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I'm going through some basic grammar and this one website teaches the "extended" use of the word する. There is a confusing example which looks like:

波の音 がする

The translation is: "(I) hear the sound of waves". The way I learned it prior to this site is:

波の音 を聞く

What is the difference between these two?

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Xがする is a phrasal verb and is most often used in phrases such as 音がする and 匂い{におい}がする and even 気がする. It is used with words that are about perceiving or sensing something. (More phrasal verbs here.)

Yet it does not really require the actual sensing part from the part of the speaker, but instead is a pretty objective way of saying that 'there is a smell' or '[something] is making a sound'. The focus is less on the sensing but rather just the existence of the sensory input.

波の音を聞く sounds odd to me. It means something like [I] listen to the sound of waves. It should be 波の音が聞こえる I hear the sound of waves. With the 聞く verb, it would work as a request such as 波の音を聞いてみて Try listening to the sound of waves

  • My understanding is that ~がする constructions do not in any way presuppose an experiencer of the stimulus being described. I'd translate e.g. 音がする as 'there is a noise' rather than 'I hear a noise'. – Sjiveru Jul 18 '14 at 20:12
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    @Sjiveru You're correct, and I've amended my answer. – oals Jul 19 '14 at 21:04
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    Nothing is odd about 波の音を聞く if one is paying attention to the sound. It is not logical to state that 波の音を聞く is odd but 波の音を聞いてみて is good. – l'électeur Jul 19 '14 at 22:17
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    I don't think I would personally choose to link to that website, as it appears to be full of errors. – snailcar Jul 20 '14 at 0:39

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