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While attempting to translate the sentence "It will soon be two years since I started learning Japanese", I started wondering how になります works in the context of time. Ignoring any other translation errors, is になります the correct word to use at the end of the sentence

日本語を勉強し始めてからもうすぐ二年になります

For some reason, the になります sounds like it is incorrect. My main reason for using になります is in order to keep the 'becoming' part of the original sentence. Something like

日本語を勉強し始めたのは二年前のことです

holds a vaguely similar meaning, but is more like "I started learning Japanese two years ago"

Is my usage of になります here correct, and is it common to use it when talking about time?

I often hear my friends say もうすぐ10時ですね, but is it also correct to say もうすぐ10時になりますね? Even typing that, it seems as though it can't be correct, perhaps because になります needs some sort of state to transfer into? The sentence もうすぐ10時になりますから、そろそろ帰りましょうか seems like an appropriate usage, but I really don't know.

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2 Answers 2

up vote 9 down vote accepted

Your first sentence had grammatical mistakes irrelevant to the question, so I fixed it.

  • 日本語を勉強し始めてからもうすぐ二年になります
  • もうすぐ10時になりますね

are both correct. なります does not need some state to transfer into. It can be just an instantaneous event, like 'becoming 10 o'clock'.

The sentence

× もうすぐ10時になりますから、そろそろ帰りましょうか
'Since it will be 10 o'clock soon, let's leave.'

is strange under the intended context because the first part means that it is not 10 o'clock yet, but the second part is suggesting to leave which is conditioned by becoming 10 o'clock. The correct way is to say

○ もうすぐ10時になりますから、そろそろ帰る仕度をしましょうか
'Since it will be 10 o'clock soon, let's prepare to leave.'

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When someone says もうすぐ10時になりますから、そろそろ帰りましょうか, probably he/she has to leave before 10 o’clock. Maybe he/she wants to catch the train at 10 o’clock? –  Tsuyoshi Ito Jul 31 '11 at 15:20
    
"to leave which is conditioned by becoming 10 o'clock". Where do you get this from? –  dainichi Jun 1 '12 at 3:34
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Using になります in the context of time, and any other numeric scale is perfectly correct.

You can actually think of it as "some sort of state" has been reached. Perhaps all the previous examples you've encountered so far were about someone/something becoming a particular person or thing, like:

state: development stage of frogs target state: frog

オタマジャクシからカエルになる turn from a tadpole into a frog

It's just about the same thing with time:

state: current time of day target state: lunch time

もうすぐお昼の時間になる。 Soon, it will become time for lunch.

or money:

state: amount of total price target state: a million yen

合わせて100万円になります。 So, to sum it all together, it amounts to a million yen.

or length:

state: length of a snout target state: 18 ft.

あの鼻の長さはほとんど18フィートになります。 That snout is nearly 18 ft. long.

or the time since something:

state: time since the start of JLU target state: two months

JLUが始まってから、もう2ヶ月になります。 It's already two months since JLU started.

However, although I've said it's "perfectly correct," it's also context dependent. Because there's a slight emphasis on the changing aspect when you say になります, "もうすぐ10時ですね" is more natural if you just want to announce that it's almost 10 o'clock. On the other hand, "もうすぐ10時になりますね" can suggest that the event of time turning 10 o'clock has been anticipated, perhaps because something ends or starts at that time, or you have to leave by then.

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