maou is the makai no shihaisha on top of also being subete wo gyuujiru akuma no ou.
    • {makai no shihaisha de} {subete wo gyuujiru} akuma no ou
      (same meaning.)
高貴な者よ、これはそなただけに伝える言葉。 これより先、そなたは王と創造主の地に入る。 その敷居を越え、我らの法に従うがいい。 そして目撃者となるのだ。 最後にして唯ひとつの文明、永遠なる王国、”ハロウネスト”の。
Game: Hollow Knight, ホロウナイト (Before Entering Hallownest)
  • Context: text of lore tablet as seen in Hollow Knight's Japanese translation.
  • {kouki na} mono yo, kore wa {sonata dake ni tsutaeru} kotoba.
    {Noble} one, these are words {to convey to you alone}.
    Higher beings, these words are for you alone. (original English)
  • kore yori saki, sonata wa ou to souzoushu no chi ni hairu.
    Beyond this point, you'll enter the land of the king and creator.
    Beyond this point you enter the land of King and Creator. (original English)
  • sono shikii wo koe, ware-ra no hou ni shitagau ga ii
    Cross its threshold and obey our laws.
    Step across this threshold and obey our laws. (original English.)
  • soshite mokugekisha to naru no da.
    And become witness.
  • {{{saigo ni} shite} tada hitotsu no} bunmei, {eien naru} oukoku, "Harounesuto" no.
    The culture [that] {{is {the last} and} the only one}, the kingdom [that] {is eternal}. Of Hallownest.
    The {{{last} and} only} culture, the eternal kingdom. Of Hallownest.
    Bear witness to the last and only civilisation, the eternal Kingdom. Hallownest. (original English.)
    • {{saigo de} tada hitotsu no} bunmei
      (same meaning.)
    • The Japanese version ends with a no-adjective that qualifies mokugekisha of a previous sentence.
    • Harounesuto no mokugekisha to naru no da.
      Become witness of Hallownest.
      Become Hallownest's witness.

However, it quickly becomes clear that you can't really switch ni shite にして by de で, despite their similarities.

For example, ni shite wa にしては typically means "for something that's supposed to be a X, it sure does stuff a X wouldn't do," which sort of resembles the function of ni suru where you treat one thing as if it were another, except in this case it's like "I can't treat it as if it were that!"

  • kyojin ni shite wa chiisai
    For a giant, [he] is small. (which makes me doubt he is really a giant.)
  • #kyoujin de wa chiisai
    #In giant, [he] is small.
    • The only way this could make sense is if you're talking about the baseball team called the Giants, in which a player didn't particularly stand out.


  • sore ni shite mo
    Even considering that.
    That said.
  • sore de mo
    Even if that's true.
    Despite that. Although that's true.
    Regardless. Nevertheless.

The phrase shite して, without ni に, may also be used as de で. For example:(日本国語大辞典:して, note: my tentative transliteration and translation of these archaic sentences is likely wrong and shouldn't be relied upon.)

  • mata nana-tari nomi shite ni iremu tomo tabakarikeri
    七人ななたりのみして関に入れむとも謀りけり(続日本紀‐天平宝字八年, 764)
    Also (again?) with only seven people, [they] plan to enter the gate.
    • This is the usage that restricts with what something is done, in this case it restricts the number number of people.
    • nana-nin dake de
      With only seven people.
  • ikanimo kokoro-eta. shite, sore wa dono yau na mono zo
    如何にも心得た。してそれはどのやうな物ぞ(今源氏六十帖, 1695)
    Indeed [I understand]. So, what sort of thing is that?
    • This is a conjunctive use of de で, seen when it's in sentence-initial position.
    • de, sore wa dono you na mono?
      And/then/so, what sort of thing is that?
して この・・ブロックチェーンの作成とはいかなる事でしょう?
Manga: Ya Boy Kongming!, Paripi Koumei パリピ孔明 (Chapter 1, 孔明、渋谷に降り立つ。)
  • Context: Kongming 孔明, a 3rd-century Chinese strategist with, like, 1 million IQ, is reincarnated in the modern world and is trying to learn about modern technology.
  • shite, kono.. burokkucheen no sakusei towa ikanaru koto deshou?
    して この・・ブロックチェーンの作成とはいかなる事でしょう?
    Then, this.. [so-called] blockchain creation, [what is it supposed to be]?
    • de, kono..
      So, this..
      (same meaning.)
    • ikanaru - same as dou iu どういう, dono you na どのような, "what sort of."
    • ikanaru koto - what sort of thing [is it supposed to be].

It seems ni shite にして is preferred over de で when you have a ~te iru ~ている phrase in the sense of "to be/stay/remain in a way." Compare:

  • genki de iru
    To be fine.
  • genki ni shite-iru
    (same meaning.)
  • reisei de iru
    To be calm.
  • reisei ni shite-iru
    (same meaning.)

Most likely, the difference between sentences such as above is that ni shite is used when the subject has control over their quality, i.e. whether or not they remain fine (as in high spirits), or remain calm (as in composed), depends on whether they want to. Compare:

  • ii ko ni shite-iru
    [He] is being a good kid. [He] is behaving.
    • Here, the kid has control over whether they are a "good kid," whether they behave.
  • ii ko de wa irarenai!
    [I] can't be a good kid! [I] can't keep behaving!
    • irarenai - negative form of irareru いられう, "to be able to be," potential form of iru.
    • Here, the quality of being "a good kid" is no longer under the subject's control. As they say, they simply "can't" continue behaving, so de で is preferred over ni shite にして in this case.
    • c.f.:
    • reisei de irarenai!
      [I] can't remain calm!

This doesn't seem to apply to all hojo-doushi 補助動詞 (auxiliary verbs). For example, ~te-miru doesn't make sense with de で, it makes more sense with kara から, and would be better explained through the eventivizer function:

  • kare ni shite-mireba
    From his point of view.
    • ~ni shite-mitara ~にしてみたら, ~ni shite-mirya ~にしてみりゃ are used similarly.
    • #kare de mireba
      #If [you] see [it] with (as in using) him.
      (not same meaning.)
    • kare kara mireba
      If [you] see [it] from him.
      (same meaning.)
    • The reason for the above is that we're saying "if you see it from his point of view." Therefore, the ni shite sentence means "if you tried making your point of view his point of view, then the outcome would be..." because ~te-miru means "try doing this and see what happens."


The phrase dou suru どうする means "what are you going to do" or "what I'm going to do."

It's most likely related to the eventivizer usage of suru considering a dou naru どうなる, "what will happen," counterpart exists and that dou どう is an adverb. However, given it's rather unique in various ways, I suppose it deserves its own section.

First off, dou suru is used to ask what you intend to do in general. For example:

  • kore kara dou suru?
    What are [you] going to do from now on?

By contrast, nani wo suru would be used to ask for a specific action in answer, "what will you do?" Also this usage would be a suru-verb.

Things get complicated because each different conjugation of dou suru seems to have a different meaning. Compare:

  • nani wo shite-iru
    What are [you] doing?
  • dou shite-iru?
    How are [you] doing?
  • nani-ka wo shite-iru
    To be doing something.
  • dou-ka shite-iru
    To be acting weird.
  • nani wo shita?
    What did [you] do?
  • dou shita?
    What happened?
    What's wrong?
    What's up?
  • nani wo shite
    To do something and.
  • dou shite

Wait, "why"? Why "why"?

  • dou shite kou natta
    Why did things end up like this.
  • dou shite sonna koto wo shita
    Why did [you] do something like that.

This makes no sense even for me. Awkwardly, what you'd expect is found in the verb yaru やる instead:

  • dou yatte sonna koto wo shita?
    How did [you] do something like that?
    • Most likely "what did you have to do in order to do that."

A common one seen in anime is:

  • dou shiyou
    What do [I] do. (used when you're panicking and have no idea what to do.)
  • dou sureba ii
    What should [I] do.
    • watashi wa dou sureba...
      (same meaning, incomplete sentence.)

The phrase dou suru can also be used like this:

  • makete dou suru!
    What are [you] going to do after [you] lose? (literally.)
    • A sentence ending in ~te dou suru in Japanese means literally something like this, but is used to tell someone that a situation, like being defeated, is ridiculous and unacceptable, so there's no way you can let that happen.

And there's also this thing with an elusive ni に in it that I honestly have no idea where it came from:

  • dou ni ka suru
    [I] will handle the problem somehow.
    [I] will fix [it] somehow.
    [I] will do something about [it].
  • dou ni ka dekimasu ka?
    Can [you] do something about [it]?


The phrase ~tari suru ~たりする, or ~tari~tari suru ~たり~たりする, etc., is the verb suru coming after a number of verbs in tari-form. This is always necessary, as a tari-form without a suru after it would sound weird.(たり~たりする)

This tari-form is used to list things you do. It works similar to the ya や particle, or nado など, "et cetera," in that the list of things is supposed to be examples of what you do, and what you actually do includes other stuff of the sort.

Compare:(adapted fromたり~たりする)

  • {gohan wo taberu} jikan ga nai
    [I] don't have time {to eat lunch}.
  • {{gohan wo tabetari} suru} jikan ga nai
    [I] don't have time {{to eat lunch}, etc.}
    • In this sense I explicitly don't have time to eat lunch, but I imply that I also don't have time to wash the dishes, and to do other stuff around that time.
  • {{toire ni ittari}, {gohan wo tabetari} suru} jikan ga nai
    [i] don't time {{to go to the toilet}, {to eat lunch}, and so on}.
    • Here, we have two tari-forms in sequence.
  • {{terebi wo mitari}, {toire ni ittari}, {gohan wo tabetari} suru} jikan ga nai
    [i] don't time {{to watch TV}, {to go to the toilet}, {to eat lunch}, and so on}.
    • Here, we have three tari-forms.

As you can see above, you can chain a number of tari-forms in sequence, and after the last one you use suru, so it's always ~tari~tari suru, never only ~tari~tari.

One way to think of it is ~tari suru translating to "to do stuff like."

  • I don't have time to do stuff like eating lunch.
  • I don't have time to do stuff like watching TV, going to the toilet, or eating lunch.

To Feel

The verb suru する can mean something similar to "to feel" when combined with a word that means a feeling. There are different ways this can happen, but it generally turns suru into a stative predicate, as predicates related to emotion and cognition typically are stative.

This means suru in nonpast form will normally mean "I feel X" in present tense, not "I will feel X" in future tense. For example, if you say:

  • {atama ga itai}
    {Head is painful} is true about [me].
    [My] head hurts.
    [I] have a headache.
    (double subject construction.)
    • itai
      To be painful. To be hurting.
      To be cringe. (e.g. Karamatsu カラ松.)

Then the predicate is itai, which is an adjective, which is stative, which is present-tensed in nonpast form: "is" painful, "hurts," "have," etc. There's a noun that refers to the feeling above:

  • zutsuu

This noun can be used with ~ga suru to say that this zutsuu feeling is being felt:

  • {zutsuu ga suru}
    A headache is being felt.
    [I] have a headache.
    [My] head hurts.

There's a feeling stirring up inside you, the suru says "it stirs up" or something like that.

  • {haki-ke ga suru}
    To feel nauseous.
    To feel about to vomit.
    A haki-ke stirs up inside of me.
    • haku
      To spew. (e.g. lies.)
      To vomit. To puke.
  • {memai ga suru}
    To feel dizzy.

This pattern is used in various ways, so there's a couple of things worth noting about it.

First, In Japanese, cognitive predicates assert cognitions as facts, which is troublesome philosophically speaking.

Only you can know what is inside your own head, so you can only speak factually about your own feelings, what you feel, not what other people feel.

In Japanese, you typically use a stative to talk about your own feelings, like ~tai ~たい for saying you "want to" do something, and a different eventive to report what you THINK other people's are feeling, like ~tagaru ~たがる.

