Is it a nuance difference? Is it formality?


For example:



I just made that example up, but for some reason, my gut tells me it's the first one, even though I don't see anything grammatically wrong with the second, either. Is it formality level only?

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    Actually, in your example situation, ~となる indicates a decision or a "rule" of sorts. "(It's our rule that) we only accept cash for the payment of the bill. Please understand."
    – istrasci
    Commented Jun 1, 2011 at 1:52
  • @istrasci - oooh, really? Do you have a reference on that? (I believe you, I just want to read up!)
    – makdad
    Commented Jun 1, 2011 at 2:42
  • Probably, but it's not in my grammar book where I was thinking it was. I'll keep looking. Actually, in this usage (as a "rule"), I think it's more common to see it as ~となっています.
    – istrasci
    Commented Jun 1, 2011 at 2:48
  • @istrasci  that sounds similar to ~ことになる (= "...it's been decided that). I'm not sure but I think you can also use it to state company policy and stuff like that. Is the construction you mention the same as that? or is it a different grammar point, with a different nuance?
    – Bruce
    Commented Dec 29, 2023 at 17:33

7 Answers 7


Pretty finely nuanced, I'd say. と is a quotative particle, but is also used to described the manner in which something is done, often figurative. ~となる can be used to mean "become like a ~" while ~になる is literally "become a ~".

  • right. Is と always quotatative though? What about とする?
    – makdad
    Commented May 31, 2011 at 23:50
  • @makdad- that's used for assumption. Say in a math text book when a problem is being set up or when you are role playing. Kind of similar to "let x be the complex conjugate of...", "let's say that..." or "assume...".
    – Nate Glenn
    Commented May 31, 2011 at 23:52
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    right, but there's also shiyou-to-suru. I don't think "to" is always quotative, right? Is the to-naru case one of its non-quotative usages?
    – makdad
    Commented Jun 1, 2011 at 0:33
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    @makdad right, not always quotative. There's also "and".
    – Nate Glenn
    Commented Jun 1, 2011 at 1:07
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    @makdad So the answer I gave above was the one given to me by a native Japanese teacher. I found another one in a grammar book. となるcan mean the same as になる but is more formal. For example, 吉田さんが初代の委員長となった。
    – Nate Glenn
    Commented Jun 1, 2011 at 8:25

I've asked this very question in the past and my research led me to the following definition which (surprisingly) differs from every other answer here so far:

~となる expresses a discrete change, while ~になる can express either a discrete or a continuous change.

You can feasibly use ~になる for everything, since it covers all cases, but in cases where you want to use the most suitable grammatical phrasing (such as in formal situations), you often see this distinction made.


その島は去年、無人島となった。 (~となる because the change from "inhabited" to "uninhabited" is discrete and happens the instant the last person leaves.)

デビューした後、彼はだんだん人気者になっていった。 (~になる because popularity changes continuously in unmeasurable steps.)

スカイツリーは現在、日本一高い建造物となっている。 (~となる because the title of "tallest building in Japan" applies to exactly one building, and a building cannot gradually become the tallest. It either is or it isn't.)

季節はこれから夏になっていく。 (~になる because the change in seasons is a gradual, progressive one.)

電線事故のため、新山口駅は終点となります。 (~となる because the title of "terminal station" only belongs to one station, and a station can't hold it partially.)

Your example in the question illustrates a discrete change in state (or more precisely, a discrete difference between 現金 and all other forms of payment), so both ~となる and ~になる are acceptable. However, since ~となる is "built" for such situations as these, it sounds more "proper" to use ~となる.

I suspect this rule also applies to the ~とする and ~にする forms, but I would have to do more research to confirm this.

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    +1 The clearest. But just one thing: 人気になる is ungrammatical. It has to be 人気者になる.
    – user458
    Commented Jul 19, 2011 at 4:54
  • Is it true that になる can be used for everything? For example, I learned 「X こととなると」 as a set phrase which means roughly "When it comes to X", used to explain an exception to the rule. Like "When it comes math, I just can't do it (but I'm good at everything else!)"
    – Zach
    Commented Jul 19, 2011 at 17:18
  • @Zach: I can't think of any ~となる situations that can't be handled with ~になる, so yes. 「Xこと なると」 is perfectly fine: こんなことになるとは思わなかった。 ("I never thought it would come to this."); 自分自身のことになると人は盲目になる。 ("When it comes to their own selves, people are blind."). Commented Jul 19, 2011 at 17:37
  • Well what about this: 走ることになると優しく疲れるようになる。 It seems to have a different meaning, or at least a different nuance, when using に than with と. With に, it sounds to me like "Whenever I start running, I get tired easily." Whereas with と, it sounds more like running is an exception to the rule, and many other types of activities don't make me tired. Am I wrong here? (It's certainly possible)
    – Zach
    Commented Jul 19, 2011 at 19:19
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    @Zach: I don't detect the same nuance you do here. From the standpoint of which is more common, you will find that ~になる is more common than ~となる, simply because it covers more cases. (~となる also sounds more "formal" to some speakers.) The phrase "走ることになると" is about five times more common than the phrase "走ることとなると" on Google (take with the usual dose of salt). (But the second half of your example sentence is unnatural. A better way to say that would be すぐ疲れてしまう or 疲れやすい. 優しく means "kindly" and 易しく (same reading) means "without difficulty", neither of which is what you mean here.) Commented Jul 19, 2011 at 20:01

From what I have learned and observed, ~となる implies a "suppose if" conditional, something similar to "suppose if it is the case that [X] would become [Y] then" where as ~になる simply means "[X] becomes [Y]".

