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Thursday, September 25, 2008

Japanese "mono" and "koto"


Whereas English uses the word “thing” to refer to anything that exists, Japanese generally divides existence into the physical and non-physical. mono is usually a tangible thing, such as a wallet, a cabbage, a door, or a coin, while koto is an intangible thing, such as a win, a habit, a wish, or an incident.

So, when you’re talking about an intangible thing, you add the word koto to refer to a specific incidence of it. E.g. take talking/chatting. The Japanese verb “to talk/chat” is shaberu. To make the meaning of “talking/chatting,” i.e. a definite act, just add the word koto: shaberu koto.
Taro wa shaberu koto ga suki desu, or “Taro likes talking."
Or, “neru” (sleep)
Mari wa neru koto ga suki desu, or “Mari likes sleeping.”
Or hoeru (bark)
Inu wa hoeru koto ga suki desu, or ”Dogs like barking”

So if a Japanese person asks you:
Nani o suru koto ga suki desu ka? (What do you like doing?”)
you can answer, for example,

jogingu suru (jog)
Watashi wa jogingu suru koto ga suki desu.
I like jogging.

baka-bakashiku suru (act the fool, behave like an idiot)
Watashi wa baka-bakashiku suru koto ga suki desu.
I like playing the fool.

hon o yomu (read books)
Watashi wa hon o yomu koto ga suki desu.
I like reading.

taberu (eat)
Watashi wa taberu koto ga suki desu.
I like eating.

gatsu gatsu taberu (pig out)
Watashi wa gatsu gatsu taberu koto ga suki desu.
I like pigging out.

shashin o toru (take photos)
Watashi wa shashin o toru koto ga suki desu.
I like taking photos.

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