  • keeki wo tabetai
    [I] want to eat cake.
  • keeki wo tabetagatte-iru
    [You/he/she/they] seem to want to eat cake.

Because I can't know what other people really want, I have to assume by how they act like.

Character: Hanako 花子
Anime: Hataage! Kemono Michi 旗揚!!けものみち (Episode 2)

Given that, I'm not saying "you want" with ~tagaru, but "you behave as if you wanted." Except ~tagaru is eventive, so in nonpast form it becomes "you WILL behave" and we need the ~te-iru form to get the present through the progressive "you're behaving as if you wanted to eat cake."

Some other ways to tell would be:

  • {keeki wo tabetai} to iu
    [You] say {"[I] want to eat cake"}.
    You say that you want to eat cake.
    • The person reports their own feelings.
  • keeki wo tabetai rashii
    I heard that [they] want to eat cake.
    • You get the information from a rumor or something.

The same ideas apply to suru, but with a bit of trouble, because suru doesn't have a separate word for reporting second and third-party feelings like ~tai has ~tagaru, so suru is used in both cases.

However, note that suru is stative because it's cognitive because it's your own feelings, which means when you're reporting other people's feelings it stops being cognitive so it stops being stative, which means it needs ~te-iru for present tense just like ~tagaru.

  • kare wa zutsuu ga suru
    *He has a headache. (no present continuous interpretation.)
    He will have a headache.
    His head (habitually) aches.
  • kare wa zutsuu ga shite-iru
    He's having a headache.
    His head is hurting right now.

This is particularly confusing when relativized:

  • {zutsuu ga suru} hito
    People [whose] {head habitually hurt}.
    • In the sense of people that have headaches at all. Same aspect as "people who eat vegetables" or "people who smoke cigars."
    • As always, a habitual can be restricted by a condition, which changes it from "at all" to "when X is true":
    • {ame no hi ni zutsuu ga suru} hito
      People [who] {get a headache in rain days}. (when it is a rain day, they get a headache.)
  • {zutsuu ga shite-iru} hito
    People [who] {are having a headache right now}.
    • Here we're talking about a person, or persons, who is having a headache at the moment.

Above we see that although zutsuu ga suru means SOMEONE, that is, ME, is having a headache right now, when it qualifies a noun like hito, it no longer means someone is having a headache RIGHT NOW, but that they get headaches SOMETIMES instead.

This isn't something special of suru. Other verbs like omou also follow this rule.(山本, 2005:98)

  • *Tarou wa Jirou ga gakusei da to omou
    Intended: "Tarou thinks Jirou is a student."
    • Ungrammatical because the cognitive omou can only be used to report what the speaker feels, not what someone else (in this case, Tarou) feels.
  • Tarou wa Jirou ga gakusei da to omotte-iru
    Tarou thinks Jirou is a student.

Semantically, this is due to a function of ~te-iru where it binds a situation to time, and thus space, making it observable in the real world somehow. Typically, this is used to turn gnomics (unbound by time) into episodics (bound by time), e.g. habituals that describe the possibility of events happening into iteratives that express events have already happened and could have been observed. In this case, however, it's turning someone else's mental state, which you can't observe, into something observable in the real world. A process that has been named evidential coercion:

'Evidential Coercion' because it involves the subject giving behavioral evidence for having the property named by the ILP.(Fernald, 1999:53)

English doesn't have ~te-iru, nor does it need it for reporting other people's cognitions, but evidential coercion exists under the same episodicalizing principle in the progressive form:

  • John is lame. (generally speaking, i.e. gnomically.)
  • John is being lame. (based on how he's acting currently, i.e. episodically.)

This is sometimes contrastive, both in English as well as in Japanese:

  • John knows how to do his job. (generally speaking.)
  • John IS knowing how to do his job. (based on how he's doing it lately.)
  • John eats vegetables. (gnomic habitual.)
  • John IS eating vegetables. (episodic iterative.)

It's generally unnecessary to say watashi with feelings. For example, you wouldn't say:

  • watashi wa {zutsuu ga suru}
    I {have a headache}.

Instead, you'd just say:

  • zutsuu ga suru
    (same meaning.)

In more complex sentences, there are cases where ~ga suru comes after watashi wa but its use is eventive instead. For example:

  • watashi wa {{zutsuu ga suru} koto ga ooi}
    I {have many cases [where] {[my] head hurts}}.
    My {{head hurts} often}.
    • Here, the pattern is watashi wa {{X} koto ga ooi}, meaning that, for me, there have been many times where X happened. In this case, many times where this whole head-hurting thing happened.
    • It doesn't mean my head is hurting right now.

Sensory Stimuli Copula

The phrase ~ga suru ~がする can come after a noun of a stimulus (taste, smell, sound) to mean that something "gives off" that stimulus, i.e. that you sense, that you feel that stimulus. For example:

  • Context: you find a strange device. You fiddle with it a bit and it starts making weird noises.
  • oto ga suru!
    A sound gives off! (literally.)
    It gives off a sound!
    It makes a sound!
    I sense a sound!
    I feel a sound!
    I hear a sound!

Generally this grammar isn't used like above. Instead, the stimulus, in this case the "sound," oto 音, is qualified somehow so we'd be saying what sound something makes, as opposed to above where we're saying we just hear a sound at all.

  • {hen na} oto ga suru
    A sound [that] {is weird} sound gives off.
    It makes a weird sound.
    I hear a weird sound.
  • ame no oto ga suru
    The sound of rain gives off.
    It makes a rain sound.
    I hear rain.
    • ame 雨 - "rain." Not to be confused with the homograph ame 飴, "candy."

Other sensory stimuli:

  • ame no nioi ga suru
    The smell of rain gives off.
    It smells of rain.
    I smell rain. (in the sense of I sense the smell of rain, not in the sense of I'm smelling like rain.)
    • kaori 香り, "aroma," can also be used instead of nioi.
  • ame no aji ga suru
    The taste of rain gives off.
    It tastes of rain.

The sentences above serve as the predicative clause of a double-subject construction. The large nominative subject would be what's giving off that stimulus. For example:

  • namida wa {{shio-karai} aji ga suru}
    {A {salty} taste gives off} is true about tears.
    Tears {give off a {salty} taste}.
    Tears {taste {salty}}.
    • namida, "tears" - large subject.
    • {shio-karai} aji, "a taste [that] {is salty}," "a {salty} taste" - small subject.

As explained in the article about double subject constructions, it's possible to have a sentence with two ga's instead of wa and ga if the large subject isn't also the topic. For example, if you're asking a question with large subject focus:

  • nani ga {{shiro-karai} aji ga suru}?
    What {tastes {salty}}?
    • Interrogatives like nani, "what," can't be marked by wa since they can't be the topic.

If the focus of a question is the small subject, then the large subject can still be marked with wa. For example:

  • namida wa donna aji ga suru?
    Tears give off what sort of taste?
    What do tears taste like?
    • konna aji ga suru
      [They] taste like this.

Note that there's the NOMINATIVE large subject marked by wa or ga, and the DATIVE large subject, marked by niwa には or ni に.(see Shibatani: 1999) For this suru, the dative large subject marks who experiences the stimulus. For example:

  • korera no kusuri wa {kodomo niwa {{nigai} aji ga suru}}
    {{A {bitter} smell gives off} is true for children} is true about these medicines.
    For children, these medicines taste bitter.
    • From話題の感染症について, accessed 2022-01-29.
    • This sentence has a triple-subject construction. The small subject aji (the stimulus), the dative large subject kodomo (the experiencer), and the even larger nominative kusuri (the stimulant).

One awkward thing is that while the nominative large subject here is the stimulant—which emits the taste, smell, sound, etc.—this usage still works like a cognition given the fact that suru is stative, likely due to the experiencer being watashi implicitly.

With zutsuu and haki-ke we saw previously, watashi wa, kare wa, were nominative large subjects and the also experiencers of the feelings.

Now watashi can't be marked by wa anymore, only by niwa, not that it's necessary anyway, but the important thing is that when reporting how OTHER PEOPLE experience the stimulus a stimulant gives off, suru becomes eventive, the same way it works with omou, just as we've sen before:

  • Tarou niwa {{nigai} aji ga suru}
    [It] tastes bitter for Tarou.
    • In the habitual sense of "whenever he drinks it, it tastes bitter," because aji ga suru is eventive here.
  • ?Tarou niwa {{nigai} aji ga shite-iru}
    [It] tastes bitter for Tarou.
    • Although this should be grammatical based on everything we've seen so far, it's hard to imagine a situation where it would be used in practice.
    • Basically we'd be asserting what flavor Tarou is feeling, which makes no sense. It would be like asserting what he is hearing. We can't get inside his head, or ears, but at least thoughts and opinions last a while, while stimuli are momentaneous, so this one is unlikely to be used.

That pretty much covers up the whole syntax. One thing worth noting, though, is the word nan'no なんの, which is the interrogative nani 何 plus no の. Observe how it's used in the pattern nan~ mo ~nai:

  • watashi niwa nani mo kikoenai
    For me, whatever it is, it isn't heard. (literally.)
    For me, nothing is heard.
    I can't hear anything.
    • c.f.: ame ga kikoeru 前が聞こえる, "[I] can hear the rain."
  • watashi niwa nan'no oto mo shinai
    For me, whatever sound it is, it doesn't give off.
    For me, no sound gives off.
    I don't hear anything. (in specific, e.g. you may have heard a sound of rain, but I have not.)
    • c.f. ame no oto ga suru 雨の音がする, "[I] hear the sound of rain."
    • The no of nan'no is the same no as of ame no.

Also, note that it's possible derelativize the stimulus qualifier like this:

  • ame wa {{amai} aji ga suru}
    Candy {gives off a taste [that] {is sweet}}.
    • Here, the qualifier amai is inside a relative clause inside a predicative clause.
  • ame wa {aji ga amai}
    {Sweet is true about taste} is true about candy.
    {The taste is sweet} is true about candy.
    A candy's {taste is sweet}.
    • Here, we derelativized amai so that it's part of the predicative clause.

Next, a few notes about the meaning of such sentences.

In English, "seems," "looks," "tastes," "smells," "sounds," and "feels," are said to be copulas. Normally, the term "copula," "linking verb," or "copulative verb" tends to be describe as merely the verb "to be," "is," "are," etc., but those words also fit the definition.

Because the definition of copula is based on its semantics and syntax, which is that it links a complement to the subject. If we have sentences like:

  • It is salty.
  • It seems salty.
  • It tastes salty.
  • It smells salty.
  • It becomes salty.
  • It remains salty.

Then what we have a complement, "salty," which is always used to describe a subject, "it," and there are various copulas, each changing the manner of this description.

With "seems" it's either appearance or a conclusion, "tastes" and "smells" are senses, "becomes" about changing state, and "remains" or "continues" about not changing state.

Except for "remains" or "continues," none of the copula entail "is." If something "remains frozen," that entails it "is frozen" currently. Something that "smells rotten" often "is rotten," but if it "smells funny" that doesn't mean it "is funny," and just because it "sounds bad" doesn't mean it really "is bad ."

So we know these copulas all describe a subject in different manners and don't seem to have any special relationship with "to be." They're just completely unrelated words that happen to use the same sort of syntax because they have the same sort of semantics.

In Japanese, the same thing occurs.

There are often cases where a sentence with ~(qualifier) (stimuli) ga suru can be replaced by just the qualifier.

