My book says that "koto" can convert verbs into nouns. It can also convert adjectives and adverbial nouns, but what does that mean? It gives examples like:

Tori o tsukamaeru koto wa kantan ja nai?

Watashi wa kare ga nihon e itta koto o nd dare date boku ga atama ga warui koto ot shitteru

The book says "koto" means "thing", "fact", or "matter".

How exactly do you use "koto"?

  • I presume your book says that koto is used to convert verbs into nouns, right? Commented Dec 20, 2013 at 3:35
  • yes what I want to know is how exactly to use it in a conversation
    – Arturo
    Commented Dec 20, 2013 at 3:39
  • thank you very much for separating and explaining. Sorry but book also says it converts adjectives and adjectival nouns, how does that work, I understand the nouns now, the other example is watashi wa kare ga nihon e itta koto o nd dare date boku ga atama ga warui koto ot shitteru thanks for your patience sensei
    – Arturo
    Commented Dec 20, 2013 at 3:59
  • 2
    Hi @Arturo, could you check the spelling on your last example one more time? Some of the words seem incorrect and it makes it hard to understand the example.
    – Troyen
    Commented Jan 26, 2014 at 9:03

5 Answers 5


tori wo tsukamaeru
"I catch birds."
"I will catch the bird."

This is a full sentence, as you can see in the English meanings provided.

tori wo tsukamaeru koto
"catching birds"

When you add koto on the end, it becomes a noun.

Since it is a noun, you can use as part of a larger sentence:

tori wo tsukamaeru koto ha kantan ja nai
"Catching birds is not simple."

  • 4
    There are other meanings of koto -- I only talked about the one you were asking about in this answer. Commented Dec 20, 2013 at 3:45
  • oh realy do you mind telling me them, if no that's ok I'll look for them on my own, its cause it's not clear yet how to use koto, by your explanation I know you change it to catching, eating, and so on, but thanks anyway
    – Arturo
    Commented Dec 20, 2013 at 4:03

How about this:

彼女たちは 日本語を 勉強したことが あります。
Kanojo-tachi wa nihon-go o benkyō shita koto ga arimasu.
Them girls studied Japanese at least once.

  • "koto" turns every thing preceding it into a substantive (noun) clause.
  • "ga arimasu" indicates that the subject exists in at least one instance.

I'll put something up from the book I'm reading, Teach Yourself Books C. J. Dunn and S. Yanada Japanese (first printed 1958, impression 1973):

In lesson 7 (p. 29)

"A standardized adjectival clause is used as one of the ways of expressing the idea of "being able". Thus yomu koto ga dekimasu is equivalent to "I can read"; in other words, to add the idea of "being able" to any verb, put the plain form of the verb before the expression kota ga dekimasu. Thus, to give another example, Eigo o hanasu koto ga dekimasu can be translated as "Can you speak English?" The expression koto ga dekimasu is best thought of as idiomatic; koto is "an abstract thing" and dekimasu, or dekiru, to use the dictionary form, as we shall henceforth when referring to a verb, is a word of wide meaning, including such as "is made", "is produced", "is possible"; you may thus think of yomu koto ga dekimasu as "a reading thing is possible" or "reading is possible", but it is probably better not to analyse the meanings of the expressions such as this. However, the construction composed of a verb followed by koto is a useful one, for it can be used to translate English verbal noun ending in "-ing". Thus yomu koto is "reading", oyogu koto, "swimming", hanasu koto, "speaking", e.g., Nihongo o hanasu koto wa muzukashii desu. Speaking Japanese is difficult. Or It is difficult to speak Japanese."

I am here to further my understanding of this noun.

(Glossary: koto n. (abstract) thing, fact)

I recommend looking up the definition for idiomatic. This is probably why it is hard to translate because there is not a literal meaning that is necessarily obvious. This book gave me some useful examples, but even so I need more examples before I can truly understand koto.


Darius' example above is right. But, you can also use KOTO as follows. Anyone, please correct me if the below translations are wrong.

かのじょ たち は 日本 ご を べんきょう した こと が あり. - She (all) HAD DONE the thing of studying Japanese.

かれ の かお は 見た こと が あり ます. - I HAD DONE the thing of looking at his face.

MP 3 プレーヤー を つかった こと が あり ます か? - HAD you DONE (did you do) the thing of using the MP3 player?

Past tense + koto = HAD DONE THE ACTION OF something.

  • 1
    I don't think ~たことがある should be translated with the past perfect tense. E.g. 彼の顔は見たことがあります should be more along the lines of I have seen his face (before/already). The past perfect tense seems to fit well for ~たことがあった, though.
    – Earthliŋ
    Commented Dec 14, 2014 at 12:17

 ・[名詞a noun]が できます。           ga dekimasu.   ・[動詞a verb辞書形dictionary-form]ことが できます。                      koto ga dekimasu.

        能力ability・可能the possible

      例 スキーが できます / およぐことが できます。

        Sukii ga dekimasu / Oyogu koto ga dekimasu

・[しゅみ/しごと]は [動詞a verb辞書形dictionary-form]ことです。     [Shumi/Shigoto] wa                  koto desu.   ・[動詞a verb辞書形dictionary-form]ことが すきです。                      koto ga suki desu.

      [動詞a verb辞書形dictionary-form]こと = [名詞a noun]

       例 しゅみは えいがを みることです。

         Shumi wa eiga o miru koto desu.

・[動詞a verbた形ta-form]ことが あります。                 koto ga arimasu.

       経験an experienceが あります

     例 アフリカへ いったことが あります。        Afurika e itta koto ga arimasu.


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