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Is my understanding of こと correct?

Japanese Language Asked by Toyu_Frey on December 20, 2020

While translating a book, I noticed early on that こと is often used as a nominalizer when its placed behind a dictionary-form verb and written in hiragana. Having jumped back on the translation bandwagon during covid, I re-noticed this while looking over my early translation notes, such as the use of こと in the following excerpt from said notes.

(1) ともかく、 逃げきることだけを考えよう。

Anyhow, my only thoughts are of escape.

(2) そんなことを考えてる僕の耳に、銀髪の外国人の忍{しの}び笑いが聞こえてきた。

Thinking over such things, I accidently hear the silver-haired foreigner’s muffled laughter.

Is this observation of こと acting as a nominalizer if it is placed behind a dictionary-form verb and written in hiragana correct, or merely coincidental?

Edit: I am certain こと doesn’t work as a nominalizer if placed behind a adjective (pre-noun adjectivals excluded from exemption), as in the second excerpt above, however, any clarification provided if my guess is wrong would be much appreciated.

One Answer

Not quite sure what you are asking here. You are correct that こと is a nominaliser in sentence 1), and you are correct that it simply means 'thing(s)' in sentence 2).

I may have misunderstood. You seem to be suggesting that maybe こと is always a nominaliser when it comes after a verb and is never a nominaliser when it comes after an adjective. But I don't think either of these statements is generally true. For example 言ったこと could be "the thing I said" rather than "saying", and 安いこと could be "the fact that it's cheap" rather than "a cheap thing".

From a strictly grammatical point of view I don't know where to draw the line in terms of calling something a nominaliser but, personally, it doesn't help me to think in this way anyway. I just think of こと as a noun which gets modified by a relative clause. The noun can mean 'thing', 'act', 'case' etc and the context determines which is most appropriate.

In your first sentence こと may well be a nominaliser but you can just translate it as the noun 'act' in this case. What kind of act? 逃げきること = the act of escaping = escaping.

Here's an example with an adjective:

高いことを気にしない。
I don't care that it's expensive.

In this sentence こと is a nominaliser but you can just think of it as the noun 'fact'. What kind of fact? The fact that it's expensive.

Correct answer by user3856370 on December 20, 2020

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