For example:(大塚, 2007:31)

  • ringo-ame wa {{natsukashii} aji ga suru}
    The candied apple has a nostalgic taste.
    • This taste of this candied apple... it reminds me of that time when I was a little boy and my mom brought me to the amusement park and bought me a candied apple and it tastes so, so sweet.
  • ringo-ame wa natsukashii
    Candied apples are nostalgic.
    • In the sense of I feel nostalgic about candied apples.
  • fuurin wa {{yasashii} oto ga suru}
    The wind chime makes a gentle sound.
  • fuurin wa yasashii
    Wind chimes are gentle. (in the sense of amiable.)

The difference between the sentences above is that we aren't specifying what is "nostalgic" or "gentle" about the large subjects.(大塚, 2007:31)

Imagine there's a food. If I say "it is bad," then I'm not specifying why or what about is bad. If I said "it tastes bad" or "it looks bad," then I'd be specifying why. It's the same thing.

You don't need suru to be specific. A derelativization like fuurin wa oto ga yasashii would too specify we're talking about the taste of the apple and not its shape or color or anything else.(大塚, 2007:31)

Another stimulus is this:

  • ki ga suru
    To have the feeling that.
    To have the impression that.
    • {abunai} ki ga suru
      [I] have a feeling that {[it] is dangerous}.
    • {mou nido to aenai} ki ga suru
      [I] have a feeling that {[we] can never meet again}.
    • {kimi ga koko ni iru} ki ga shita
      [I] had a feeling [that] {you would be here}.
    • sonna ki ga shita
      [I] had a felling like that.
      [I] had that impression.

Not to be confused with ki ni suru 気にする, the causative of ki ni naru 気になる that we saw before.

The phrase kanji ga suru 感じがする means basically the same thing as ki ga suru.

Although these can be used to describe things, these are generally about your impression, how something feels for you. If you use them, that implies you assume other people may feel different, so it's not an objective statement, but a subjective one. For example:(大塚, 2007:31)

  • sono michi wa {{semai} kanji ga suru}
    {A feeling [that] {[it] is narrow} gives off} is ture about that street.
    That street makes me feel that it's narrow.
    That street feels narrow.
    • This doesn't necessarily mean:
    • sono michi wa semai
      That street is narrow.

The syntax can feel confusing at times. A sentence such as the above means the street makes you think: semai. It doesn't make you think: semai kanji. That street is semai, that's the feeling you get.

Mimetic Words

The verb suru can come after every sort of mimetic word to express you can describe something by what they mimic.

A mimetic word is a word that mimics some idea in the sense that its very syllables make you think of what they mimic. You may be familiar with the onomatopoeia, or phonomimes, that mimic sounds. Japanese has other two sorts besides them: phenomimes and psychomimes.

Chart: Mimetic Words in Japanese: Non-Onomatopoeic Ideophones (a.k.a. gitaigo) and Onomatopoeia (a.k.a. giongo.) The four types ideophones, "imitated... something... words:" gitaigo 擬態語, phenomimes, that imitate "state;" gijougo 擬情語, psychomimes, that imitate "emotion;" giseigo 擬声語, animate phonomimes, that imitate "voice;" and giongo 擬音語, inanimate phonomimes, that imitate "sound." Examples of gitaigo: pikapika ぴかぴか, *sparkling,* yukkuri ゆっくり, *without hurry,* hakkiri はっきり, *with certainty,* chanto ちゃんと, *properly.* Examples of gijougo: wakuwaku わくわく, *excitement,* iraira いらいら, "irritation," bikkuri びっくり, *surprise,* unzari うんざり, *annoyance.* Examples of giseigo: wanwan わんわん, *bow-wow,* konkon こんこん, *what the fox says,* nyaa にゃー, *meow,* gya'! ぎゃっ! *eek!* Examples of giongo: dokidoki ドキドキ, *thump-thump,* zaazaa ザーザー, *white noise,* pyon ぴょん, *boing,* gokun ごくん, *gulp.* Among these words, the following feature reduplication: pikapika, wakuwaku, iraira, wanwan, konkon, dokidoki, zaazaa. Some feature ri り endings, and chanto features an embedded to と.

One thing that these words share is that no particle is used between them and suru. You don't say word ga suru or word wo suru. It's just word suru. Alternatively, you could say the word is marked by a null particle.

イライラするの! こーゆうヤマなしオチなしイミなしな、起承転結のはっきりしない漫画!
Manga: Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei さよなら絶望先生 (Chapter 15, 仮名の告白)
  • Context: a literary critique.
  • iraira φ suru no!
    [This] annoys [me]!
    • iraira
      Feeling of irritation.
  • kooyuu {yama nashi ochi nashi imi nashi na}, {kishoutenketsu no hakkiri φ shinai} manga!
    This sort of manga [that] {doesn't have a climax, doesn't have a punch-line, and doesn't have a meaning}, [that] {doesn't make clear the kishoutenketsu}.

Similar to suru-verbs, it's possible to replace the null particle with wa は or mo も between the mimetic word and suru.

  • iraira wa shinai
    Irritation, [I] don't feel.
    I'm not annoyed.
  • iraira mo suru
    Irritation [I] feel, too.
    I'm also annoyed, on top of being something else.

To Feel the Emotion of a Psychomime

The verb suru can come after psychomimes, which mimic emotions, to express that the speaker feels that emotion.

  • iraira
  • iraira suru
    To feel irritated.
    I feel irritated.
    This irritates me. This is annoying.

These, too, follow the same rules of emotive predicates. When the experiencer is watashi, suru is nonpast because it's stative, otherwise it becomes eventive and you need ~te-iru.

  • Tarou wa iraira shite-iru
    Tarou is irritated.

If you suru in the sentence above, Tarou ends up being the stimulant triggering the experience for the experiencer that is watashi.

  • Tarou (wa/ga) iraira suru
    He makes [me] irritated.
    Tarou is irritating.

Again, you can use niwa for the experiencer:

  • Hanako niwa Tarou ga iraira suru
    For Hanako, Tarou is irritating. (habitual sense.)

Alternatively, the experiencer can be marked by wa or ga, while what triggers the experience gets marked by ni に.

  • Hanako wa Tarou ni iraira shite-iru
    Hanako is irritated by Tarou. (right now.)

With interrogatives:

  • nani ga iraira suru?
    What is irritating? (habitual sense.)
  • nani ni ira-ra shite-iru?
    What are [you] irritated by? (right now.)
  • dare ga iraira shite-iru?
    Who is irritated? (right now.)

Psychomimes are often reduplications, they're the same thing said twice, or, in technical terms, they're a base morpheme such as ira reduplicated into ira-ira. A couple of other examples:

  • wakuwaku suru
    [I]'m excited. (I got this waku-waku feeling going on.)
  • harahara suru
    [I]'m anxious. (I got this hara-hara feeling going on.)

Not all of them are reduplications, however.

  • unzari suru
    [I]'m fed up with [this thing].
    I can't deal with it anymore.

To Make the Sound of an Onomatopoeia

The verb suru can come after an onomatopoeia to say its sound is made by something. This works similar to like ~oto ga suru, but instead of a qualifier describing what sort of sound we're hearing, we have its word representation as an onomatopoeia.

  • zaazaa
    White noise.
    A rain sound.
  • zaazaa suru
    [Something] makes a zaazaa sound.

Just like ~oto ga suru, it's possible to express the sound-emitter as the subject:

  • ame ga zaazaa suru
    The rain makes a zaazaa sound.
  • gamen ga zaazaa suru
    The screen makes a zaazaa sound.

To Feature the Manner of a Phenomime

The verb suru can come after a phenomime, which mimics all sorts of manners: behaviors, appearances, etc., in order to say something features it. For example:

  • pikapika
    Also the sound that a Pikachu makes.
  • pikapika suru
    To blink.
    To sparkle.

This suru isn't stative.

  • pikapika suru!
    [It] sparkles! (habitual.)
  • pikapika shite-iru!
    [It] is sparkling! (progressive.)

Some words are rather difficult to classify between this and the other mimetic types. For example:

  • dokidoki
    • A doki is a heart thump, but is it the SOUND of the thump or is its pressure as it thumps?.
  • dokidoki suru
    To have one's heart thumping strongly, fast.
    To feel nervous, anxious, excited, etc.

In particular, note that:

  • bikkuri suru
    To be startled.
    To feel surprised.

Normally gets the "to feel surprised" translation, and since this looks like a feeling, you'd say it's psychomimetic. Many sources classify it as such.

However, if we consider how it interacts with suru, that classification may be wrong, because psychomimes are emotive predicates so their suru can be stative, but when you're surprised you don't say bikkuri suru, you say bikkuri shita.

In other words, bikkuri mimics how a person "twitches," biku びく, when they're startled, surprised, and not their actual mental state.

Conversely, dokidoki suru can actually be used in nonpast to say "I'm feeling nervous," but that could be because it's an onomatopoeia, and we could say "I hear my heart making a dokidoki sound" with suru in nonpast form.

Another example:

  • nikoniko suru
    To smile.
    • This is somehow from the shape of a smile, and not used statively.

Because there are all sorts of phenomimes, you end up with all sorts of meanings for suru.

Some phenomimes are adverbial and with suru resemble the eventivizer suru, but lack a naru counterpart, and also kind of look like a suru-verb with null anaphora, but lack a referent, and so they end up meaning "do" or "become" in their own unique way. Observe:

  • shikkari shinasai
    Get a grip of yourself.
    • i.e. make yourself become shikkari, "firm." But:
    • *shikkari narinasai - isn't used.
    • c.f.:
    • shikkari tsukamaero
      Grab [it] firmly.
      Get a hold of [it] firmly.
  • hakkiri shinasai
    Make it clear.
    • i.e. make it become hakkiri, "precise," "unambiguous," "decidedly." However:
    • *hakkiri narinasai - isn't used.
    • c.f.:
    • {hakkiri itte} dou demo ii
      {To say [it] decidedly}, whatever [it] is [it] is fine. (literally.)
      To be honest, I don't care either way.
  • chanto shinasai
    Behave. (used toward children.)
    • i.e. make yourself become chanto, "proper."
  • yukkuri shite ne
    Take your time. Relax.
    No need to rush.
    Be at your own pace.
    • i.e. do it yukkuri, "leisurely."


The phrase ~to suru ~とする seems similar to ~ni suru ~にする in some ways, however, the way they're used is very different.

In summary, the differences between ~to suru ~とする and ~ni suru ~にする are:(大塚, 2013:15)

  • ~ni suru: expresses change, decision, actual effort, hypothetical identification.
    • Terms used in the source differ from this article:
    • "Actual effort," genjitsu doryoku 実現努力, refers to stative verb eventivization, ~you ni suru(ibid, p25).
    • "Hypothetical identification," kasou doutei 仮想同定, refers to the "pretends," ~ta koto ni shita(ibid, p25).
      • kasou - something that isn't real: hypothetical, imagined.
      • doutei - to assert something is the same as something else, i.e. to identify X as being Y. In this case, however, the term refers to taking the imagined reality as being equal to the actual reality.
  • ~to suru: expresses citation, hypothesis, prefactuality, decision, identification.
    • shouzen(?) 将前 is a term used, defined as "that something is about to occur."(ibid, p20) It's possible the the English equivalent is "prefactual," which is related to "counterfactuality," higenjitsu 非現実.

Before anything else, note that several functions of ~ni suru are absent in ~to suru. While we can say the sentences below using ni に, we can't say them using to と:(examples from 小泉, 1989, as cited in 大塚, 2013:24–25)

  • musume wo kyoushi (ni/*to) suru
    To make [my] daughter a teacher.
    To turn [my] daughter into a teacher.
    (change of state.)
  • boku wa unagi (ni/*to) suru
    I'll choose eel.
  • kanarazu {renraku wo toru you (ni/*to)} suru
    必ず連絡を取 るよう(に/*と)する
    [I] will make sure {to make contact [habitually]}.
    (habitual eventivization, or "actual effort.")
  • {{watashi-tachi no ikisaki ga Ayako ni sugu wakaru} you (ni/*to)} suru
    [We] will make [it] {so [that] {our destination is immediately known by Ayako}}.
    (cognitive stative verb eventivization, or "actual effort.")
  • watashi-tachi wa {{sono itazura wo Kenji ga yatta} koto (ni/*to)} shita
    私たちはそのいたずらを健二がやっ たこと(に/*と)した
    We told everybody that {{it was Kenji who did that prank}}.
    (pretend, or "imaginary identification.")
    • itazura - prank, mischief. The sentence means a group made Kenji their fall guy, pinned the blame for their mischief on him. Poor Kenji.

