Friday, April 15, 2022

~ku ~く Adverbial Copula

In Japanese, ~ku is the ending of i-adjectives when conjugated to their ren'youkei 連用形, i.e. the ~ku suffix is the adverbial form of the ~i ~い copula. It's similar to the "~ly" suffix that turns adjectives in adverbs in English, e.g. if sugoi すごい means "incredible," then sugoku すご means "incredibly," although it may translate to the bare form when it expresses the final state of a process. It can also be used to connect multiple adjectives to each other. In rare cases, ~ku is used in a manner similar to a noun describable by the adjective. For example:

  • {karuku} takaku
    To hit [something] {lightly}.
    To hit [something] {in a way that is light}.
    (process modification.)
    • karui
      Light. As in not "heavy," omoi 重い. Not to be confused with a sparkling "light," hikari 光.
  • {karuku} naru
    To become {light}.
    (final state.)
  • {{takaku} hayai} kuruma
    A car that {{is expensive and} fast}.
    (connective copula.)
    • takai
      High. (height.)
      Expensive. (price.)
  • tooku φ e nigeru
    To escape to [a place that] is far away.
    (noun-like usage.)
    • tooi
      Far. Antonym of chikai 近い, "near."
Examples of the ~ku ~く suffix in Japanese that's the ren'youkei 連用形 of i-adjectives.
Manga: Boku no Hero Academia, 僕のヒーローアカデミア (Chapter 204)
Manga: Doll-Kara, どるから (Chapter 1)
Manga: Jahy-sama wa Kujikenai!, ジャヒー様はくじけない! (Chapter 0.1)


See the article about i-adjectives for general grammar about i-adjectives, conjugation. This article is mainly about the suffix found in the ren'youkei.

Adverbial Copula

The ~ku ~く morpheme has a function analogous to the ni に adverbial copula, which would be the ren'youkei of the da だ copula used with na-adjectives and no-adjectives (nouns), therefore, it follows that ~ku is an adverbial copula, too. Observe:

shuushikei 終止形 ren'youkei 連用形
i-adjective Tarou ga hayai
Tarou is quick.
{hayaku} hashiru
To run {quickly}.
na-adjective Tarou ga shoujiki da
Tarou is frank.
{shoujiki ni} iu
To speak {frankly}.
no-adjective Tarou ga koukousei da
Tarou is a high-schooler.
{koukousei ni} naru
To become {a high-schooler}.

If a phrase seems difficult to understand, generally you can paraphrase it as "to do something in a way that is...," e.g. "to run {in a way that is fast}."

おねーちゃん こっちも生中2つね ガヤガヤ おねーちゃん!?気やすく呼びおって!我を誰だとおもっている 生中2つな ピピ 我は魔界No.2(ナンバーツー)のジャヒーさ・・・ ねーちゃんこっちもー あっ!?はい!
Manga: Jahy-sama wa Kujikenai!, ジャヒー様はくじけない! (Chapter 0.1, ジャヒー様とすまいる)
  • Context: Jahy-sama works as a waitress.
  • oneechan, kocchi mo nama-chuu futatsu ne
    おねーちゃん こっちも生中2つね
    Missy, two beers here, too.
  • gaya gaya
    *noisy crowd.*
    (mimetic word.)
  • oneechan!? {ki-yasuku} yobi-otte! ware wo dare da to omotte-iru
    Missy?! Calling [me] so casually! Who does [he] think I am?
    • ki-yasui - relaxed, familiar, casual, as opposed to formal.
    • yobi-otte - te-form of yobi-oru 呼びおる.
    • ~oru suffixed to the ren'youkei 連用形 of a verb works similarly to ~yagaru ~やがる, used to say someone "dares" to do something to you, expressing angers or amazement.
    • {ki-yasuku} yobu - to call [her] {in a way that is relaxed, familiar, casual}.
  • nama-chuu futatsu na
    Two beers, right?
  • pi, pi
    *writing down.*
  • ware wa makai nanbaa tsuu no Jahii-sa...
    I['m] the demon world's number two, Jahy-sa...
    (incomplete sentence.)
    • Here, Jahy was about to call herself Jahy-sama. You don't normally use honorific suffixes toward yourself, specially the respectful ~sama ~様, as it sounds pompous. This is typically done by characters that are extremely proud, over-confident, or bossy.
    • nanbaa tsuu, the katakanization of "number two," was used as furigana for its abbreviation.
  • neechan, kocchi mo~
    Missy, here too~
  • a'!? hai!
    Ah? [One second]!
    • hai - "yes," used as an affirmative response in general.