「請求書のお支払いは現金のみとなりますので、ご了承くださいませ。」 would mean something like "Suppose if you need to pay your purchase by cash, we hope to get your understanding.". This implies that there are times that the shop does allow you to pay using other means than cash.

「請求書のお支払いは現金のみになりますので、ご了承くださいませ。」 lacks the "suppose if" connotation so it simply means "As a matter of fact, you need to pay your purchase by cash, so we hope to get your understanding.".

  • Great answer! I was having difficulty in trying to explain this one. When I could only say that the first one somehow gives you a degree of freedom, while in the second case, there's nothing you can do because of circumstances that's been predetermined, you managed to put it in comprehensible words!
    – syockit
    Commented Jun 2, 2011 at 0:38

~となる is also limited to nouns, I believe. The way I've heard it most often used is when the thing it becomes kind of fulfills some purpose. Kind of hard to explain. Here's my best example:

  • 私は先生になります → I will become a teacher.
  • 寄付となる金を貯金します → I deposit all money that will be (used for) donated.
  • But isn't ~になる also limited to nouns?
    – kandyman
    Commented Dec 13, 2018 at 10:50

I've heard that ~となります is popular to use because "it sounds formal", but actually its usage is incorrect, since です should be used instead. I'd guess that the same thing happens with になります、which would be just another form of saying です incorrectly (in this context).

Formalish way : 請求書のお支払いは現金のみとなりますので、ご了承くださいませ。

Correct way : 請求書のお支払いは現金のみですので、ご了承くださいませ。

Link: http://detail.chiebukuro.yahoo.co.jp/qa/question_detail/q1119559566

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    It is true that some people (including me :)) consider this usage of となります/になります to be incorrect, unless it means a change (of the allowed payment methods in this case). Some of them even say that they are annoyed by this usage. On the other hand, this usage is quite common nowadays, and its meaning is understood, so it seems to be a moot point discussing whether it is “correct” or not. All I can say is that I would avoid (or at least try to avoid) this usage and that I would not recommend this usage to others, but this is just a personal preference. Commented Jun 7, 2011 at 22:45
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    @TsuyoshiIto My personal feeling is that となります is "less wrong" than になります. While になります is obvious ファミコン語 (language used by employees at family restaurants and convenience stores), となります seems to be used broadly in more legit sources, often to imply a rule or an obligation, like in the example or e.g. 降車時のお支払いとなります (Please pay when you get off). I'm curious if this usage was taken into general use before になります, and that is why it "feels more legit".
    – dainichi
    Commented Jan 24, 2012 at 8:37
  • @dainichi: Thanks for the comment. I agree that …となります is sometimes used as a euphemism for a command or a request as in your example, but I think that …になります is also used in the same way. In addition, I am not sure if …と/になります which means a request is less wrong than …と/になります which is used in place of a copula (as in the original question). In all cases, …となる is considered either more formal or more polite than …になる, but this does not immediately imply that using と makes it less wrong. Commented Jan 24, 2012 at 14:37
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    @dainichi: Yes, in classical Japanese, they have the same 連体形 and different 終止形 as you said. I do not know if they share etymology or not, but I doubt that. Auxiliary verb なり arose from にあり (particle に + verb あり), whereas 終止形 of non-auxiliary verb なる was always なる and never なり if I am not mistaken. Commented Jan 26, 2012 at 12:54
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    No offence intended to wallyqs, but why is this answer being voted up? It is hearsay ("I've heard.."), speculation ("I'd guess..."), and ends with an admission that he doesn't actually know the answer. Apologies to wallyqs, but for those reasons I have voted this down.
    – kandyman
    Commented Jan 29, 2018 at 19:02

There's another distinction between になる and となる: when the resultant state of the change is irreversible or final, となる is preferable. See this related answer.


According to "A Dictionary of Intermediate Japanese", there are only 2 differences between になる and となる.

(1) となる is more formal and only used in written Japanese.

(2) となる cannot be used with な-adjectives.

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    となる cannot be used with な-adjectives -- 「きれいなる」「元気なる」とかはダメだなってわかるんですけど、「明らかなる」「必要なります」「重要なる」とかって結構聞きますよね・・実は誤用で、本来は「明らかなる」「必要なります」「重要なる」って言わないといけないとかですかね・・どうなんでしょうね・・
    – chocolate
    Commented Nov 8, 2017 at 4:19
  • @Chocolate yes, according to that dictionary at least, the correct usage is 「明らかになる」,「必要になります」, and「重要‌​になる」. It might be a case where the 'rule' is so subtle that even native speakers aren't aware of it.
    – kandyman
    Commented Nov 8, 2017 at 10:44
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    となる can be used in spoken language as well and there are several differences in nuance between the two.
    – a20
    Commented Jan 29, 2018 at 11:31
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    @bjorn What are the differences and what is your source?
    – kandyman
    Commented Jan 29, 2018 at 18:58

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