Now, let's see the functions that ~to suru does have.

To Stipulate

The phrase ~to suru ~とする can mean someone, typically an institution or a contract, has stipulated or determined something.

This is a bit similar to ~ni suru when used with the "to decide" interpretation. For example:(大塚, 2013:26)

  • {gakkou ga "Haha no Hi" no purezento wo kaaneeshon (to/ni) suru} to ii-dashita
    学校が「母の日」のプレゼ ン トをカーネーション(と/に)すると言い出 した
    [He] said that {the school made the Mother's Day gift a carnation}.
    [He] said that {the school decided the Mother's Day gift would be a carnation}.
    [He] said that {the school stipulated the Mother's Day gift would be a carnation}.
    • 「」 - quotation marks, used here not to quote something said, but to wrap the name or title of something, in this case, of the day.
    • Carnations are a sort of flower.

Above, it's possible to use either ~to suru or ~ni suru. This is due to the school being an institution able to stipulate rules and make determinations. Changing the subject to "older brother," for example, would sound odd with ~to suru:(大塚, 2013:27)

  • *{ani ga purezento wo kaaneeshon to suru} to ii-dashita
    兄がプレゼ ントをカーネーションとすると言い出した
    Intended: "[He] said that {[my] older brother stipulated the gift would be a carnation}."
    • Seeing a carnation fills you with determination.

Without an overt subject, ~ni suru is generally interpreted as the speaker personally making a decision about something, while ~to suru is interpreted as an official decision.(大塚, 2013:27)

In English, the passive voice is sometimes used similarly. For example, instead of a stipulation reading "someone will fix the bridge," it would read "the bridge will be fixed," focusing on the state of things in the future rather than the process that leads to that state.

  • purezento wo kaaneeshon ni suru
    [I] will make the gift a carnation.
    • Here, "the gift" is the direct object in English.
  • purezento wo kaaneeshon to suru
    The gift will be a carnation.
    • Here, "the gift" is the subject in English.

In Japanese, ~to suru is often used without an overt subject in legal documents and official statements. Whenever this happens, it's as if it's not the person who wrote the document or speaks the statement that is personally stipulating things, but some external entity. Basically:

  • I stipulate that. (~ni suru.)
  • It is stipulated that. (~to suru.)
    • But who stipulates it???
    • In a contract, the contract stipulates, not the writer of the contract.
    • In an official statement, the power of the office stipulates, not the speaker.

In any case, observe that both:

  • XがAをBにする
    X makes A B.
  • XがAをBとする
    X stipulates A would be B.

Would entail:

  • AがBだ
    A is B.

Although this sounds obvious, there are a few cases where this becomes important.

For starters, the phrases ~mono to suru ~ものとする and ~koto to suru ~こととする would be the same thing as ~mono da ~ものだ and ~koto da ~ことだ, but as a stipulation instead.


The phrase ~mono to suru ~ものとする is often used in contract clauses to stipulate that a party is supposed to do something.

In English, "must" and "must not" are the words that must be used in contracts when a party is obligated to do something.(

In Japanese, the legal phrase used in such case would be shinakereba naranai しなければならない, which literally would translate to something like "can't be without doing." The phrase ~mono to suru, which may express something exhibits a "rule-like" behavior, can be used instead, but is considered to have a weaker nuance. The phrase may also be used to define what something is in a contract in order to clarify it and avoid misinterpretations. It's also possible to use neither phrase and just stipulate the stipulation with a bare verb in nonpast form. For example:(

  • mai-getsu juuman-en wo shiharau
    [The party] will pay one hundred thousand yen every month.
    • A stipulation.
  • {mai-getsu juuman-en wo shiharau} mono to suru
    (same translation.)
    • According to the cited article, although it may vary, one generally wouldn't use ~mono to suru in this case, despite the rule-like repetition of monthly payments, and would instead use the sentence above, without ~mono to suru.
    • One can only imagine ~mono to suru weakens the stipulation so much it's better to avoid it and be concise and direct when you can.
  • seijitsu ni kyougi no ue, kore wo kaiketsu suru
    After a deliberation in good-faith, [the parties] shall settle this [issue].
    • A stipulation that the parties will deliberate in good faith to settle this issue.
    • kaiketsu suru - to solve, to settle.
  • {seijitsu ni kyougi no ue, kore wo kaiketsu suru} mono to suru
    (same translation.)
    • According to the cited article, the sentence without ~mono, being stronger in nuance, stipulates the parties must ABSOLUTELY settle the issue in good-faith, that it SHALL happen nevertheless, whereas this one with ~suru is more lenient, that the parties shall try to do this to the best of their abilities.

Given the above, ~mono to suru can't translate to "must." Apparently, in English, "shall" can be similarly lenient, compared to "must," at least, so, although I'm not a lawyer, I guess that's the language one would use if they were to translate such legalese.

Some other examples:(adapted from 大塚, 2013:21)

  • daigaku oyobi koutou senmon gakkou wa, {hattatsu-shougai-sha no shougai no joutai ni ouji, tekisetsu na kyouiku-jou no hairyo wo suru} mono to suru
    Universities and colleges shall {make appropriate learning accommodations in response to the impaired condition of [students] with developmental impairment}.
    • hattatsu-shougai-sha - person/people with developmental disorder/impairment.
    • These institutions won't necessarily be held responsible for failing to achieve this in cases where it's not feasible for them to do it as ~mono to suru was used.
  • {{{bouryokudan'in ga kumi kara ridatsu suru} koto wo sokushin shi}, shakai-fukki no shien ni tsutomeru} mono to suru
    [The prefecture] shall {{encourage {gang members to leave [their] gangs} and}, work on aiding their rehabilitation}.
    • This seems to be an excerpt from Aichi-ken Bouryoku-shuudan Haijo Jourei 愛知県暴力団排除条例, "Aichi Prefecture's Regulation to Combat Organized Crime." Although I couldn't find the original text, laws such as this are often the government ordering do things.
    • The government doesn't implement things without having a duty to, so sometimes you get laws such as these, which speak in vague terms without any implementation details—"encourage" how? "Aid" how?—in order to make it official that "this sorta thing is part of our duties now."
    • kumi - "group," in this context a group of gang members, a "gang."
    • bouryokudan - a "violent group," a "gang" or criminal organization, e.g. the yakuza ヤクザ.

Regarding the "rule-like" behavior of ~mono to suru, this is likely inherited from ~mono da, which can be used to say what sort of thing something is. When this happens, events end up generalized (i.e. you'll have a habitual sentence).

For example:(鈴木, 2016:1)

  • nihonjin wa {kome wo taberu} mono da
    The Japanese people are a sort of thing that {eats rice}.
    Japanese people eat rice. (rule-like behavior, a.k.a. a habitual sentence.)
  • *nihonjin wa {kome wo tabete-iru} mono da

Above, we'd end up with "a Japanese person is eating rice," which refer to a single, particular instance of the rice-eating event. Since mono da doesn't work with particular events, it only works with generalizations such as "eats," that sentence is invalid.

Note that "Japanese people eat rice" doesn't mean "a Japanese person MUST eat rice." It's possible that ~mono to suru has a weaker more lenient nuance precisely because habituals mean "it generally happens, but exceptions may exist" and not "it always happens, no exceptions."


The phrase ~koto to suru ~こととする is another legal phrase. It seems to have two interpretations.

First, it means the same thing as koto ni suru ことにする, except that it's used in official documents stipulating stuff.(「~することとした」と「~することにした」)

  • {kokumin ni shuuchi suru} koto to shita
    [We] decided {to make [it] common knowledge for the populace}.
    • We now have plans to ensure everybody knows about this.

Second, if ~mono to suru stipulates that something ~mono da, then it follows ~koto to suru stipulates that something ~koto da. This sentence-ending ~koto da, or just ~koto, is typically used to say what is important, and, more practically, to list things someone should do.

We already had an example of this in this article. Basically:

  • hoka no ko to kenka shinai koto
    What is important is that [you] don't fight the other kids.
    Don't fight the other kids.
  • hoka no ko to kenka shinai koto to suru
    [The court] stipulates [the defendant] shall not fight the other kids.

A more real example:(adapted from 大塚, 2013:22)

  • shishin dewa, {{apuri ga shiyou-sha no jouhou wo shuutoku suru} baai, {jouhou no naiyou ya mokuteki wo meiki shi}, shiyou-sha no doui wo eru koto} to shita
    As guideline, [It] stipulated that {in a scenario [where] {an app gains an user's information}, {make clear the contents of the information, its objective, etc., and} gain the user's consent}.
    • This seems to stipulate, in general terms, that what is important is that the app discloses what information it wants from an user (e.g. their current physical location), and what it's going to use it for, and ask for the user's consent before using that information.

In the sentence above, ~koto ni shita wouldn't make sense as it's not a plan of what to do next, it's what the guideline is right now, so it ought to be koto da..

To Have As

The phrase ~wo~to suru ~を~とする is used to say "the B of X is A" by saying that "X has A for B" or "X uses an A as a B." This sounds rather complicated, but it makes a lot more sense when we see an example in practice.

The important thing is that a pattern such as:

  • XはAをBとする
    X has A for B.
  • AをBとするX
    An X that {has A for B}

Would entail:

  • XのBがAだ
    X's B is A.
  • XはBがAだ
    (double subject construction.)

A practical example:

  • sono kishi wa kugi wo buki to suru
    That knight has a nail for weapon.
    That knight uses a nail as a weapon.
  • {kugi wo buki to suru} kishi
    A knight [that] {has a nail for weapon}.
    A knight [that] {uses a nail as weapon}.
    A knight [whose] {weapon is a nail}.

Which would entail:

  • sono kishi no buki wa kugi da
    That knight's weapon is a nail.
  • sono kishi wa buki ga kugi da
    As for that knight, [his] weapon is a nail.

This is likely where toshite として comes from, as we could have a literal interpretation such as:

  • sono kishi wa {kugi wo buki to shite} tsukau
    That knight uses a nail as a weapon. (typical translation.)
    That knight {makes a nail a weapon and} uses [it]. (literally.)

Note above that "to use," tsukau, is a separate verb. This hints that the meaning of ~to suru is closer to "to make," as in "what do you make of this?" That is, ~to suru assumes a nail for weapon, such that for all practical purposes, the nail is a weapon for him.

As we've seen previously, ~ni suru has a similar function in which the subject uses something as if it were something else, e.g. a mushroom cap as a bed.

The difference between ~to suru and ~ni suru in this case is that ~to suru is present-tensed, so it's stative, while ~ni suru is eventive, so if we used it, we would end up with:

  • sono kishi wa kugi wo buki ni suru
    That knight will make/will use a nail a weapon. (in the future.)
    That knight makes nails into weapons. (habitually.)
  • sono kishi wa {kugi wo {buki ni} shite} tsukau
    That knight {will make a nail {into a weapon}} and use [it].

With ~to shite the knight already has a nail-weapon available and might use it in the future, while with ~ni shite the knight may not have a weapon yet, but in the future he will turn a nail into a weapon and use it.

With ~to suru the nail has already become a weapon in the present, with ~ni suru the nail will become a weapon in the future.

