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We can personify things. By using "want" with an inanimate object, it is personified:

An object with inertia wants to maintain its state of motion.

(Question) First, is it possible in Japanese for this kind of desiderative sentence to be formed?
If it is possible, do I use ~たい or ~たがる? Because according to Derek Schaab's answer to "When to use 欲しがる instead of 欲しい":

  • you cannot presume to know the intimate details of a third person's mental state

  • and even if you're 100% certain he wants, you can't say this directly.

Will an entity that does not hold volition take ~たがる when personified?

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If you did express this in Japanese, would it be an example of personification? –  snailboat Nov 14 '12 at 14:10
    
I do not know. I'm not sure if what happens in English will also happen in Japanese. –  Flaw Nov 14 '12 at 14:16
    
Oh, I'm sorry--I wasn't trying to make an analogy to English. I was actually thinking of how you can use いる with an inanimate object in Japanese: japanese.stackexchange.com/questions/2228/… –  snailboat Nov 14 '12 at 15:30

2 Answers 2

up vote 5 down vote accepted

You can definitely personify objects in Japanese.

慣性のある物体は運動状態を維持したがる

is not wrong per se, but firstly, it's obvious to the listener that a personification is going on, and secondly, the colloquial feeling that the personification creates might not go well with the scientific feel of the rest of the sentence. A more natural translation might be

慣性のある物体は運動状態を維持しようとする

When objects are personified in Japanese, it's probably more obvious to the listener than is the case in English, and therefore more restricted to colloquial/jocular use. But that doesn't mean it's uncommon. For example, it's quite common to use こいつ to refer to things, and somebody trying to be funny might even say このおっさん.

In the company where I work, I wouldn't find it strange if somebody complained about some software causing trouble by saying

こいつはいつも問題を起こしたがるんだよ

but the statement would be obviously jocular.

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I think using "want" in this way sounds weird even in English. Some better words to use would be "tends", "apt", or "inclined". This can be expressed as 〜傾向がある. Or if it is a negative tendency, 〜嫌いがある.

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