Ok, still a newbie to Japanese. I've run across the word こと more and more recently. I'm having a hard time understanding what effect it's having on the sentence. For example, although I know the meaning of all the sentences below, I can't tell you what こと means or what it's doing to the sentence. Can someone give me some insight into its meaning? Thanks. See examples below

最初は国道を走りましたが、混んでいましたので、高速道路で行くことにしました。 First I took the National Road, but traffic was heavy, so we decided to take the subway.

トラックを追い越すことは難しいです It’s hard to pass trucks.

静岡辺りでスピード違反でパトカーに捉まってしまいました。すごい罰金を払うことになりました Around Shizuoka, we were stopped by a police car for speeding. I had to pay a huge fine.

雨が降っていましたから、地下鉄で行くことにしました Because it was raining, I decided to go by subway


Syntactically こと is a nominalizer in all these sentences, i.e. it turns a verb into a noun by simple concatenation (e.g. 行くこと, 行く modifies こと).


  • [verb]+ことにする is a set phrase and means "to decide to [verb]"
  • [verb]+ことになる is also a set phrase and means "to turn out that [verb]".

[verb]ことは難しいです just means "[verb]ing is difficult" or "it is difficult to [verb]".

Another nominalizer in Japanese is の. For a difference in usage see this question.

  • 1
    [verb]のは難しいです: Not to be confused with 連用形+にくい.
    – istrasci
    Oct 21 '13 at 19:27
  • Very nice job breaking it into the syntax and semantics. Oct 21 '13 at 21:44

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