Some other examples:

  • {kikou-hendou wo mondai to suru} hito
    People [who] {have climate-change as an issue}.
    • Their issue is climate change.
  • {anime ya manga wo shumi to suru} hito
    People [who] {have manga, anime, etc. for a hobby}.
    • Their hobby is manga, anime, etc.

Sentences such as above may be only possible because the possessor is animate, and may not work with inanimate ones.

For example, we can say:(adapted from 大塚, 2013:21)

  • Ken wa juu-kyuu-nichi, {kono bentou wo gen'in to suru} shokuchuudoku to handan shita
    Ken, on the 19th(the date), concluded [it] was food-poisoning [that] {had this boxed lunch as its cause}.
    • i.e. food-poisoning [whose] {cause was this boxed lunch}.

But in the sentence above, the possessor of the gen'in, "cause," is shokuchuudoku, "food-poisoning." Food-poisoning lacks the animacy to choose its cause on its own the way the knight can choose its weapon on his own. Perhaps because of this, it's not possible to use it as subject.

See:(大塚, 2013:21)

  • *chuudokusei ga kono bentou wo gen'in to suru
    Intended: "the food-poisoning has this boxed-lunch as the cause."

These translations sound odd as "determined" is past-tensed while suru is in nonpast form. A more accurate translation could be "assumes it to be" or "takes it to be," if you will.

Another example:(大塚, 2013:21)

  • {toumorokoshi wo genryou to suru} baio-nenryou no shiyou-gimu wo {ichi-ji-teki ni} teishi
    [It is] interrupted {temporarily} the obligatory-use of bio-fuel [that] {has corn for raw material}.
    • Here, the government forced itself to use corn-based bio-fuel, and it's temporarily lifting that obligation from itself.
    • sono baio-nenryou no genryou wa toumorokoshi da
      The raw-material of that bio-fuel is corn.

It's also possible to use ~to shita, in past tense. Its difference with ~ni shita is that ~ni shita would mean a change occurred to the object in the past, while ~to shita refers to its past relationship with the relativized noun. For example:(大塚, 2013:30)

  • {Hanako wo riidaa to shita} kurasumeito wo nikunda
    花子をリー ダーとしたクラスメイトを憎んだ
    [He] hated the classmates [that] {had Hanako for leader}.
    • Here, Hanako was the leader of some classmates, and [he] despised these classmates.
  • {Hanako wo riida ni shita} kurasumeito wo nikunda
    [He] hated the classmates [that] {made Hanako leader}.
    • Here, we can have a meaning synonymous with the above, in which Hanako is the leader of those classmates. However, an alternative interpretation is that Hanako became the leader of the entire class or of a team in a sport, for example, perhaps because there was a vote, so although she could have had a leader relationship with all classmates, only some classmates were responsible for her becoming the leader, and [he] despised these classmates, specifically.

In the examples above, we've seen sentences such as "the classmate's have her as [their] leader," where a possessive relationship exists. There are also sentences of similar syntax that have different meaning, without a possessive relationship. For example:

  • {sakusei-gazou no saisei wo kanou to suru} sofuto
    A software [that] {makes the reproduction of drawing-images possible}.
    • A sentence describing openCanvas, a drawing program that lets you reproduce, i.e. "replay" how a drawing was drawn step by step.
    • sakusei - creation work, in this case the art-related drawing labor used to create illustrations.
  • {{denryoku wo douryoku to shi}, gasorin wo hitsuyou to shinai} kuruma
    A car [that] {{uses electricity as power, and} has gasoline as not necessary}.

The sentences above can't be paraphrased using no の, like:

  • #kono sofuto no kanou wa sakusei-saisei da
    #The possibility of this software is reproduction of drawing-images.
  • #kono kuruma no hitsuyou wa gasorin janai
    #The necessity of this car isn't gasoline.

They could be paraphrased as this:

  • kono sofuto wa sakusei-gazou ga kanou da
    As for this software, reproduction of drawing-images is possible.
  • kono kuruma wa gasorin ga hitsuyou janai
    As for this car, gasoline isn't necessary.

In any case, the fact that there is no possessive counterpart means this is a different usage of ~to suru.

Although it seems to be used to relativized double subject constructions such as the above, such constructions typically don't need ~to suru to be relativized, and, in fact, it seems some of them don't work with ~to suru at all.

  • ano hito wa neko ga suki da
    As for that person, cats are liked.
    That person likes cats.
  • {neko ga suki na} hito
    A person [who] {likes cats}.
  • *{neko wo suki to suru} hito
    Intended: same meaning.

Thus, there are words we can use with this ~to suru and those we can't, for some reason.

Most likely, suki doesn't work here because it's a feeling, a preference, a mental state, whereas "possible" and "necessary," just like "possibilitates" and "requires," kind of work like stipulations of the design of a car or software.

The tool was made in such way that possibilites this, or requires that, that deems a certain amount of something sufficient or insufficient and so on.

Cited Determinations

The phase ~to suru ~とする can be used to cite what someone else has determined. In this case the to is a quoting particle and the cited part before ~to suru can be wrapped in 「」 quotation marks.

For example:(adapted from 大塚, 2013:19)

  • kensatsu-gawa wa "naganen soshiki hanzai wo okonai, kihan-ishiki ga donma shi, saihan no osore ga aru" to shita
    The prosecution determined that "after committing organized crime for many years, [his law-abiding sense] dulled*, and there's the [possibility] of reoffense."
    • kihan-ishiki ga donma shite-iru - legalese for losing grasp of how to function in society as a law-abiding citizen. .
    • osore - "fear" that something bad will happen, in this case fear of reoffense.

The function of to と above is to quote what the prosecution said, their findings, what they determined. Since ni に isn't a quoting particle, it isn't possible to use ~ni suru with a quote such as above.

On the other hand, tte って is, too, a quoting particle, so it's possible to say ~tte suru ~ってする similarly. Although, since tte is a more casual one, it generally won't be used in a formal context such as above.

  • muzai to shita
    [The judge] determined [he] was innocent.
  • muzai tte shita
    (same meaning.)

It's also possible to see this usage in the passive:

  • muzai to sareta
    [He] was determined innocent [by the judge].


The phrase ~to suru ~とする can be used to assume things in practice, and, also, to assume them hypothetically. In this usage, whatever comes before ~to suru is a hypothetical scenario, "let's say that...," "let's pretend that...," "imagine that..." and so on.

For example:(adapted from several sources cited in 大塚, 2013:20)

  • moshi {ame ga mada furi-tsudzuku} to suru to, kawa no teibou ga abunai
    If, hypothetically, {it continues to rain}, then the river flood-bank is in danger. (it may get damaged from all the rain, etc.)
    • ame ga furu
      The rain falls from the sky. (literally.)
      The rain rains.
      It rains.
  • {koko ni hitori no byounin ga iru} to suru
    Let's say that {there's one sick person here}.
    • In that case, what would we do?
  • {man'ichi, ore-tachi ga tsukamatta} to suru
    Let's imagine {the one-in-ten-thousand-chance of we getting caught}.
    • man ga ichi - adverb used with something extremely unlikely to occur.
  • kari nimo {dare mo {shinanai} mono} to suru
    Let's pretend, for a moment, that {nobody {dies}}.
    • Here we have mono expressing a rule-like generalization;
    • hito wa {shinu} mono da
      People are thing [that] {dies}.
    • As such, we don't have the future perfective "let's imagine nobody will die," we have the habitual "let's imagine nobody dies," in the sense of everybody being immortal.
    • This sentence seems to have been excerpted from a text by Miki Kiyoshiki 三木清. The continuation reads:
    • kari nimo dare mo shinanai mono to suru. sou sureba, ore dake wa shinde-miseru zo to itte shi wo kuwadateru mono ga kitto dete-kuru ni chigainai to omou
      Let's say for a moment that nobody dies. In that case, I'm certain people who say "I'm the one who will show everybody you can die!" will show up and attempt to die.
      • i.e. they'd try to do the impossible to show off.
      • Note: as this text is a century old, the orthography and pronunciation of characters is different, and if OCR software was employed there could be mistakes. The romaji I wrote above has what I assume to be correct modern equivalent.
  • {{Akiresu ga ei-ten, kame ga bii-ten ni ite}, Akiresu ga {kame wo oi-kakeru} mono} to suru
    Let's say that {{Achilles is at point A, and the turtle is at point B, and} Achilles {chases the turtle}}.
    • Likely the start of an explanation about a well-known Zeno's paradox, which illustrates a certain mathematical concept by asserting that Achilles may never reach the turtle, since by the time he reaches point B, the turtle will have already moved a bit to point C, and when it reaches point C, the turtle will be a bit ahead at point D, and so on. Should have asked Patroclus for help.
    • See also: ゼノンのパラドックス-アキレスと亀-(高校数学) via, accessed 2022-02-05.

This ~to suru may only appear at the end of the main clause in nonpast form.(大塚, 2013:21, uses the term genzaikei 現在形) This is rather odd as one may feel an imperative form, including even the te-form, would make more sense. For example, if we said in English:

  • Assume (or pretend) Achilles chases the turtle.

This "assume" is imperative: it's telling the reader to do a thing, to assume. If you assume this, then we can conclude that. This "assume" would be the first step you have to do in order to achieve something, so it's akin to a recipe.

  • First, add salt.

As it turns out, while we use the imperative in English in cases such as the above, in Japanese the nonpast form is used instead, so while ~to suru looks odd from an English perspective, it actually matches how other verbs work in such situation in Japanese.

  • mazu shio wo irero/irete
    First, add salt.
    • This sentence has an imperative irero (or irete), so it would be used when ordering a person directly.
  • mazu shio wo ireru
    First, [you/we/I] add salt.
    • This sentence has a nonpast ireru, so it would be used in a recipe written in a book or website somewhere. Note that this isn't imperative but indicative: it says what I do, or you do, or we do, at this step of the recipe, instead of commanding the reader to do it.

There are some common phrases you may have heard that use this usage:

  • moshi sou da to shitara
    If that's the case.
    • sou da
      It's so.
      That's right.
    • {sou da} to suru
      Let's assume that {it's so}.
  • sou da to shitemo
    Even if that's true.


The phrase to shite として is used in two different ways:

  1. To consider (treat, use) something as something else.
    • {kugi wo buki to shite} tsukau
      To use a {a nail as a weapon}.
    • {erufu wo ningen to shite} atsukau
      To treat {an elf as a human}.
  2. To consider an aspect of something or someone.
    • watashi to shite wa
      As for me.
    • {oya to shite} no gimu
      [One's] obligations {as a parent}.
    • {nori-mono to shite} no kinou
      [Its] function {as a vehicle}.

These two meanings are clearly related. For example, we could say:

  • kugi no {buki to shite} no kinou
    The function {as a weapon} of a nail.

So when we have wo, we think, treat, or use something as if it were something else, and when we don't have wo we're referring to only to the "something else" part. This is all related to what we've seen previously:

  • watashi wo oya to suru
    Assume I'm a parent.
    Think of me as a parent.

Interestingly, this means that watashi to shite wa would mean:

  • watashi wo watashi to suru
    Think of me as myself.

It's better not to think of it as a verb, though, and just pretend to shite is a single word, toshite.

