JLPT N4 Grammar: Battle of the Nominalizers (no and koto) 1 of 2

JLPT N4 Grammar Nominalizers battling it out

Koto vs. No, Who will Win?

Nominalizers are these handy little grammar items that convert verbs or sometimes entire sentences into a noun. In some ways these resemble the ‘that’ clause in English. They can be very useful when you want to speak about an action as a noun.

For example, if you wanted to talk about reading blogs, you would say the following:

I like reading blogs.

You took an action ‘to read blogs’ and changed it into a noun. That’s called ‘nominalizing’. Pretty cool, huh?

Well, the problem is that in Japanese, there are two main nominalizers, and こと. You can use them both in a lot of situations to nominalize a verb. For example,

ブログをむ(こと・の)がきです。 (I like reading blogs.)

ほんってる(こと・の)をわすれた。 (I forgot to bring my book.)

かれる(こと・の)をっている。 (I know he is coming.)

There are some key differences between these two though. Let’s start with first.

How to use the (no) nominalizer

The particle can be used to nominalize any verb just like こと。However, there are some situations in which you can only use .

Situation 1) 知覚動詞 (ちかくどうし) (verbs of perception)

You must use the nominalizer (no) with verbs of perception. The most often used verbs of perception are る、える、く、こえる, がつく and かんじる. Let’s look at some examples:

むすめが ピアノを ひいて いるのを た。(I watched my daughter play the piano.)

いぬが しゅくだいを べて いるのが える。 (I saw the dog eating my homework.)

むすめが ピアノを ひいて いるのを いた。(I listened to my daughter play the piano.)

かぜが ふいて いるのが こえる。 (I hear the wind blowing.)

あめが ふって いるの がついた。 (I noticed it was raining.)

元気げんきが でるの かんじる。 (I feel my spirit/energy appear.)

NOTE: To convey perceptions of feeling or touching ~のがさわると分かる is usually used. This literally means you can understand when() touching.

Situation 2) other collocations

The nominalizer (no) has another set of verbs that it collocates with. Collocations are two words that are good friends, they like to hang out together. If you try to pair them with something else it just sounds weird. The nominalizer collocates with める, , 手伝てつだ,and じゃまする.

テレビゲームをするのを めて ください。 (Stop playing video games please.)

ドアが くのを って ください。 (Please wait for the door to open.)

さらを あらうのを 手伝てつだいましょう。(I’ll help wash the dishes.)

勉強べんきょう するのを じゃました。(I interrupted your studying.)

That’s it for the first part of this series. I’ll finish up こと next week.

Action Steps

1) Can you make sentences with の?What did you see, watch, listen to, or hear recently?

2) Let me know in the comments below.

Image by Jackie, available under the Creative Commons 2.0 Generic License

{ 27 comments… add one }
  • Kaxxina May 4, 2011, 1:41 pm

    “本を持つ(こと・の)を忘れた。 (I forgot to bring my cellphone.)” 本 = cellphone?

    • Mac May 5, 2011, 3:41 am

      Great sentence!

      Japanese usually use 携帯 (keitai – lit. portable) for cellphone or 携帯電話 (keitai denwa – lit. portable phone) for formal documents or writing.

      So for the sentence ‘I forgot to bring my cellphone.’ You would say:

      携帯を持つ (こと・の) を忘れた。

      Thanks for commenting Kaxxina!

      • Kouun May 23, 2011, 12:39 am

        Hey MAC, thank you for all the information on this site.

        In reference to this post though, I believe what the original commenter above me was trying to say is that in the actual text of your post, you wrote 「本を持つ(こと・の)を忘れた。」, which should translate as “I forgot to bring my BOOK.”, but you have translated in your post as “I forgot to bring my CELLPHONE.”

        I feel I should also mention that I don’t think it is common to use only 持つ to mean “bring”. In every example I can think of, you must use either 来る or 行く in conjunction with 持つ in order to have the meaning of “bring”. Thus I think it might be better if the example sentence you use is 「本を持って来る(こと・の)を忘れた。」

        And (I really apologize for being picky, but) one more small thing: in your example sentence 「ブログを読む(こと・の)は好きです。」 (I like reading blogs.), I think it is probably strange to use は before 好き. The particle は can be used with 好き under special circumstances, but in normal contexts such as the example sentence you use, が is usually used with 好き. This comes from personal experience with the language, but you can find many examples online or in an electric dictionary.

        Thank you again for your work here! I’m currently studying for the N1, so I’m sure I’ll be back to look around.

        • Mac May 23, 2011, 1:18 pm

          I have officially smacked myself in the head for this one. A big oops from me and a big thanks to you Kouun for catching my mistakes.

          I read back over those sample sentences and thought to myself, ‘what was I thinking?’. I guess I’ve gotten into a bad habit of dropping the 来る when I forget things, which happens to be quite often. Thanks for correcting me, and you can be as picky as you like. One of the best ways to learn something is through making mistakes right?

          A big どうも ありがとう ございます to you my friend!

          Thanks for the comments and compliments and critiques! Good luck on N1!

  • GO June 19, 2011, 9:19 am

    彼が部屋にはいているのが見える

    kare ga heya ni haite iru no ga mieru.

    i saw him go into the room

    • Mac June 19, 2011, 10:38 am

      Great sentence Go. Everything is correct except the last part -> 見えた to mean ‘saw’ – past tense. Oops. 😉

  • Geckomayhem July 1, 2011, 6:34 am

    I hope the following sentence is a good example. I’m struggling to get my mind around this whole nominaliser concept.

    現在、日本語能力試験N4勉強する(こと。の)です。
    げんざい、にほんごのうりょくしけんN4べんきょうする(こと。の)です。
    I am currently studying for the N4 JLPT (JLPT N4?).