This is particularly clear in the ergative verb pair naru なる and suru する, "to become" and "to make become," respectively, where the phrases ~ni naru ~になる and ~ni suru ~にする used with na-adjectives and no-adjectives have ~ku naru ~くなる and ~ku suru ~くする counterparts for i-adjectives.

  • kuruma ga {hayaku} naru
    The car becomes {quick}.
    The car becomes {fast}.
  • kuruma wo {hayaku} suru
    To make a car become {fast}.
    To make a car go vrooom.
    • kuruma wo {hayaku} dekiru
      To be able to make the car become {fast}.
      (potential form of suru.)

Note that ~ku doesn't translate to the bare form (i.e. as a flat adverb) in English only with naru and suru.

  • {atsuku} moeru
    To burn {hot}. (to end up hot by burning.)
  • {fukaku} shizumu
    To sink {deep}. (to end up deep by sinking.)

At Sentence End

When a sentence ends in ~ku ~く, it's most likely an incomplete sentence ending in the adverb and missing its main verb, which is likely naru, but could be something else. For example:

効かねェからだよ 今度ァてつてつがチンチンだよオイ・・・!! シュウウ ※一部地域で“熱々”のことだからね! 熱で赤く・・・!
Manga: Boku no Hero Academia, 僕のヒーローアカデミア (Chapter 204, チューニング)
  • Context: Tetsutetsu Tetsutetsu 鉄哲徹鐵, whose body turns into "iron," tetsu 鉄, explains why he is the one to face Todoroki Shouto 轟焦凍 in battle, who can use fire.
  • kikanee kara da yo
    Because [it] doesn't have effect!
    Because the fire doesn't work on me!
    • kiku
      To have effect.
  • kondo a Tetsutetsu ga chinchin da yo oi...!!
    Tetsutetsu is chinchin(※see note below) now, oy...!!
  • shuuu
    *vapor fuming*
  • ichibu chiiki de "atsu-atsu" no koto da kara ne!
    ※In a certain region [it] means "atsu-atsu" [you see]!
  • netsu de {akaku} [natta]...!
    [He] [became] {red} with heat...!
    (incomplete sentence.)

Alternatively, it could be a dislocation:

  • hashire! {motto {hayaku}}!!!
    *Run! {More {fast}}!!! (literally.)
    Run! Faster!!!
    (right-dislocated sentence.)
    • {motto {hayaku}} hashire
      ?Run {more {fast}}!!!
      (same meaning.)

Some adverbs commonly used without verbs:

  • yoroshiku
    Used to say "nice to meet you," or "I'm happy to be working with you" when greeting someone for the first time (yoroshiku onegai shimasu よろしくおねがいします). From yoroshii よろしい, "good."
  • shikata naku
    It couldn't be helped. From shikata ga nai 仕方がない, "there is no way to do [it]."
  • mattaku
    Good grief. From mattai 全い, meaning "complete."

Derived Forms

The past form of i-adjectives derives from the ~ku ren'youkei modifying the irregular verb aru ある.(Fujiyoshi, 1982:89) This derivation isn't obvious at first glance due to changes in pronunciation merging the resulting phrase. Observe:

  • hayakatta
    [It] was fast.
    • The unchanged stem would be:
    • {hayaku} atta
      It existed {in a way that was fast}. (literally.)

The negative form derives similarly from nai ない, which is the irregular negative form of aru.

  • hayakunai
    [It] isn't fast.
    • hayaku plus ~nai.
  • hayakunakatta
    [It] wasn't fast.
    • Stem: hayaku naku atta.

Syntactically, the ~aru (~nai) of ~ku aru ~くある (~ku nai ~くない) is a hojo-doushi 補助動詞 (auxiliary verb). Similar syntax for the da だ copula is found in de aru である (de nai でない), a difference being that de is the te-form of da, while ~ku isn't the te-form of ~i.

