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
    To do something [that] {is bad}.
    To do a {bad} thing.
  • sonna koto shitara
    If [you] do something like that...
  • {fudan shinai} koto wo suru
    To do something [that] {[you] normally don't do}.
    To do things [you] {normally don't}.
  • {mahou wo tsukau} koto ga dekiru
    To be able to do the thing [that is] {to use magic}.
    To be able to {use magic}.
    • mahou ga tsukaeru
      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).


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
    [I] can't drink milk. (of "cows," ushi 牛, specifically.)
  • {gyuunyuu wo nomu} koto ga dekinai
    [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.


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...
    *vexed noises*
  • nandaka ima
    [It seems that] now.
  • {{totetsumonaku hazukashii} koto wo shite-iru} kibun da...
    [I have] a feeling [that] {[I] am doing something {extremely embarrassing}}.
  • iki ga... iki ga shi-nikui...
    [It feels]... [it feels] hard to breathe...
    • iki wo suru
      To do breathing.
      To breathe.
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'...
    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
    [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!!
    Yato-san, read the [air]!!
    (incomplete sentence.)
    • kuuki yome
      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.)
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
    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
      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......
    [I] don't have the experience [that is] {to do [it]}.
    [I] have never {done [it]}.
  • sonna koto φ dekiru no!?
    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

  • ima kara {choito hou ni fureru} koto suru kedo
    [Starting] now, [I] will do something [that] {violates the law a bit}.
    • choito
      (same as...)
    • chotto
      A bit. A little.
    • hou ni fureru
      To touch the law. To collide with the law. To violate the law.
    • fureru
      To touch. (as a matter of fact: ended up touching, brushing against.)
      • sawaru
        To touch. (intentionally: he touched the cat, petting it.)
  • omae φ {mite-minu} furi shiro
    As for you, pretend {not to see [anything]}.
    • mite
      To see, and...
    • minu furi
      Pretend not to see.
  • yoisho~~
    • Expression of effort, he used it when climbing.
  • he!?
  • ...sore tte {hanzaisha ni} nare tte koto?
    ・・・それって犯罪者になれってこと? that: "become {a criminal}," is what you're saying?
  • dame ka?
    Is [that] no good?
    • Is that not okay?
    • Will you not help me?
  • pan


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
    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
    Seven to three.
  • {taishou no nagasa wo senbun shita} toki
    When {dividing the target's length}...
  • {kono hiritsu no "ten" ni kougeki wo ateru} koto ga dekireba kurithikaru-hitto
    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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