I know "koto" means thing, but I've seen it used like this in my Self-Study Japanese book:

Nihon no koto ga yoku wakarimasu ka.


Chiimu no koto o kangaete imashita.

Does this mean Japan's thing or Team's thing? I don't understand. Also I can't use Kanji, just Hiragana.


3 Answers 3


There is 「こと」 that actually means "thing(s)" and there is 「こと」 that does not mean "thing(s)".

「ふたつのことをかんがえています。」 means "I am thinking of two things."

The こと clearely means "thing". In the following sentence, however, こと does not really mean that.

「すみこさんのことがすきです。」 = "I like/love Sumiko."

One could possibly translate it as "I like the things about Sumiko." but that would not be natural English, would it? We just often prefer to speak more indirectly than to say something like 「すみこがすきだ。」 all the time.

In neither of your two sentences, does 「こと」 really mean "thing(s)".

  1. 「にほんのことがよくわかりますか。」

  2. 「チームのことをかんがえていました。」

Sentence #1, unfortunately, is a mysterious sentence to us Japanese-speakers. I could only guess what it would mean in the world of Japanese-as-a-foreign-language. They probably want it to mean "Do you know a lot about Japan?" while it could only mean "Does it tell you a lot about Japan? (referring to a book or something)" to Japanese-speakers.

Sentence #2 makes perfect sense and it means "I was thinking about the/our team."

In either case, I did not use the word "thing(s)" in my translations. I could have used it but that would have only made my translations look wordy. e.g. "I was thinking about things regarding our team."

You will keep encountering the structure "Noun + の + こと" for as long as you study Japanese, and it will just mean "regarding (Noun)" most of the time.

  • Great explanation! Helped me understand the very mysterious "「こと」". And if I may ask for further clarification, does 「こと」 literally mean (Aside from its other meaning "thing") - about this or about that? So: にほんのこと literally means About Japan? and チームのこと literally means About the team?
    – Kyzen
    Commented Jul 18, 2014 at 12:43
  • @Imagine.Create A literal translation would be "Japan's thing(s)" and "the team's thing(s)" respectively. I think what you're asking about is a precise translation, and the answer to that is, there isn't one. It depends on the context of how it's used, but on the whole this is just a piece of Japanese grammar that has no English equivalent. Commented Jul 19, 2014 at 17:59
  • @l'électeur Technically you can keep the "thing" part and still make it sound natural "I like everything about Sumiko". While you're not directly admitting to liking her, it can be implied. So it's kind of going at it in a roundabout way and as you said, indirectly. If I understood that correctly then I finally got it! Thanks!
    – Tek
    Commented May 14, 2015 at 18:16

こと is an abstract thing. In English when you say something like "I don't know much about XX." or "I know a bit about XX." The about XX part is XXのこと. 


The Japanese "こと(事)" means not only concrete thing(s) but also abstract thing(s) or matter.

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