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I am aware of the generic English translation: In this case, "device" or "to devise" in English, but this does not really help me out. In what context would you use this word? 例文 would really be appreciated. Thank you!

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+1 I remember when I was studying in Japan, our teacher taught us this word. We asked what 工夫する meant, and she just kept saying "工夫の意味は「device」なので、「する」を付けると動詞になります". None of us knew how to explain that there is no clear verb form of "device" lol –  Ataraxia Sep 6 '13 at 19:32

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It is not an intuitively obvious word but if you look at the following examples you should be able to work out how to use it as verb to devise, contrive or invent:

「新しい方法を—する」|To come up with a new way

これは私が工夫したのです|This is my own invention. / I thought this up myself.

何とか工夫してみましょう|I'll see if I can't come up with something.

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Usually used when ingenuity is involved. Example sentences (with translations) are available on Space ALC, for example

その映画には、新しい工夫が無数にこらされている。
There is an enormous amount of invention in the film.

ちょっとした工夫を必要とする
require a little ingenuity

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So would you mostly use 工夫 for describing inventions, like Mr. Bell did with the telephone? 「ベルさんは電話を工夫した。」 Or is it more like "I came up with an idea to improve certain things?" –  Ben Sep 7 '13 at 1:06
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@Ben In my experience, invented the telephone would be 電話を発明した rather than 電話を工夫した. –  snailboat Sep 7 '13 at 1:37

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