    • Mac July 2, 2011, 12:52 pm

      “I am currently studying for the JLPT N4” would be:

      今は 日本語能力試験N4を 勉強(を) しています。

      If you use ことだ or ことです at the end of a sentence, it is actually a suggestion, for example:

      水を 飲む ことです。 You should drink water. (it requires context though)

      You’ll see this grammar point supposedly at N3 level (although, upon asking around, this sentence seems to sound a bit strange by itself to native speakers. It should be used in conversation or something with context)

      I hope that all helps!

  • Mark November 14, 2011, 12:49 am

    This seems hard! Is
    彼はJLPTをするの話す。
    Okay? As in, he says he will do the jlpt?
    (now that I look at it it looks sort of wrong!)

    • Mac November 17, 2011, 3:24 pm

      You could say casually: 彼はJLPTを受けるのを話す。 We would usually use 受ける to mean ‘take’ or ‘do’ the test, and we still need the object marking particle を to mark the object.

  • Shi January 19, 2012, 4:53 pm

    Thanks for putting this up. It really helps. I’m not sure if these are right…my brain is mush right now. Please let me know. Thanks again!

    主人が料理をするのがたべました。
    I ate the dinner my husband made.

    主人がビデオゲームを買ったのが遊んだ。
    I played the video game my husband bought.

    Please correct me, but can I use both の and こと in the same sentence?

    私の犬のコディが寝ているのが見ることが好きです。
    I like to watch my dog Cody sleep.

    • Mac January 27, 2012, 1:26 am

      Sorry for coming a little late to the party here but, I got some corrections for you:

      First,

      主人が料理をするのがたべました。is a little off.

      が is the subject marker, so that means whatever comes before it is doing the action. So this sentence would sound something like ‘My husbands cooking ate’.

      To say ‘I ate the dinner my husband made.’, you can say 主人が作った料理を食べました。 (lit. I ate the meal my husband made.)

      or

      主人の料理を食べました。 would be most natural/conversational.

      主人がビデオゲームを買ったのが遊んだ。 is kind of the same thing. This would loosely translate as ‘I enjoyed that my husband bought a game.’

      I think you want to use a relative clause:

      主人が買ったビデオゲームで遊んだ。 or 主人が買ったビデオゲームを楽しんだ。

      The last sentence is really close, just need to change the particle:

      私の犬のコディが寝ているの見ることが好きです。

      and yes, の and こと can generally be used in the same sentence WHEN they are used as nominalizers. There are a variety of phrases that have different meanings depending on whether you use の or こと though. You’ll start to see those in N3 and above.

  • bazz April 24, 2012, 12:00 am

    俺は友達がギターを弾いているのが聞いた。

    • Mac May 14, 2012, 1:46 pm

      This sentence is pretty close, but you need an object particle for the nominializer clause. So the sentence would be:

      俺は友達がギターを弾いているのを聞いた。

      Because in this sentence 僕 is the subject/topic doing the action (liking the guitar playing).

      I always get those screwed up too.

  • Bree January 25, 2014, 2:37 pm

    Hi, could you please explain when it’s appropriate to use ga vs. wo with normalisers. For example, with the sentence I saw the dog eating my homework, you use ga but I too found it appropriate to use wo as you normally would when following the noun wo verb sentence structure (i.e. tenisu wo suru). It would mean a lot if you could clarify this!

    • Clayton MacKnight January 26, 2014, 12:00 am

      Do you mean using wo and ga in the normalized clause? or in the whole sentence? Could you give an example in Japanese?

  • Kelly June 16, 2014, 10:51 pm

    Hmmmm, I find normalizes hard but here we go:

    MY ATTEMPT (and i use attempt loosely)

    私の弟はゲムを遊ぶのを聞くことがきらいです。
    I hate listening to my brother play games

    BOOM! My brain is one big Japanese scrambled membrane.

    • Clayton MacKnight November 28, 2017, 2:48 pm

      You would have to express it a little differently:

      私は 弟が ゲームを している{の・音}を 聞くのが きらいです。

      I don’t like the sound that my brother’s game is making.

  • Shenrais October 25, 2014, 11:24 pm

    Let me try one. As I have amazing trouble with grammar in general.

    1.私の料理のは私の町で有名だよ (My cooking is famous in my town)

    2.彼を戦いで殺すのは私たちのために良いでしょう(To kill(killing) him in battle would be good for us)

    3.神を信じるのは一番に重要である(Believing in God is the most important thing)

    I seem to have trouble with these so… yea.

    • Clayton MacKnight November 28, 2017, 2:55 pm

      Just a few changes:

      1 -> 私の料理は 私の町で(は) 有名だよ。
      2 -> 彼を 戦いで殺す(こと・の)は 私たちのために 良いでしょう。
      3 -> 神を信じる(こと・の)は 一番(に) 重要である。

      こと is more written and の is more spoken basically. For #1, you don’t need の or こと after する verbs like 料理. For #3, the に particle is optional for 一番, especially in spoken Japanese.

      A great trio of sentences! You really mixed it up there. Good work!

  • Kiersten October 12, 2017, 8:08 pm

    Thank you so much for posting an article like this. I found it incredibly helpful

  • Anon December 13, 2017, 1:18 am

    Isn’t the kun’yomi reading for 待 = ま?


    ドアが 開くのを 待って ください。 (Please wait for the door to open.)

    The ruby element says it is も

  • Migisan May 12, 2018, 11:08 am

    Sumimasen ga…
    ドアが 開くのを 待って ください.

    Kono reibun ha doushite kiku tsukau desuka?
    Tokiakashite kudasai masenka?
    Onegaishimasu… 🙂

    • Migisan May 12, 2018, 8:45 pm

      I just find the kanji meaning thanks anyways… 😉

Leave a Comment