I am having a hard time express the concept of striving to achieve something. I found a video of a monk online using the word 励む, but I am not sure exactly how to use it.

It seems it pairs with nouns as in


But what if I want to pair it with a verb? Is this acceptable?


Or, I was thinking perhaps:


Or else, how would you express this concept?

  • Can you express the sentence you are trying to say in English and give it a go in Japanese? That's your best shot at getting an improved idea of how to say things. – virmaior Aug 11 '14 at 8:49
  • 1
    That's what I did in my attempts above, but starting off with an English mindset often misdirects, and you can come out with a Google Translate sort of sentence. Sometimes it's better to focus on the concept than the exact words. Relevant video: youtube.com/watch?v=dhFqV2P9Mo0 – Sunyatasattva Aug 11 '14 at 9:01

First, I will talk about how to use 「[励]{はげ}む」 and later on, other possible expressions.

Both 「[勉強]{べんきょう}に励む」 and 「[勉学]{べんがく}に励む」 sound natural with the latter being more formal or "adult-speaker-like".

Next, how to combine 励む with other verbs.

You used 「励ます」, which is a transitive verb meaning "to encourage someone to do something". You cannot use it to talk about how you are striving to achieve something yourself. (Or was it meant to be the ます-form of 励ます, which is 励みます? If so, you need a み in there.)  

You can say all of the below:




Native speakers use 「励んでいます」 100% of the time if you have already been trying. If you say 「励みます」, it will sound like you have not started making the efforts and you are talking about doing so in the (near) future. This is a common mistake among Japanese-learners. They tend to end up using the "present" tense because they translate directly from their first language --- "I strive to achieve A and B.".

Finally, some other verb choices besides 「励む」.

「[精]{せい}を[出]{だ}す」、「[奮闘]{ふんとう}する」、「[努]{つと}める」, etc. The last one is kind of weak in meaning.

Colloquially, you can use 「やっきになる」, but to use it properly, your other words will need to sound colloquial and natural as well.

  • Absolutely stunning answer, thank you. Yes, such is the danger of translating from an unrelated language as I mentioned in my comment. Thank you so much. – Sunyatasattva Aug 11 '14 at 10:56
  • What about 目指す or 狙う? – Igor Skochinsky Aug 11 '14 at 17:54
  • Or even がんばる... – Eiríkr Útlendi Aug 11 '14 at 18:06

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