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Thursday, April 21, 2022

~koto wo suru ~ことをする - Meaning in Japanese

In Japanese, ~koto wo suruことをする (koto こと, marked by wo, plus suru する) means "to do something that is X" or "to do an X thing," what sort of thing we're doing depends on the adjective or relative clause qualifying koto. It effectively lets you create suru-verbs out of random phrases describing acts so you can conjugate the description like a verb. When the description already ends in a verb to begin with, sometimes the phrase ~koto wo suru just makes the sentence longer.

  • {warui} koto wo suru
    悪いことをする
    To do something [that] {is bad}.
    To do a {bad} thing.
  • sonna koto shitara
    そんなことしたら
    If [you] do something like that...
  • {fudan shinai} koto wo suru
    普段しないことをする
    To do something [that] {[you] normally don't do}.
    To do things [you] {normally don't}.
  • {mahou wo tsukau} koto ga dekiru
    魔法を使うことができる
    To be able to do the thing [that is] {to use magic}.
    To be able to {use magic}.
    • mahou ga tsukaeru
      魔法が使える
      To be able to use magic.
      (same meaning.)

The phrase ~koto ga dekiruことができる is the irregular potential form of ~koto wo suru. The phrase ~koto wo itashimasuことをいたします is a humble speech (kenjougo 謙譲語) variant, while ~koto wo nasaruことをなさる is a honorific speech (sonkeigo 尊敬語) variant. The phrases ~koto suruことする, ~koto dekiruことできる, ~koto itashimasuこといたします, and ~koto nasaruことなさる are null-marked (φ).

Grammar

See the article about suru-verbs for details on the grammar and conjugation. This article is mainly for examples.

In summary, ~koto wo suru has two functions: first, it allows you to say "I do an action" without having a precise noun for the action, using only a description for the sort of action you're doing (something "bad," "that sort" of thing, etc.); second, sometimes when qualified by a verb, it means basically nothing: saying "verb + koto wo suru" and conjugating the suru is but a paraphrase of just saying "verb" and conjugating the verb directly, however, the longer phrases tends to occur more with written language, where you want to be clearer, explain complex concepts, while conjugating the verb directly is more common in spoken dialogue.

  • gyunyuu ga nomenai
    牛乳が飲めない
    [I] can't drink milk. (of "cows," ushi 牛, specifically.)
  • {gyuunyuu wo nomu} koto ga dekinai
    牛乳を飲むことができない
    [I] can't do the thing [that is] {to drink milk}.
    [I] can't {drink milk}.
    • This sentence means the same thing as the previous one, but is more common in written speech. In manga and anime, you may find it in narrations, and when a character is explaining things, for example.

Examples

Adjectival Qualifier

く・・・なんだか今とてつもなく恥ずかしいことをしている気分だ・・・ 息が・・・息がしにくい・・・
Manga: Karakai Jouzu no Takagi-san からかい上手の高木さん (Chapter 7, 傘)
  • Context: Nishikata 西片 shares an umbrella with Takagi 高木.
  • ku...
    く・・・
    *vexed noises*
  • nandaka ima
    なんだか今
    [It seems that] now.
  • {{totetsumonaku hazukashii} koto wo shite-iru} kibun da...
    とてつもな恥ずかしことをしている気分だ・・・
    [I have] a feeling [that] {[I] am doing something {extremely embarrassing}}.
  • iki ga... iki ga shi-nikui...
    息が・・・息がしにくい・・・
    [It feels]... [it feels] hard to breathe...
    • iki wo suru
      息をする
      To do breathing.
      To breathe.
      (suru-verb.)
だって・・・みんなイジメるし無視するしっ・・・ 睦美 なにも悪いことしてないのに! 一人称が名前ってのがしゃらくせぇ 夜トさん空気を!!
Manga: Noragami ノラガミ (Chapter 1, ジャージのひと)
  • Context: Mutsumi 睦美 says why she's frustrated.
  • datte... minna ijimeru shi, mushi suru shi'...
    だって・・・みんなイジメるし無視するしっ・・・
    Because... everybody bullies [me], ignores [me]...
  • Mutsumi φ, nanimo {warui} koto φ shitenai noni!
    睦美 なにも悪いことしてないのに!
    Even though Mutsumi didn't do something [that] {is wrong}!
    Even though Mutsumi did nothing {wrong}!
  • ichininshou ga namae tte no ga shara-kusee
    一人称が名前ってのがしゃらくせぇ
    [Using] [your] name as first person pronoun feels cheeky.
    • shara-kusee - contraction of shara-kusai 洒落臭い, literally "reeking of impertinence," as in it seems like it's cheeky, impudent, from how it looks.
  • Yato-san kuuki wo!!
    夜トさん空気を!!
    Yato-san, read the [air]!!
    (incomplete sentence.)
    • kuuki yome
      空気読め
      Read the air. (literally.)
      Read the room. Pay attention to social cues. (used here because the girl was crying frustrated and he just threw a sharp jab on her behavior.)
普段はリーゼントでツッパっている奴がたまーにいい事したりするとものすごーく好感度が上がる
Character: Sakata Gintoki 坂田銀時
Anime: Gintama 銀魂 (Episode 47)
  • Context: Gintoki explains the "gap rule," gyappu ruuru ギャップルール.
  • {{fudan wa riizento de tsuppate-iru} yatsu ga tamaa ni {ii} koto shitari suru} to monosugooku koukando ga agaru
    普段はリーゼントでツッパっている奴がたまーにいい事したりするとものすごーく好感度が上がる
    If {{a guy [who] {normally [wears] a pompadour and acts tough} does something {good} once in a while} [his] popularity rises by a lot.
    • In anime, delinquent characters frequently feature a pompadour hairstyle.
    • koukando
      好感度
      Level of favorability. Popularity.
      How much people like someone.
    • i.e. when a bad guy does something good, people's opinion of him suddenly changes from bad to good.
    • tamaa, monosugoooku - same as tama たま and monosugoku ものすごく.