The te-form of i-adjectives is ~kute ~くて. It's possible that this is derived from ~ku, too, but I haven't been able to confirm it.

Before Particle

Like de aru and other hojo-doushi phrases, ~ku aru can be split into ~ku, some particle, then ~aru. Usually the wa は particle (e.g. ~ku wa aru ~くはある), or the mo も particle (e.g. ~ku mo nai ~くもない).

  • hayaku wa aru ga, yasuku wa nai
    Fast, [it] is, but cheap, [it] is not.
    It's fast, but not cheap.
    (contrastive wa.)
    • c.f.:
    • kirei de wa aru ga hitsuyou de wa nai
      Pretty, [it] is, but necessary, [it] is not.
      It's pretty, but unnecessary.
  • sabishiku mo nai
    [I] am not even lonely.
    [I] am not lonely, either.
    • c.f.:
    • mijime de mo nai
      [I] am not even miserable.
      [I] am not miserable, either.
  • yoku mo waruku mo nani mo nai
    Not good nor bad nor anything.

Connective Copula

The ren'youkei can sometimes be used to connect multiple adjectives, like the te-form.

  • {{chiisaku} kawaii} doubutsu
    An animal [that] {{is small and} cute}.
    A small, cute animal.
    • {{chiisakute} kawaii} doubutsu
      (same meaning.)

Note that the last adjective must end in ~i, it can't end in ~ku. On the other hand, ~i can also be used to be used to chain multiple adjectives to a single noun.(Larson & Yamakido, 2003:3)

  • ookii takai akai kuruma
    Big, expensive, red car.
  • ookiku takai akai kuruma
    (same meaning.)
  • ookiku takaku akai kuruma
    (same meaning.)
  • *ookiku takaku akaku kuruma

Noun-Like Usage

Sometimes, a word ending in ~ku ~く appears to be used as a noun describable by the adjective. For example:(Larson & Yamakido, 2003:2, 5)

  • Tarou ga {tooi} basho e itta
    Tarou went to a place [that] {is far}.
  • Tarou ga tooku e itta
    (same meaning.)
  • kono densetsu ga {furui} jidai kara aru
    This legend exists since times [that] {are old}.
    This legend exists since old times.
  • kono densetsu ga furuku kara aru
    (same meaning.)
  • Hanako ni hagemashi no tegami ga ooku kara yoserareta
    Letters of encouragement were sent to Hanako from many [people].
    • ooi 多い, "many."

This usage isn't allowed with just any adjective. It has many restrictions. Only adjectives regarding time or space are allowed (e.g. chikai 近い, "near," asai 深い, "shallow," hikui 低い, "low," osoi 遅い, "late," wakai 若い, "young," and their antonyms).(Larson & Yamakido, 2003:3–4) Similarly, the noun-like ~ku only occurs marked by a spatiotemporal particle, such as kara から, "since," "from," made まで, "up to," "until," ni, "to," or e, "toward."(ibid:5) Considering this, it's not a form of nominalization, instead, it's as if a spatiotemporal noun (e.g. basho, jidai) was omitted (elided), i.e. there's a spatiotemporal null pronoun after the word.(ibid:2) Exceptions exist: tooku 遠く and chikaku 近く can be marked as subject and object by the ga and wo, respectively, and by the no の particle to become no-adjectives (genitive case);(ibid:6) and ooku 多く, "many," can used like a noun, including with ga, wo, no, despite not being spatiotemporal, likely because the linguistic phenomenon allowing ooku to work is different from the one that allows tooku and furuku to work.(ibid:6, 13)

