How to say "have a child" (= to be or become a parent) in Japanese?

For instance in a sentence such as "We are planning to have child/baby".

Can we say "子供をする" or "子供が欲しいです"?

1 Answer 1


Just as in English, there are multiple ways to say the same thing in Japanese:

  • 子供ができる to (be able to) have children. できる is the potential-form of する, which denotes ability, but when put into past tense it can simply be a statement of result. Ex. 同僚に子供ができました would mean "my coworker had a child" and not "my coworker had (been able to) have a child". Although you could argue that these two sentences mean the same thing even in English, and Japanese should literally translate to the latter.
  • 子供を作る to make a child (You wanna say 子供を作る instead of 子供をする. The latter isn't natural)
  • 子供を迎える to welcome a child
  • 子供を産む to give birth to a child

子供が欲しい, of course, means "I want children", and the meaning isn't the same as "to have a child". But yes this is probably the most natural way to say "I want a child". Alternatively you could say 子供を作りたい, ex. あなたと子供を作りたい (I wanna have/make children with you)

Instead of 子供(children), 赤ちゃん(baby) can be used in all the phrases above as well.


I want to expand a little on the discussion about できる indicating potentiality in its present tense but indicates a state of result in its past tense できた. In fact, the Japanese verb できる can be considered a one-to-one correspondent of the English verbal phrase "to be able to", which, if you haven't noted, also indicates potentiality in its present tense but indicates a state of result in its past tense.

I am able to build a house.
Intended meaning: I have the ability, it is potential for me to build a house.

I was able to build a house this summer.
Intended meaning: I did build a house this summer.
Not: During this summer, I had the ability to build a house.

When you put "to be able to" in its past tense, the intended meaning is that the thing is already done as a result, not just that you are have the capability with no indication on the result.

The same logic goes for Japanese できる. When you say 子供ができる, it means you have the ability to have a child, but when you say 子供ができた, it means "were able to have a child", aka "did have a child"

The same goes for negative:

彼女に子供ができない She is not able have a child(She is not capable)
去年、彼女に子供ができなかった She was not able to have a child last year(She tried, but she failed. She is not necessarily not capable of pregnancy, it's just that as the "state of result" she did not have a child last year. Maybe she will this year.)

  • 1
    Good break down of the implications of the past-potential in both languages. Jun 30, 2023 at 20:55
  • 1
    This is a great answer. I do wonder, though, which of these would be most useful in announcing a future birth, which would correspond to "We're having a baby!" in English.
    – jogloran
    Jun 30, 2023 at 23:05
  • 1
    @jogloran Probably 子供を迎える.
    – istrasci
    Jul 1, 2023 at 15:42
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    @jogloran - 子供が産まれる if you don't want to use 妊娠. Though ambiguous, 子供ができた can also mean the same.
    – aguijonazo
    Jul 1, 2023 at 21:40
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    @UriGreenberg - When used for a person (not fish), 子持ち normally refers to someone who already has a child.
    – aguijonazo
    Jul 1, 2023 at 21:41

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