Demonstrative Qualifier

やったことないです・・・・・・ そんなことできるの!?
Manga: Kimetsu no Yaiba 鬼滅の刃 (Chapter 49, 機能回復訓練・前編)
  • Context: Tanjirou 炭治郎 is asked if he does a thing.
  • {yatta} koto nai desu......
    やったことないです・・・
    [I] don't have the experience [that is] {to do [it]}.
    [I] have never {done [it]}.
  • sonna koto φ dekiru no!?
    そんなことできるの!?
    Is something like that doable!?
    Can [you] [even] do something like that?

Verbal Qualifier

よーし 今からちょいと法に触れる事するけど おまえ見て見ぬふりしろ よいしょ~~  へ!? ・・・それって犯罪者になれってこと? ダメか? パン
Manga: Fullmetal Alchemist, Hagane no Renkinjutsushi 鋼の錬金術師 (Chapter 3, 炭鉱の町)
  • Context: Edward Elric エドワード・エルリック drags his younger brother into a life of crime.
  • yooshi
    よーし

    Aaalright.
  • ima kara {choito hou ni fureru} koto suru kedo
    からちょいと法に触れる事するけど
    [Starting] now, [I] will do something [that] {violates the law a bit}.
    • choito
      ちょいと
      (same as...)
    • chotto
      ちょっと
      A bit. A little.
    • hou ni fureru
      法に触れる
      To touch the law. To collide with the law. To violate the law.
    • fureru
      触れる
      To touch. (as a matter of fact: ended up touching, brushing against.)
      • sawaru
        触る
        To touch. (intentionally: he touched the cat, petting it.)
  • omae φ {mite-minu} furi shiro
    おまえφ見て見ぬふりしろ
    As for you, pretend {not to see [anything]}.
    • mite
      見て
      To see, and...
    • minu furi
      見ぬふり
      Pretend not to see.
  • yoisho~~
    よいしょ~~
    [Heave-ho!]
    • Expression of effort, he used it when climbing.
  • he!?
    へ!?
    [What]!?
    (interjection.)
  • ...sore tte {hanzaisha ni} nare tte koto?
    ・・・それって犯罪者になれってこと?
    ...is that: "become {a criminal}," is what you're saying?
  • dame ka?
    ダメか?
    Is [that] no good?
    • Is that not okay?
    • Will you not help me?
  • pan
    パン
    *clap*
    (onomatopoeia.)

Paraphrasic

私の術式はどんな相手にも強制的に弱点を作り出すことができます 7:3 対象の長さを線分した時 こんこ比率の“点”に攻撃を当てることができればクリティカルヒット
Manga: Jujutsu Kaisen 呪術廻戦 (Chapter 20, 幼魚と逆罰-弐-)
  • Context: Nanami Kento 七海建人, an ex-salaryman, explains how his power works.
  • watashi no jutsushiki wa {donna aite nimo kyousei-teki ni jakuten wo tsukuri-dasu} koto ga dekimasu
    の術式はどんな相手にも強制的に弱点を作り出すことができます
    My technique can {forcibly create a weak-point on any sort of opponent}.
    • tsukuri-dasu koto ga dekimasu - paraphrase of tsukuri-daseru 作り出せる.
  • nana tai san
    7:3
    Seven to three.
  • {taishou no nagasa wo senbun shita} toki
    対象の長を線分した時
    When {dividing the target's length}...
  • {kono hiritsu no "ten" ni kougeki wo ateru} koto ga dekireba kurithikaru-hitto
    こんこ比率の“点”に攻撃を当てることができればクリティカルヒット
    If [I] manage {to land an attack at the "point" of this ratio}, [it]'s a critical-hit.
    • ateru koto ga dekireba - paraphrase of aterarereba 当てられれば, ba-form of aterareru 当てられる.

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