Wild Nihongo!
こと / もの

こと / もの

こと / もの Japanese Grammar Lesson

Grammar Type: Noun

Essential Meaning: Thing / Nominalizing noun

Construction: 

  • (Verb / い-Adjective) informal + こと
    • E.g. はなすこと [Speaking / The fact that X speaks / The thing that X speaks]
    • E.g. べること [Eating / The fact that X eats / The thing that X eats]
    • E.g. たかいこと [The fact that X is expensive]
  • な-Adjective Stem + [な / だった] + こと
    • E.g. しずかなこと [The fact that X is quiet]
  • As a noun: Noun + のこと
    • E.g. 先生せんせいのこと [Things about the teacher]
  • As a nominalizer: Noun + [である / であった / だった] + こと
    • E.g. 先生せんせいであること [The fact that X is a teacher]

Notes:

  • こと is a noun that means “Thing“. It can be used to refer to intangible things, or it can be used to nominalize verbs, adjectives, and sentences. The two usages are explained separately below.
  • こと as a noun:
    • こと is an ordinary noun that is used to refer to intangible “things” (i.e things that are non-physical and cannot be literally experienced through the senses). Its counterpart is もの, which is used to refer to tangible things. A few example where こと may be used are “Don’t worry about the little things.“, “Do you remember the things that the teacher told us yesterday?“, or “There are many things that I like about you.” Just like the word “Thing” in English, こと is a vague and imprecise way of describing some intangible situation.
      • E.g. いいことをおしえてあげよう。[I’ll tell you a good thing (i.e. I have something good to tell you).] This is a vague but perfectly acceptable sentence.
    • Be careful not to use こと to refer to tangible things. もの is used instead in such cases.
      • E.g. くろいものがえましたか。[Were you able to see a black thing?]
      • E.g. おいしいものはありませんか。[Are there any delicious things?]
  • こと as a nominalizer:
    • As a nominalizer, こと turns the full phrase or sentences that precedes it into a noun phrase. For example, with the expression 小説しょうせつくこと [Writing a novel], the full phrase 小説しょうせつく is nominalized and can now be used in any noun position (i.e. as the subject, direct object, indirect object, etc.).
    • is also used as a nominalizer. The difference between the nominalizers こと and is that is more personal and implies that the speaker is personally involved in the action or state described by the sentence or somehow feels empathy towards the situation. On the other hand, こと comes across as more distant and describes the action or state from a more neutral and academic position. In short, when こと is replaced by , the sentence becomes more personal and empathetic.
      • E.g. ぼくはクリスがおよぐのをていた。[I was watching Chris swim.] This sentence involves the speaker personally watching Chris swim, so is an appropriate nominalizer.
      • E.g. かあさんがこんなに心配しんぱいしているのがわからないの。[Don’t you understand the fact that mom is worrying so much?] This is clearly an emotional statement; is appropriate.
      • E.g. ジェーンはビルが洗濯せんたくするのを手伝てつだった。[Jen helped Bill to do the laundry.] indicates that the speaker feels empathy or closeness towards Bill and Jen.
      • E.g. このまちではいい音楽おんがくくことができる。[In this town, one can hear good music.] This a general statement about the music in the town. It does not express the speaker’s personal involvement, so こと is an appropriate choice of nominalizer.
      • E.g. ることはしんじることだ。[Seeing is believing.] こと is an appropriate choice here for the same reason as above.

Examples Sentences:

論文ろんぶんいたことをはなしてください。[Please talk about the things you wrote in your thesis.]

ブラウンさんは日本にほん大学だいがくのことをよくっている。[Mr. Brown knows a lot of things about Japanese universities.]

大事だいじなことはもうぜんぶはなしました。[I already said all of the important things.]

先生せんせいったことをおぼえていますか。[Do you remember the things that the teacher said?]

試験しけんのことはわすれなさい。[Forget about the things regarding the exam.]

わかときにいい友達ともだちつくることはとても大事だいじだ。[Making good friends at a young age is very important.]

大学だいがく四年よねんときフランスに留学りゅうがくすることをかんがえています。[I’m thinking about studying abroad during my fourth year of university.]

日本にほん文化ぶんかがおもしろいことはかるが、ユニークだとはおもわない。[I know the fact that Japan’s culture is interesting, but I don’t think that it is unique.]

スイスがきれいなことは写真しゃしんっています。[I know the fact that Switzerland is beautiful from photos.]

あのひとがいいひとであることはたしかです。[The fact that he is a good person is without question.]

WILD Examples

At 0:18, listen for this line: からないことばかりさ [There’s nothing but things that I can’t understand.] This is an example of こと as an ordinary noun. The context here is that there are many intangible things that Tarzan does not yet understand about humans. Another example occurs at 0:33: ぼくことおしえて [Teach me things about myself]
Listen to this line at 2:49: らないこと、やりたいこと、たくさんあるの [Things I want to know, things I want to do, there are many!]
Listen to this line from 1:30: なやんでいたことうそみたいで、だってもう自由じゆうよ、なんでもできる [The things I was worrying about seem to be lies, I’m free again after all, I can do anything]

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