  • sono paathii de ooku φ ga yopparatta
    Many [people] were drunk at that party.
    Many φ were drunk at that party.
    • φ - a symbol representing the null pronoun.
    • Note that in English we can say "many were drunk" to mean "many PEOPLE were drunk."
    • Many languages, including English, allow nominal ellipsis (the noun, e.g. "people," is omitted) with the words "many" and "much."(ibid:13, citing Sleeman, 1996)
    • When you read a sentence like "the needs of many outweigh the needs of few" for some reason you always think "many people" and "few people," even though it could be "many rabbits," for example.
  • Hanako ga sore ni tsuite ooku φ wo kataranakatta
    Hanako didn't speak much about that.
  • *Tarou ga utsukushiku e itta
    Intended: Tarou went to a beautiful place.
    • This is wrong because utsukushii 美しい, "beautiful," isn't a spatiotemporal adjective.
  • *kono densetsu ga kuraku kara aru
    Intended: this legend exists since dark times.
    • This is wrong because kurai 暗い, "dark," isn't a spatiotemporal adjective.
  • *Tarou ga hayaku no meethingu e itta
    • This is wrong because the genitive case marker no の can't come after hayaku, c.f.:
    • Tarou ga {hayai} jikan no meechingu e itta
      Tarou went to the meeting of the time [that] {is early}.
      Tarou went to an {early} meeting.
  • tooku φ no machi
    A town of a far [place].
    • This is allowed because the genitive case marker no の can come after tooku.
  • chikaku φ no eki
    The station of a nearby [place].
    • It's not the station that is near, it's the place where the station is located at that is near, which, naturally, consequently means that the station is near. Sounds a bit roundabout, doesn't it?
その体については申し訳ないと思ってるニャ 近くに手頃な肉体がなくてニャ~~・・・ 残念だけど元の体にはもう戻れないニャ 君の肉体は活動を停止してしまったからニャ !!
Manga: Doll-Kara, どるから (Chapter 1)
  • Context: an old man saves a cat from truck-kun and ends up getting killed in the process. The cat, thankful, puts him in the body of a young girl, then explains the situation to him.
  • sono karada ni tsuite wa {moushi-wake nai} to omotteru nya
    About that body, [I] feel {sorry} meow.
    I'm sorry about you ending up in that body, meow.
  • chikaku ni {tegoro na} nikutai ga nakute nya~~...
    There weren't any {suitable} bodies nearby, [you see], meow~~.
    • ~ga nakute na ~がなくてな - "there weren't [...], you see."
  • {zan'nen da} kedo moto no karada ni wa mou modorenai nya
    {It's unfortunate}, but you can't return to your former body anymore, meow.
  • kimi no nikutai wa katsudou wo teishi shite-shimatta kara nya
    Because your body has ceased activity, meow.
    • You're dead, meow.
    • ~wo teishi suru - "to cease," "to stop," suru-verb.


Some godan verbs end in ~ku ~く in their nonpast form, making their ending homonymous with the ~ku adverbial copula.

Manga: World Trigger, ワールドトリガー (Chapter 6, 嵐山隊)
  • Context: Kuga Yuuma 空閑遊真 knows your habits.
  • omae...... tsuman'nai uso φ tsuku ne
    おまえ・・・・・・つまんないウソ つく
    You...... tell boring lies, [don't you]?
    • tsuman'nai - a contraction of tsumaranai つまらない.
    • tsuku - "to spew," "to tell [lies]," a godan verb, not the ren'youkei of some *tsui つい i-adjective.

Some contractions can be mistaken for the ~ku copula: ~teku ~てく (~deku ~でく), from ~te-iku ていく (~de-iku ~でいく), and ~toku ~とく (~doku ~どく), from ~te-oku ~ておく (~de-oku でおく).

何でしたら入り次第お宅へお届けいたしましょうか そうしてくれる? 代金はその場で払うようにしとくから
Manga: Historie, ヒストリエ (Chapter 6, 図書室・2)
  • Context: a boy wants to buy a book, but it's out of stock.
  • nandeshitara hairi shidai otaku e otodoke itashimashou ka
    [If you want] [I] will deliver [it] to [your] house [as soon as] [it] enters [stock].
    • shidai
      Depending on. In this case, when he delivers the book depends on when it enters stock. As soon as.
  • sou shite kureru?
    [You] will do so for [me]?
  • daikin wa {{sono ba de harau} you ni} shitoku kara
    As for the payment, [I] will make [it] {so [that] {[it] is paid there}}.
    • i.e. the payment will be ready at his home for when it arrives.
    • ~you ni suru ~ようにする, "to make it so that [something happens]."
    • ~you ni shite-oku ~ようにしておく, "to make it so that [something happens] in preparation for [something else]," e.g. he'll give his servants the money and instructions to pay the book so that when it arrives there it can be paid for there.


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