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I often hear both of the following phrases:

彼氏が出来る

彼氏を作る

Both of them seem to mean the same thing(?). Why is it that 作る is used in this way? I had previously thought 作る meant to "create" or "make" something. Does this mean that the two phrases differ?

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Probably you know that ラーメンができる and ラーメンを作る are different. –  Gradius Aug 9 '12 at 6:13
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Ah~~ we say 「アタシも頑張って彼氏作らなきゃ~!」(I have to find a bf too!) but not 「アタシも頑張って彼氏出来なきゃ!」, and 「私、彼氏出来たんですよ♡」(←This is exactly what one of my friends said to me last week :D) not 「私、彼氏作ったんですよ♡」 –  Choko Aug 9 '12 at 9:48
    
I think using the 作った in the past tense might carry a criticizing tone, like...「うちの旦那、女作って貢いでたのよ!」「妻は、男を作って出て行きました」 –  Choko Aug 9 '12 at 9:56

2 Answers 2

up vote 2 down vote accepted

With the help of everybody's comments and examples, I think the difference to relates to the degree of "control" the speaker wishes to convey. In this case does the speaker wish to emphasise the woman's ability to find a boyfriend or the other factors that are also involved? (eg "money can't buy love"):

The use of 作る to emphasise the subjects active influence is consistent with the above examples:

  1. 「アタシも頑張って彼氏作らなきゃ~!」

    "I have to find a bf too!"

  2. 彼氏を作るために、クラブでナンパした

    She flirted with guys in clubs to get a boyfriend

出来る (which has to be used with ように not ために)conveys the importance of other factors beyond the person's control that can determine the final result (such as mutual interest from the intended partner). You could apply the same principle to:

3. 「赤ちゃんができた」

   She is pregnant.

4. 「30歳まで子供を作りたくない」

  "I don't want to have a child before I'm thirty."

Most dictionaries assign a large number of uses/meanings to both verbs. In the Apple dictionary: あの二人は出来ているらしいis translated as "They seem to be in love with each other" or " They seem to be on intimate terms with each other" (emphasizing a physical relationship). 男を作る is defined as "become involved with a man/ have [take] a lover" but having the same meaning as 友達を作る、"to make friends".

出来る is also assigned the more general meaning of "come in to existence" (生じる/生まれる in the Apple dictionary) which emphasises a change of state. It is also close to its use to say the equivalent of "He(A boyfriend) came into her life", or "I was able to find a boyfriend" in the same way that 英語ができる means "I can speak English": in both cases the verbs "find" and "speak" can be inferred.

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Just looking at the verbs, it looks like:

  • 彼氏ができる: to have a boyfriend, to reach the state where one has a boyfriend (often used in conversation as "彼氏ができた", meaning "I now have a boyfriend.")

  • 彼氏を作る: to act so as to have a boyfriend. I've never heard it, but it would imply that some involvement is necessary, or that dating is an objective: eg, 彼氏を作るために、クラブでナンパした (she flirted with guys in clubs in order to have a boyfriend)

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1  
I'd say "find/search for a boyfriend" for 作る. And I kind of think the former would mostly appear in past tense, and the latter in non-past tense. Maybe you could say something like, 出来るまで or 作ってた, but for the most part I think you'd hear 出来た and 作る. (Insert "not a native speaker" disclaimer here.) –  SomethingJapanese Aug 9 '12 at 8:34
    
I always thought 出来た was taking the meaning of either "come in to existence" (生じる/生まれる in the Apple dictionary) equivalent to the English "He(A boyfriend) came into her life", or "I was able to find a boyfriend" in the same way that 英語ができる means "I can speak English": in both cases the verbs "find" and "speak" can be inferred. –  Tim Aug 9 '12 at 9:34
    
However I have also just noticed both are identified under separate meanings in the Apple dictionary: あの二人は出来ているらしいis translated as "They seem to be in love with each other" or " They seem to be on intimate terms with each other" (emphasizing a physical relationship). 男を作る is defined as "become involved with a man/ have [take] a lover" but having the same meaning as 友達を作る、"to make friends". I am not sure if this answers your question but I hope it helps. –  Tim Aug 9 '12 at 9:58
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(1) I am not sure if “have a boyfriend” describes the meaning of 彼氏ができる correctly. 彼氏ができる means the change of state from not having a boyfriend to having a boyfriend. (2) 彼氏を作る includes both involvement (do something to have a boyfriend) and result (have a boyfriend as a result), not just the former. –  Tsuyoshi Ito Aug 9 '12 at 12:34
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Why...., because everyone says so. 友達を作る, 男/女を作る, 敵を作る, and so on. If you look up in a Japanese dictionary, you can find a lot of meanings. –  Gradius Aug 9 '12 at 16:57

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