卵と米を混ぜて炒めるだけというシンプルさ故か男の手料理としてはパスタに並ぶ人気を誇る! ーーだがシンプルながら作り方は人によって様々
Manga: Kaguya-sama wa Kokurasetai ~Tensai-Tachi no Ren'ai Zunousen~ かぐや様は告らせたい~天才たちの恋愛頭脳戦~ (Chapter 96, かぐや様は食べさせたい)
  • Context: a war starts about "fried rice," chaahan 炒飯チャーハン.
  • {{{tamago to kome wo mazete} itameru} dake toiu} shinpuru-sa yue ka otoko no te-ryouri toshite wa {pasuta ni narabu} ninki wo hokoru!
    [Perhaps because of] the simplicity [of] {just {{mixing eggs and rice} and then frying [it]}, [it] boasts a popularity [that] {rivals pasta} as a guy's cooking!
    • This sentence says that, because men can't cook, they prefer dishes that are easy to make, such as pasta, and fried rice is so simple to make that its popularity among guys as a dish choice rivals that of the pasta.
    • narabu - "to be side by side with [something]," "to line up with [something]," "to queue," "to rival in rank," "to be shoulder to shoulder with."
    • te-ryouri - literally "hand cooking," refers to cooking done by a person privately, rather than a cook professionally.
  • ~~daga shinpuru nagara tsukuri-kata wa {hito ni yotte} sama-zama
    However, while simple the ways-to-cook [it] vary {from person to person}.
新妻くんはプロとしての自覚がなさ過ぎる 自分が楽しくて描きたいだけなら同人誌でも書いてればいい しかし「ジャンプ」で描くプロなんだ 読者を楽しませる事を第一に考えなければダメだ ・・・・・・・・・
Manga: Bakuman. バクマン。 (Chapter 22)
  • Context: Fukuda Shinta 福田真太 warns fellow manga artist Niizuma Eiji 新妻エイジ.
  • Niidzuma-kun wa puro toshite no jikaku ga nasa-sugiru
    Niizuma-kun, [you] lack self-awareness as a professional too much. (literally.)
    (double subject construction.)
    • You don't seem very aware that you're supposed to be a professional, you don't act as such.
    • nai
      To not have. To lack.
  • {jibun ga tanoshiku kakitai} dake nara doujinshi demo kaitereba ii
    If [you] only {want to draw having fun} then [you] should just draw a doujinshi.
  • shikashi {"Janpu" de kaku} puro nanda
    But [you] are a professional [who] {draws at Jump}.
  • {dokusha wo tanoshimaseru} koto wo dai-ichi ni kangaenakereba dame da
    [You] have to make {entertaining readers} the number one [priority].
    • i.e. an artist that draws doujinshi does so to entertain themselves, while a professional draws manga to entertain the audience.

Compare below the difference between toshite として and nishite にして:

  • buki to shite wa yowa-sugiru
    As a weapon, [it] is too weak.
    • You already use it as a weapon, and it's weak.
  • buki ni shite wa yowa-sugiru
    For a weapon, [it] is too weak.
    • If it were a weapon, it would be weak, given that, it probably isn't a weapon.

With Mimetic Words

The to と particle sometimes comes after a mimetic word to turn it into an adverb, and suru can come after this to と. What exactly happens then, and why, depends.

First, some monosyllabic or otherwise short mimetic words, specially onomatopoeia, can get a to と suffixed to them which has a function very similar to the quoting particle. For example:

  • hotto suru
    To say "ho."
    To feel relieved.
    • ho - most likely a sigh of relief.
  • biku to mo shinai
    [It] doesn't even move a bit.
    [He] doesn't even flinch.
    • bikubiku ビクビク - "shivering," typically in fear.
  • mukatto suru
    To feel angry.
    To feel disgusted.
    • mukamuka ムカムカ - a feeling of anger and disgust.

There doesn't seem to be anything special about these. Most likely, to と is necessary here because of some restriction on the morphology of a mimetic word coming before suru.

For instance, it could be that for a mimetic word to come before suru, it needs to be a reduplication or end in ~ri, and the words above don't fit this criteria, so a workaround would be necessary, which could be this adding of a ~to.

Unfortunately, it's also possible to use ~to with mimetic words that fit the criteria above, such that we have to verbal versions: the ~suru and the ~to suru version.

Observe the examples below:(櫻井, 1994:34)

  • {{nonbiri shita} seikaku no} hito da yo
    A person [whose] {personality {is peaceful}}.
  • ??{{nonbiri to shita} seikaku no} hito da yo
    (same meaning?)
  • ?asa kara ban made {isu ni suwatte} bon'yari shite-iru
    From morning to evening, [I] {sit on the chair, and} stay absentmindedly.
    • I just sit on the chair and don't do anything interesting in particular.
  • asa kara ban made {isu ni suwatte} bon'yari to shite-iru
    (same meaning?)

Above we see that in some sentences using ~to is odd (tagged with a "?") while in other sentences not using it is odd.

It seems ~to suru is used instead of ~suru when we take in consideration the passage of time. For example, if someone asked "how do you pass the day," then bon'yari to shite-iru is preferred over bon'yari shite-iru, meanwhile, if someone asked "what sort of person is your mom," then nonbiri shita is preferred over nonbiri to shita.(櫻井, 1994:34)

Most likely, this occurs because the suru of ~to suru, although it appears identical, is actually the "to pass time" function of suru, and ~to is turning the mimetic word into an adverb. Observe that we can say:

  • hakkiri to kaku
    To write [it] clearly.
    • hakkiri - clear, precise, unambiguous.

In a sentence such as the above, hakkiri to is an adverb, "clearly," which modifies how the verb, "to write," is performed.

It could be that bon'yari to suru works similarly: bonyari to refers to how something is done, except that what is being done is merely "to pass time," suru.

More accurately, suru doesn't mean "to pass time," as it only means that when used with a temporal adverb. What it means is really nothing at all. It's a verb whose meaning is utterly generic. It means anything, whatever it is. That is, 30 minutes plus suru means "stuff happens for 30 minutes," while bonyari to with suru means "stuff happens bony'ari-ly" or "I do stuff bon'yari-ly." This "stuff" could be anything, including even I just existing, but it necessarily must occur or be done, and time will pass as this happens.

Lastly, do note that if I "exist bon'yari-ly" that means I "am bonyari," thus bonyari to shite-iru can mean that for a period of time I was being absentmindedly, without requiring I had done anything at all while absentmindedly.


Phrases such as ~shiyou to suru ~しようとする, the volitional form of a verb before ~to suru, are prefactual: they express that something is expected to happen in the future considering the current course of things.

In practice, it's typically used to say someone is "trying to do" something, considering how they have acted, or something "is going to" happen, in the sense of "it's about to" happen.

In any case, for this to work we must understand that in order to do whatever shiyou is supposed to be, there are a set of steps which are necessary, and we observe that the person or thing has completed some steps already, so they're in course to do whatever shiyou is supposed to be.

The time frame of this is irrelevant. It could be someone is trying to charge the country by what they have done for years, or leap over a hole in the next second considering they're running toward it at this exact moment.

  • In action manga, talking and thinking are often free actions (they take no time), thus it isn't unusual for a character to analyze in detail what their opponent is "trying to do" at every instant with every move, and sentences in the ~shiyou to suru pattern get used a lot.

Note that although ~shiyou to suru may look like it shares a you morpheme with ~suru you ni suru, this you isn't actually the same. For instance, an u-ending godan verb, the volitional form ends in ~ou instead of ~you, e.g. kau 買う becomes kaou 買おう, not kayou.

Some examples:(adapted from 小泉, 1989, as cited in 大塚, 2013:20)

  • neko ga {yane kara oriyou} to suru
    The cat would try to {get down from the roof}.
    • neko ga yane kara oriru
      The cat will get down from the roof.
  • futago no o-hoshi-sama wa {doko made demo issho ni} ochiyou} to shita no desu
    The twin stars were going to {fall {together} until wherever}. (literally.)
    The twin star would keep falling together for as long as it took.
    • doko made demo
      Until wherever. (literally.)
      Until [one reaches] whatever place it is. (in this case, until they land wherever it is, or perhaps keep falling eternally?)
    • This sentence seems to be excerpted from a novel by Kenji Miyazawa 宮沢賢治 called Futago no Hoshi 双子の星, "Twin Stars," in which the stars themselves are characters. The sentence just before this was "they grabbed each other elbows," and then they started falling together.(双子の星)

Above we have two examples with sentient, animated subjects. What they do, or what they seem to be about to do, is often based on what they want to do or what they decided to do. Basically:

  • Context: the cat, on the roof, thinks for himself:
  • yane kara oriyou!
    Let's get down from the roof!
  • And then he does just that.

Sentences where the volitional form (oriyou) translates to "let's" is what gives it its common name, "volitional," as in showing volition, will, desire to do something.

However, this name is a bit inaccurate, as its function has more to do with what occurs in the future than the subject's volition to make it happen.

It's possible, for example, to use the "volitional" form with an inanimate subject, which wouldn't have a volition to act upon.

Observe:(adapted from 小泉, 1989, as cited in 大塚, 2013:20)

  • hi ga {kureyou} to shite-iru
    The sun was about to {set}.
    It was getting dark.
    • hi ga kureru
      The sun will set.
    • kureru - for the sun to sink in the horizon.

Above, we have two things to note.

First, and most obviously, unless the sun was really an eldritch abomination all along, the sun has no volition. It's a large ball of fire up in the sky. It doesn't want to do anything. Even if it had volition, the sun setting is due to the perspective form the earth spinning, it isn't like the the sun literally goes downward from the firmament by itself to merge into the ground or something.

Second, we have the ~te-iru form up there because the steps being taken to set have already begun. When does it begin exactly in practice? When the bottom of the circle of the sun touches the line of the horizon? It doesn't really matter. What matters is the grammar.

In summary, depending on the stage of the process, we have several ways to refer to a situation:

  • kureru (nonpast)
    The sun will set. (in the future.)
  • kureyou to suru (nonpast ~to suru.)
    The sun will attempt to set. (in the future.)
  • kureyou to shite-iru (progressive ~to suru.)
    The sun is attempting to set. (right now.)
  • kureyou to shita (past.)
    The sun attempted to set. (past ~to suru.)
  • kureta (past.)
    The sun set. (in the past.)

What "attempting" means exactly depends on context. In this case, we're talking about slowly sinking in the horizon until it sinks completely. For the cat, it could be preparing to jump before they do jump and get down the roof.

The point is that when the event INDEED occurs, when we have telicity, we can say kureta. If we say kureyou to shite-iru, we aren't at the kureta stage yet. The sun hasn't set yet.

Most importantly, kureyou to shita only means the steps to kureta have been taken, it doesn't mean kureta actually happened.

  • #{hi ga kureyou} to shita ga kurenakatta
    The sun tried to {sink}, but [it] didn't sink.
    • It did everything it could, went all the way down, but then it bounced back up, so it failed.
    • Of course, this is some cartoon logic nonsense, so something more plausible would be:
  • {geemu wo kaou} to shita ga okane ga tarinakatta
    [I] was about to {buy a game}, but the money didn't suffice.
    I was going to buy a game, but I didn't have enough money.
    • I had gone to the store, chosen it and everything, but when I checked my wallet there simply wasn't enough to make these plans a success, thus they ended in utter failure.

Note: unlike English, in Japanese the past form doesn't entail telicity, as it's possible to say imouto wo okoshita kedo okinakatta 妹を起こしたけお起きなかった, "#[I] woke up my sister, but [she] didn't wake up."(Sugita, 2009:49, Tsugimura, 2003, as cited in Sugita, 2009:50–51,63) A subtle difference between could be that this reports strictly the action performed, while okosou to shita, for example, would also indicate the speaker acted deliberately planning that their sister would wake up.

Another scenario where taking the steps necessary to do something doesn't actually result in you doing it would be when you just give up in the middle of it.

For example:(adapted from 小泉, 1989, as cited in 大塚, 2013:20)

  • {Hiro wa daigaku wo ukeyou} to shite yameta
    Hiro was going to {take the university exam} then gave up.
    • yameru - "to stop [doing something]," "to give up."
    • This is as if we said ukeyou to shita, and then yameta, but in a single connected sentence.

