I'm a little confused as to the role that する is playing in phrases like はっきりとした and はっきりしている I know this is classed as a する verb, but it still doesn't make sense in the same way that nouns used with する do. How exactly do you translate these instances? Any answers appreciated, thanks.


2 Answers 2


The best translation of this usage of する would depend on the preceding adverb and the context.

With はっきり, it would be either "become" or "turn". The same goes for other adverbs such as しっとり、くっきり, etc. that, as はっきり, describe a state of a non-animate thing.

With adverbs like すっきり、どきどき、すかっと that describe a human sensation, "feel" would be the verb choice for translation.

BTW, you probably have a good book and/or teacher because you are using the word "adverb" correctly in discussing Japanese grammar. I say this because I have met so many Japanese learners who call words like はやく and たかく "adverbs" when those are merely conjugated adjectives.

  • So "slowly" isn't really an adverb, just a conjugated version of the "slow" adjective.
    – Kaz
    Oct 29, 2013 at 6:42
  • @Kaz: You have to understand a difference between English and Japanese. In English, adjectives do not have an inflected form that works like adverbs. For example, slowly is not an inflected form of adjective slow, but an adverb derived from adjective slow. In Japanese, adjectives have an inflected form that works like adverbs. Oct 30, 2013 at 3:57
  • @TsuyoshiIto I think I know what you mean because although we sometimes think of, say, hayaku as an adverb ("hayaku hashiru"), if we want to say that something became fast (i.e. came on to have the adjective property of speed!) it is hayaKU natta: the same form as the adverbial use. Plus, it looks like any ajective can inflect to that form, including things that can't be derived into adverbs in English, like aoi -> aoku (no "became bluely").
    – Kaz
    Oct 30, 2013 at 5:48

Such words are not really adverbs, but mimetic words (擬態語 / gitaigo) or onomatopoeia (擬音語 / giongo, for those that correspond to actual sounds). They may be used as adjectives, adverbs, or even verbs. For example:

  • はっきりと話す (speak plainly) - adverb
  • はっきりとした赤と青 (clear red and blue) - adjective
  • 記憶をはっきりさせる (refresh one's memory) - verb

Some gitaigo may be used like nouns:

  • びしょびしょになる (become wet)

The topic of gitaigo words is generally kind of glanced over in many books but it is very important and can improve your understanding of the language quite a lot. There is a very nice post over at Nihon Shock describing it in more detail but I'll just mention that gitaigo words can take one of three forms:

1) doubling: いらいら, くすくす, どきどき, にこにこ etc.
2) と ending: にこっと, そっと, ちゃんと, ちょっと, ぼーっと etc.
3) り ending: がっかり, しっかり, ゆっくり, はっきり.

They may be often written in katakana, especially for actual onomatopoeia (representing sound).

There's a nice gitaigo dictionary at NihongoResources.

  • So, adverb + とした makes it an adjective? so here, it's acting like 元気な人. Are there any dictionary's or resources that cover that use, or is it something I should just accept as it is? This use, and also the use adverb + している use that get me the most. Any way, thanks to you and the person above for your responses.
    – user4096
    Oct 27, 2013 at 18:35
  • While I was already aware of the most of the info in the first part of the link you gave me, the second part was pretty helpful. Though, I'm still unsure how to treat something that translates as "clearly, distinctly" as a verb. はっきりしている= "doing clearly, distinctly,"?...
    – user4096
    Oct 28, 2013 at 7:30
  • @Skochinsky Sheer nonsense. I learned Japanese grammar in Japanese schools and you obviously did not. Look up these words in a good monolingual dictionary and you will find that they are labeled as 副詞.
    – user4032
    Oct 28, 2013 at 11:58

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