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する / やる

する / やる

する / やる Japanese Grammar Lesson

Grammar Type: Irregular Verb

Essential Meaning: To do

Construction: Irregular Verb


  • It’s convenient to consider する as the Japanese version of the English verb “To do“. But depending on the context, する can also mean “To make” (e.g. “To make one’s room clean“), “To play” (e.g. “To play an instrument or a dramatic role“), or “To wear” (e.g. “To wear a necktie“), among other things.
  • Adjectives must be converted into an adverbial form when used before する.
    • E.g. はやくする [To do it quickly]
    • E.g. きれいにする [To do it cleanly]
  • Noun + に may precede する. In some cases, Xにする can mean “Decide on X” or “Make it X
    • E.g. 一男かずおはアメリカじんつまにした。[Kazuo made an American his wife.]
    • E.g. 寿司すしにします。[I’ll take the sushi (i.e. I’ve decided on sushi).]
    • E.g. 木口きぐち息子むすこ医者いしゃにした。[Kiguchi made his son into a doctor (i.e. Kiguchi caused his son to become a doctor).]
  • Articles of clothing can be used as the direct object of する when they are articles that cover a small part of the body (e.g. neckties, gloves, wristwatches, et cetera).
    • E.g. ネクタイをする [To wear a necktie]
  • Sino-Japanese する Verbs such as 勉強べんきょうする [To study] can be separated out into a verb and a direct object marked by the particle.
    • E.g. わたし中国語ちゅうごくご勉強べんきょうをする。[I am studying Chinese.]
    • E.g. ぼくはよくくるま運転うんてんをする。[I drive a car often.]
  • In addition to Sino-Japanese words, する is frequently used with English loan words and onomatopoeia / symbolic sound words.
    • E.g. ビクビクする [To be nervous]
    • E.g. はっとする [To do suddenly]
    • E.g. いらいらする [To be irritated]
    • E.g. キスする [To kiss]
  • In humble language, する can be used with the construction お~する. This can be made even more humble by converting する to its humble form いたす.
    • E.g. わたしがおみします。[I will read.] This sentence is humble.
    • E.g.みいたします。[I will read.] This sentence is extra humble.
  • する [To do] and なる [To become] form a transitivity pair even though they aren’t semantically related. なる comes across as passive, and する comes across as more active and causative. When conveying a change rather than an action, する indicates that the change occurs as a result of human agency or behavior, while なる indicates spontaneous, non-volitional change. That being said, in some cases, する and なる can be interchanged depending on the speaker’s intent.
    • E.g. ヤマダは停学ていがくになった。[Yamada got suspended from school.] In this case, なる indicates that Yamada is not an agent of the act of suspending; he is the passive recipient of the action.
    • E.g. 学校がっこう山田やまだ停学ていがくにした。[The school suspended Yamada.] In this case, する indicates that the school is the active agent that suspended Yamada.
    • E.g. ヤマダはほんくことになった。[It’s been decided that Yamada will write a book.] Again, なる indicates that Yamada is not the agent of the action. Click the hyperlink for further info on ことになる.
    • E.g. ヤマダはほんくことにした。[Yamada has decided to write a book.] する indicates that Yamada is an active agent.
    • E.g. 一年いちねん何回なんかいぐらい病気びょうきをしますか。[How many times do you make yourself sick in a year?] Typically, illness is considered to occur spontaneously (and thus pairs with なる), but する is acceptable when one is considered to cause illness through one’s behavior.
    • E.g. 一年いちねん何回なんかいぐらい病気びょうきになりますか。[How many times do you get sick in a year?]
  • する can be replaced by やる in the context of doing or playing something or in the context of performing a dramatic / social role. Sino-Japanese する Verbs can also take やる.
    • E.g. 中山なかやまさんはテニスをやる。[Nakayama-san plays tennis.]

Example Sentences:

中山なかやまさんはテニスをします。[Nakayama-san plays tennis.]

リーズさんは英語えいご先生せんせいをしている。[Mr. Leeds is an English teacher.]

先生せんせいはテストをやさしくした。[The teacher made the test easy.]

木口きぐち息子むすこ医者いしゃにした。[Kiguchi made his son into a doctor.]

わたし中国語ちゅうごくご勉強べんきょうしている。[I’m studying Japanese.]

京子きょうこはきれいなスカーフをしている。[Kyoko is wearing a pretty scarf.]

日本人にほんじんはたいてい土曜日どようび仕事しごとをする。[Japanese people usually work even on Saturdays.]

ビルはハムレットをするつもりだ。[Bill intends to play Hamlet.]

クリスは部屋へやをきれいにした。[Chris made her room clean.]

ぼくはよくくるま運転うんてんします。[I often drive a car.]

一男かずおはアメリカじんつまにした。[Kazuo made an American his wife.]

いいネクタイをしているね。[You’re wearing a nice tie, aren’t you?]

WILD Examples:

At :53, listen for the line: あなたの仲間なかまにしてください。[Make me a part of your group, please!]

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