Another phrase that translates to "to try to" is ~te-miru ~てみる. The difference is that with ~te-miru you "try to do something to see" if it gets you the result you want, while with ~shiyou to suru it's about having done some steps in order to do something.

  • pooshon wo nonde-mita
    [I] tried drinking the potion.
    • I tried, in the sense I "did" drink it, but nothing interesting happened.
    • Or perhaps I was poisoning and to solve this poisoning problem I tried the potion.
  • pooshon wo nomou to shita
    (same translation.)
    • I tried, in the sense of I was going to drink it but failed, so in the ended I didn't drink it after all.
アニオタっていうのはですね 年下のキャラをママ扱いしたり自分の嫁と言い張って結婚しようとしたりする人たちの事です キャラと結婚!?
Manga: Kaguya-sama wa Kokurasetai ~Tensai-Tachi no Ren'ai Zunousen~ かぐや様は告らせたい~天才たちの恋愛頭脳戦~ (Chapter 110, 石上優は語りたい)
  • Context: Fujiwara Chika 藤原千花 explains what (in her mind) is an anime otaku to Shinomiya Kaguya 四宮かぐや.
  • {aniota tte iu} no wa desu ne
    That [which] {[one] calls "anime otaku"} [is], [you see]...
    An "anime otaku" [is], [you see]...
    • aniota - abbreviation of anime otaku アニメオタク.
    • See also: types of otaku.
  • {{toshi-shita no kyara wo mama-atsukai shitari}
    {{jibun no yome to ii-hatte} kekkon shiyou to shitari}
    suru} hito-tachi no koto desu

    People [who] {do stuff like
    {treating characters younger [than them] as their mothers},
    or {{asserting [the character is] their wife} and trying to marry [the character]}}
    • mama-atsukai - to treat someone like a mama ママ, like a "mother." In this context, Fujiwara is referring to babumi バブみ, which refers to when a young girls feels like a mother. The babu part is a baby's blabbering, while the ~mi suffix is the same as omomi 重み, which is the feeling of weight, that something "is heavy," omoi 重い.
    • This sentence has various uses of suru we've already seen.
    • mama-atsukai and kekkon are verbal nouns.
    • The suru-verb mama-atsukai suru is in its tari-form.
    • The suru-verb kekkon suru in its volitional form coming before ~to suru.
    • kekkon shiyou to suru - "to try to marry." In this case, Fujiwara is saying that when an otaku says something like "she's my waifu" and acquiring a dakimakura of the character in bridal outfit, that's them trying to marry the character.
    • This ~to suru in its tari-form.
    • The last suru is what completes the two tari-forms we got: ~tari~tari suru, ~mama-tsukai shitari, kekkon shiyou to shitari suru.
  • kyara to kekkon!?
    Marry with a character!?

To Display a Characteristic

The verb suru する can mean a subject features, displays a certain characteristic. Often, this means "to have" a certain hair or eye color, or "to wear" a mask or other accessory.

To Wear

The phrase ~wo suru ~をする can mean "to wear" clothes, except not really. For example:

  • ano otoko wa yubiwa wo shite-iru
    That means is wearing a ring.
  • ano otoko wa kamen wo shite-iru
    That man is wearing a mask.

You can use this suru with basically any clothing, but it doesn't actually mean "to wear." Instead, it's closer of a way to saying their appearance "exhibits" a certain clothing item.

This distinction is important for two reasons. First, the words that actually mean "to wear" those clothing pieces are different:

  • yubiwa wo yubi ni hameru
    To a put a ring on your finger.
    • hameru - this is like "to insert" but instead of "the finger does into the ring" the syntax is reverse: "the ring goes into the finger." The ring, or whatever thing is ring-shaped, is the subject for this verb.
  • kamen wo tsukeru
    To attach a mask. (literally.)
    • Clothing items that stick to skin or attach with straps, etc., use the verb tsukeru. This also works with hairpins, for example.

Given the above, it's not like you use kiru 着る, "to wear," with some words, and suru with other words. Instead, you can use suru with any clothing word, which will mean it's part of your appearance, and besides suru there will be a different verb specifically for "to wear" that clothing piece.

The second reason this distinction is important is because this suru can also be used with stuff that isn't clothing and that you don't really "wear."

For example, the word kakkou 格好 refers to one's appearance in general, and can also often mean one's outfit. You can use ~wo suru after it:

  • Tarou wa {hen na} kakkou wo shite-iru
    Tarou is "wearing" a {weird} outfit.
    Tarou is doing a weird pose, or looks weird for some other reason.

Like above, it could be hen na kakkou means the clothes Tarou is wearing are weird, and anybody who wears them would look weird, or it could be that his outfit is alright, but he looks weird nonetheless because he's doing a silly pose, a funny face, or something like that.

Given the ~wo suru, it looks like we have a suru-verb, but we don't. We can tell we don't because we can use an anaphoric pronoun such as sore or sonna koto instead of the verbal noun with a suru verbalizer, but we can't do it in this "wear" usage:

  • sonna koto shinakutemo ii
    [You] don't need to do something like that.
    *[You] don't need to wear something like that.
    • It's not possible for sonna koto to refer to kamen, for example, mainly because koto isn't used with tangible, real-world objects. You use mono もの for that.

When this sense of suru is predicative, it normally has the ~te-iru form, which stativizes the eventive verb suru. In the attributive, the relativized subject performs the stativization and the past form is used instead. For example:

  • {kamen wo shita} otoko ga hashitte-iru
    The man [who] {wore a mask} is running. (literally.)
    The masked man is running.

Above, shite-iru was replaced by shita otoko. Literally. The ~te of ~te-iru is in many ways similar to the ~ta of the past form, while the purpose of ~iru is to express a continuing state. This means that ~ta/~te can be limited to express only start of an action, and not its continuation or conclusion.

  • kamen wo shite-iru
    You began wearing the mask, and continued existing.
  • kamen wo shita otoko
    The man that began wearing the mask. His continued existence is implicit.

Technical details aside, this same grammar is used with other words:

  • {{hen na} kakkou wo shita} hito ga~
    A person {wearing a {weird} outfit} [did something].

To Have

Besides clothing, ~wo suru ~をする can also be used to say someone features a body part, which translates to "to have." For example:

  • ano otoko wa kinpatsu wo shite-iru
    That man is featuring blonde hair.
    That man has blond hair.
  • ano otoko wa {aoi} me wo shite-iru
    That man is featuring {blue} eyes.
    That man has {blue} eyes.
    A man [who] {has {blue} eyes}.

This grammar may sound a bit weird because these features people feature aren't necessarily deliberate, but the verb suru generally means a deliberate action.

For example, while you can choose to wear a ring or not, we wouldn't normally say you can choose your eye color.

Like, this guy doesn't have blue eyes because he woke up and decided to put on his blue pair of eyes today, or because the green ones he wanted to wear were still drying after he got them wet yesternight watching Ousama Ranking. No. Those are just the eyes he was born with.

Or, more realistically, he didn't wear color contacts or anything.

And yet the verb used is shite-iru, as if there was a conscious choice involved.

The relativization of the sentences above also use shita:

  • {kinpatsu wo shita} otoko
    A man [who] {has blond hair}.
  • {{aoi} me wo shita} otoko
    A man [who] {has {blue} eyes}.

It's possible to change the phrase to remove shite-iru, which makes it similar to the copula we've seen before. For example:

  • ano otoko wa {aoi} me wo shite-iru
    That man is featuring {blue} eyes.
    That man has blue eyes.
  • ano otoko wa {me ga aoi}
    That man's {eyes are blue}.
    That man has blue eyes.

One difference between the two sentences above is that you can't use ~te-iru to speak about the looks of a people generally.(Sugita, 2009:256–257, specifically examples 8a and 8b)

More technically: because ~te-iru causes a realization of events, its subject must be particular realization, too. It can't be a kind-referring noun. Observe:

  • Amerika-jin wa {me ga aoi}
    Americans {have blue eyes}.
    • Here, Americans is a kind-referring noun. We aren't referring to any particular American that exists in the real-world, we're talking about the concept of an American that only exists in our heads.
  • Amerika-jin wa {aoi} me wo shite-iru
    The American has {blue} eyes.
    The Americans have {blue} eyes.
    • Here, because ~te-iru entails someone must be suru-ing something right now—in this case: Americans must be suru-ing blue eyes right now—that requires Americans to exist right now, so they can suru right now.
    • Consequently, we aren't talking about the idea of an American, but to a particular American, or group of Americans, that exist right now and have blue eyes.

Compare with:

  • Unicorns talk.
    • Doesn't necessarily mean unicorns exist right now, we're merely defining how an unicorn acts, if an unicorn existed, it would talk.
  • Unicorns are talking.
    • Entails the existence of some unicorns, for if they didn't exist, they couldn't be talking right now.

Although the translation above has the bare plural "Americans" for kind-referring nouns and the definite article "the" for particular nouns, no such restriction actually exists in English. For example, if we said "THE UNICORN is a horse with a horn" and "UNICORNS are horses with horns," in both cases we have a kind-referring noun,(Krifka, et al, 1995:3) so it's not about whether you have a "the" or not, it's about whether you're talking about a kind in general or about individuals in particular.

Some examples of describing a person's appearance.(みれどのABC: 青い目をしている)

  • kanojo wa {nagai} kami wo shite-iru
    She has long hair.
    • The source claims using chouhatsu 長髪, "long hair," instead of {nagai} kami feels unnatural for some reason.
  • kanojo wa {kuroi} kami wo shite-iru
    She has black hair.
    • The source claims using kuro-kami 黒髪, "black hair," instead of {kuroi} kami feels unnatural for some reason.
  • kanojo wa {kirei na} kuro-kami wo shite-iru
    She has {beautiful} black hair.
    • The source didn't claim this was unnatural, though, even though it has kuro-kami in it, so I guess you'll just have to make mental note that kuro-kami is always pretty, or just disregard this altogether..
  • kanojo wa {ochobo-guchi} wo shite-iru
    She has a cute, small mouth.
  • kanojo wa dangobana wo shite-iru
    She has a snub nose.
  • kanojo wa maru-gao wo shite-iru
    She has a round face.

Apparently, this usage isn't limited to a person's appearance. For example:(みれどのABC: 青い目をしている)

  • kanojo wa {rippa na} seikaku wo shite-iru
    She has a {great} personality.
  • ?kanojo wa {rippa na} yuuki wo shite-iru
    Intended: "she has a {great} courage."
    • The source claims yuuki sounds unnatural here. Indeed, you can say seikaku, which isn't a physical appearance, but I'm not really sure you can use any other words this way.
    • One possible explanation is that seikaku wo suru isn't actually part of this usage, but instead works like aite wo suru, which we'll see further below. Conversely, perhaps aite wo suru is somehow related to this appearance-related usage.

This usage also isn't limited to a person, it can also be used toward objects. For example:(みれどのABC: 青い目をしている)

  • ano kuruma wa {akai} bodhi wo shite-iru
    That car has a {red} body.
  • ano ie wa {akai} yane wo shite-iru
    That house has a {red} roof.

The eventivizer suru can be used somewhat similarly with adjectives instead of nouns, but this seems to be only due to the iterative function of ~te-iru:

  • ano otoko wa kami wo {nagaku} shite-iru
    That man has been making [his] hair {long} [for a while].
    That man has been keeping his hair long [lately].
  • {kami wo {nagaku} shita} otoko
    The man {who made his hair {long}}.


The verb suru する can be used say what someone's occupation is, in which case the occupation is marked by wo を:

  • watashi wa shousetsuka wo shite-imasu
    I'm a novelist.
  • Tarou wa shounin wo shite-iru
    Tarou is a merchant.

These aren't restricted to jobs. Any label that can be applied to a person to describe what they do can be used similarly. For example:

  • otaku wo suru
    To be an otaku. To be a nerd, a geek, by watching anime, reading manga, and stuff like that.
  • aite wo suru
    To be one's partner (in an activity, e.g. whom you spar with).
    To entertain (as opposed to to ignore, to be one's conversation partner).

In the sentences above, suru is translated to the infinitive "to be." This may mislead you into thinking that this suru is present-tensed. It is not.

In English, "is," "are," and "am" are present continuous, as they are stative verbs. In Japanese, this suru is eventive, so if you try to use it in a sentence it will be future perfective, "will be."

  • watashi wa Tarou no odori no aite wo suru
    *I am Tarou's dance partner. (wrong.)
    I will be Tarou's dance partner. (correct, future perfective.)
    • A habitual example:
    • watashi wa yoku Tarou no odori no aite wo suru
      I often am Tarou's dance partner. (present habitual.)

As always, we need ~te-iru to get the present continuous and the present iterative meanings:

  • watashi wa Tarou no odori no aite wo shite-iru
    I am Tarou's dance partner. (present continuous.)
    Lately, I've been being Tarou's dance partner. (iterative.)
    • In the continuous sense, I became Tarou's dance partner some time in the past, and I'm still his partner. That never changed. This could be, for example, if I was assigned to be his partner, and never reassigned, so it's a stable property of mine.
    • In the iterative sense, there have been multiple occasions in the past when Tarou needed a dance partner, and in some of those occasions I became his dance partner, so I'm not referring to the fact I'm assigned to him, but that in multiple times through a period I became his aite.

Note that there are several compound nouns that end in aite that can be used similarly. For example:

  • kekkon-aite 結婚相手, "marriage partner," whom you marry with, is used instead of kekkon no aite.
  • hanashi-aite 話し相手, "talk partner," whom you talk with, is used instead of hanashi no aite.
  • kyousou-aite 競争相手, "competition partner," whom you compete with, is used instead of kyousou no aite.

And so on.

ただいま おかえり っていうかアレだな おまえは早く帰って私の遊び相手をするべきだ こんな時間までどこほっつき歩いてたんだこの野郎
Manga: Minami-ke みなみけ (Chapter 1, ホットケーキにしましょう)
  • Context: Minami Kana 南夏奈 welcomes home her younger sister, Minami Chiaki 南千秋.
  • tadaima
    [I'm back].
  • okaeri
    [Welcome back].
  • tteiuka, are da na
    [Or rather], [it] is that.
    • are da - "[it] is that," as in "you know, it's that thing when, which, etc.," used like this to refer to an idea the speaker assumes to be known already, and will remind the listener of next.
  • omae wa {{hayaku} kaette} watashi no asobi-aite wo suru beki da
    You should {return home {quickly}} and become my play-partner.
    You should {come home {quickly}} to play with me.
    • Kana reminds Chiaki of what she should do.
    • asobi-aite - "play-partner," with whom you "play," asobu 遊ぶ.
  • konna jikan made doko hottsuki-aruiteta-n-da, kono yarou
    Where were [you] loitering around until this [late], you bastard?
    • konna jikan made - until this hour, until this late.
    • ~teta-n-da - contraction of ~te-ita no da ~ていたのだ.

It's possible to tell someone to ignore someone else by telling them to not be their partner in an activity, such as not joining them in a conversation.

  • aite wo suru na
    Don't become [their] aite.
    Ignore them.

To Put to Use

There are a few seemingly unrelated uses of suru which, if they share any relationship at all, would be that they all put to use something.

To Use a Body Part

The phrase ~ni suru ~にする can be used with various terms for body parts with meanings respective to each's function. Observe:

  • me ni suru
    To see.
    • {sore wo me ni shita} mono wa inai
      A person [who] {has seen that} doesn't exist.
      Nobody has ever seen it.
  • kuchi ni suru
    To speak of.
    To eat.
    • aitsu no namae wo kuchi ni suru na!
      Don't say his name!
      I don't want to hear his name come out of your mouth!
    • ringo wo kuchi ni shita
      [He] ate the apple.
      [He] put the apple in his mouth.
  • mimi ni suru
    To hear of.
    • {sore wo mimi ni shita} koto ga aru
      [I] {have heard of that before}.
      That might have entered my ears sometime.
  • te ni suru
    To obtain.
    • densetsu no ken wo te ni seneba naran
      [We] must obtain the legendary sword.
      [We] must get our hands on the legendary sword.

Oddly, there doesn't seem to be such a thing as hana ni suru 鼻にする for "to smell."

不特定多数が目にするメディアに顔写真を掲載してはならない決まりでして オゥ~顔出しNGトイウやつデスか
Manga: Kaguya-sama wa Kokurasetai ~Tensai-Tachi no Ren'ai Zunousen~ かぐや様は告らせたい~天才たちの恋愛頭脳戦~ (Chapter 100, 生徒会は撮られたい)
  • Context: Shinomiya Kaguya 四宮かぐや tells Adolphe Pescarolo アドルフ・ペスカロロ why she can't take photos.
  • {{futokutei-tasuu ga me ni suru} medhia ni kao-jashin wo keisai shite wa naranai} kimari deshite
    [My family made] a decision [that] {[I] shouldn't publish face-photos on media [which] {a large number of unspecified people see}}.
    • ~jashin
      (rendaku 連濁.)
    • shashin
  • ou~~ {kaodashi enu-jii toiu} yatsu desu ka
    Ooh~~ is [this that thing] {called kaodashi NG}?
    • Adolphe Pescarolo is a foreigner. His Japanese is accented. This is represented orthographically by spelling words with katakana.
    • kaodashi NG - phrase typically used by people who want to remain anonymous on the internet despite appearing in photos, videos. It means:
    • kao wo dasu no wa dame
      Exposing [one's] face is Not Good. (is not okay, not permitted.)

To Cover With

The phrase ~wo suru ~をする can mean "to cover something with something else" when used with a few words. Observe:

  • bin ni sen wo suru
    To put a cork in a bottle.
  • ana ni futa wo suru
    To put a lid on a hole.
  • hon ni kabaa wo suru
    To put a cover on a book.
    • Note in the publishing sense of "adding a cover to the book." In the sense of the book is already done and you wrap it in plastic or paper or something to protect it.

With Time or Money

The verb suru する can be used to talk about something taking time or being worth (costing, the price of being) a certain monetary value. This is similar to how kakaru かかる can be used to say something "costs" time or money, except suru isn't strictly about cost. For example:

  • {juu-man en mo suru} gurabo
    A graphics card [that] {is worth even tens of ten-thousands of yen}.
    • 十万円 = 10 × 10000円 = 100000円 = ~$870 USD.
    • A graphics card goes for around 870 dollars.
    • The mo も here means it's expensive.
  • isshukan sureba kaette-kuru
    If a week passes, [he] will come back home.
    Give it a week and he'll come back home.

In this case, suru isn't necessarily preceded by a number. For example:

レ レンズ別売り・・・!? レンズ以外も揃えるともっとするわよ レフ板 モデルに光を反射させて明るくできる ストロボ 外付けフラッシュ 三脚 手ブレがふさげる 一人宅コスで便利 などなど
Manga: Sono Bisque Doll wa Koi wo Suru, その着せ替え人形ビスク・ドールは恋をする (Chapter 21)
  • Context: Gojou Wakana 五条新菜 looks up on the internet the price of a camera.
  • kyuu-juu san man kyuu-sen roppyaku en (zei-komi)
    Nine hundred thousand six hundred yen (with tax).
    • It's over 8000 dollars!
    • zei-komi 税込み, "tax included," was spelled here between parentheses without okurigana.
  • re, renzu betsu-uri...!?
    Lens sold separately...!?
  • {renzu igai mo soroeru} to motto suru wa yo
    {Plus other things besides the lens} [it] goes for even more.
    • It costs even more.
    • soroeru - "to join in order to complete a set," in this case "adding" the other pieces of equipment makes it way more expensive.
  • refu-ban, {moderu ni hikari wo hansha sasete} akaruku dekiru
    レフ板 モデル反射させて明るくできる
    Reflector board: {by making light reflect on the model} [it] can make [the photo] brighter.
    • akaruku dekiru - eventivization akaruku suru conjugated to the potential dekiru.
  • sutorobo, soto-dzuke furasshu
    ストロボ 外付けフラッシュ
    Strobe: external flash.
  • sankyaku, te-bure ga fusegeru, hitori taku-kosu de benri
    三脚 手ブレふせげる 一人宅コス便利
    Tripod: can stop trembling of hand, useful when cosplaying at home alone.
    • fusageru - potential of fusegu 防ぐ, "to block," "to prevent."
  • nado nado
    Et cetera et cetera.

Above, suru means "goes for," "costs," in reference to the price of the equipment, but the word that's used with it isn't an exact number, it's motto, "more," so motto suru means "costs more [than that]."

As suru doesn't mean anything by itself, it will always accompany another word (like motto) which will hint what it's supposed to mean in a sentence.


Synonymous with suru する are the words yaru やる, nasu なす (nasaru なさる), and itasu いたす in some cases. For example:

  • {suru beki} koto
    A thing [that] {[you] should do}.
  • {yaru beki} koto
    (same meaning.)
  • {nasu beki} koto
    (same meaning.)
  • dou shimasu ka?
    What will [you] do?
  • dou itashimasu ka?
    (same meaning.)
    • This is humble language, kenjougo 謙譲語.
  • dou nasaimasu ka?
    (same meaning)
    • This is respectful language, sonkeigo 尊敬語.

While yaru can't be used in most functions seen in this article, it seems nasu and itasu can replace suru in most, if not all cases. For example:

  • seikou (shita / nasaimashita / itashimashita)
  • {sankou ni} (shita / nasaimashita / itashimashita)
    Made [it] a reference. (in the sense of using a thing as a reference, to study it to do something else.)
    • By the way, o-ki ni nasarazu お気になさらず means the same thing as ki ni suru na 気にするな.
  • {nigeyou to} (shita / nasaimashita / itashimashita)
    Tried {to escape}.
  • mimi ni (shita / nasaimashita / itashimashita)
    • With nasaimasu the body part would get a honorific, too:
    • o-mimi ni nasaimashita
      (same meaning.)

Worthy of note: nasaimasu is the polite form of nasaru. The morphology works like gozaru and gozaimasu. See i-onbin イ音便 for details. The word nasaru is a respectful variant of nasu. So nasu, nasaru, and nasaimasu are essentially the same verb.


Sometimes suru is a different word that's pronounced the same. For example:

  • suru
    To print. (specially patterns using molds.)
  • suru
    To rub.
  • surudoi
    Sharp. (blade.)
    Clever. (mind.)
  • shita

  • shi

    A particle used to list reasons.

Note that the suru of this article has an irregular conjugation, while the suru verbs above have a regular godan conjugation. This means, for example, that the ren'youkei of "to rub" is suri 擦り, not shi し.

  • suri-kizu
    An injury from rubbing.
    • 'Tis but a "scratch."
  • suri-herasu
    To wear [someone] down.
    • Forms ergative pair with suri-heru すり減る.
    • In battle manga, used when talking about making a character exhausted through a long fight of endurance and then finish them off.


The verb suru spelled with kanji would be suru 為る. This same kanji can be used with nasu 為す. Note, however, that suru is normally spelled with hiragana instead.

The word shikata 仕方, literally "method of doing," in the sense of "how to do [it]," works the same way as yomi-kata 読み方, "how to read [it]," kaki-kata 書き方, "how to write [it]", etc., in that the prefix is a verb in its ren'youkei, so the shi~ in shi-kata is the ren'youkei of suru but is irregularly spelled shi 仕.


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  1. I love your post, it really helps me to understand the grammar of Japanese.. even though it's kinda hard for me to understand it due to the technical terms, other than because English isn't my native language. Once again, Thank you! love you!